How do you choose the right headsets for your organization? Part III

Series by Danny Hayasaka

In Part I of this series we discussed who the top headset manufacturers are and why. In Part II we covered why it’s important to choose an Authorized Partner. Now…let’s get into it. How do you choose the right headsets for your organization?

Back in the day, it was so simple; Plug Prong or Multipurpose Amp, single ear, dual ear or convertible wearing style headset. That’s it.

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How do you choose the right headsets for your organization? Part I

Series by Danny Hayasaka

7/9/18

Having been in this industry for over 19 years I’ve had the opportunity to see the evolution of headsets. Some dismiss headsets as commodities however they are becoming increasingly critical to an organizations business processes and their overall business communications and collaboration strategies.

The headset is how your company’s voice is transmitted to the world. In addition to customers and partners, clear communications are also important internally amongst peers and colleagues. More emphasis should be placed on selecting the right headset if listening to your customers and being able to be heard clearly matters to you and your business.

In the world of business grade headset manufacturers, there are three main players (Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser) with Plantronics and Jabra currently dominating the space globally.

They are the top vendors for these reasons:

  • Global presence
    • All three brands are available to customers globally through distributors and channel partners in their perspective regions.
    • Global, National and Territory reps
  • Compatibility with all major voice, UC, Contact Center, and collaboration platforms
    • All three manufacturers work hand in hand with the major platform providers to offer solutions that are compatible and include features and functions end users need for optimal experience
  • Service
    • Warranty service (1-3 year coverage) is available depending on brand and model
    • Varying turnaround options available
    • Additional services available for large and global enterprise customers
  • Support
    • Pre- and Post-Sales Support available directly and through channel partners
    • Demo/Eval/Proof of Concept units
    • Wireless Density Surveys
    • Mass deployment support
    • Onsite support
  • Accessories
    • Doesn’t seem like that big a deal, however, “shit happens”. The AC Adapter for your multi-connectivity wireless headset has an unfortunate vacuum cleaner incident which renders your headset useless. It’s important that you are able to purchase a replacement.
    • Some organizations “share” headsets. The ability to issue each employee their own set of ear cushions and headset cleaning towelettes is important
    • What about training-y’s, replacement interface cables, mic screens, voice tubes, charging cables, USB cables, ear tips, etc
  • Large Portfolio
    • One size does NOT fit all
    • Each brand works very hard to develop solutions to support the multiple Use Cases, Personas, Work Styles, User Types & Environments
    • Corded and Wireless Headset options
    • USB speakerphone options
    • Multi-Connectivity options
      • Brands offer solutions for any combination of Desk Phone, Softphone and/or Mobile device
      • DECT, Bluetooth, NFC, USB-A, USB-C, 3.5mm, RJ9 options
    • Different wearing styles
      • Single and dual headband options
      • Over the ear
      • In the ear
      • Behind the neck
      • Convertible options that include multiple wearing styles
    • Security
      • All three brands make security a priority. Government, Financial, Healthcare and other industries that require the highest levels of security can rely on Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser.
      • All are members of the DECT Forum and have solutions that are Security Certified
    • Support all budgets
      • All brands offer value to premium options
    • R&D
      • Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser are continuously investing heavily in R&D to produce better solutions beyond headsets to support the ever-evolving communications and collaboration landscape.
    • Headset Management Software
      • As headsets become more prevalent, it’s become more critical to manage them.
      • IT Help Desks are experiencing an increase in help desk tickets requesting support for headsets
      • Headset Management Software can help IT Departments mitigate many issues before they arise
      • Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser all offer Headset Management Software

Above are some of the reasons why Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser are currently the top vendors however there are a plethora of other headset manufacturers/brands. Some notable brands: Logitech, Microsoft and most recently Cisco.

Other brands: Addasound, Accutone, Axtel, ClearOne, JPL, Yealink, VTech, Spracht

Point is there is no shortage of options however you should consider bullets I listed before you begin your journey to choosing the right headset for your organization…

 

Training-Y for USB Headsets in Softphone environment?

By Danny Hayasaka

April 20, 2017

This question continues to come up again and again. Can you connect two hardwired USB headsets to some sort of splitter for training purposes? The answer is still “No”.

As more and more companies adopt new voice technologies that include softphones there has been a shift from traditional QD headsets to hardwired or wireless USB headsets. The shift from desk phone to softphone does not eradicate the need to train. Businesses still need supervisors/team leads/trainers to sit with new employees/agents and train.

I recently visited a small credit union call center.  Fortunately for them, they were using Jabra PRO 9450 wireless headsets across the floor. I noticed they had a spare PRO 9450 on a shelf plugged into power to keep it charged. Attached also was a Zoomswitch Trainer. I asked what it was for. They said for training purposes. They connect two PRO 9450 bases to a Cisco desk phone via Zoomswitch Trainer.  I then asked if they were aware of Conferencing Feature that allows them to pair up to 4 headsets to one base. They were not. I provided the instructions on how to do this and they were ecstatic. Much easier and cleaner solution.

I bring up that story because another shift we’ve seen is customers ordering MORE WIRELESS headsets. This is good news when it comes to training. Most major headset brands (Plantronics, Jabra, Sennheiser) that offer wireless headsets include the Conferencing feature.

  • Plantronics Savi 700, Savi 400, CS500 & CS500 XD Series
  • Jabra PRO 9400, *PRO 900 Series (*some models)
  • Sennheiser SD, D10 Series

If you have hardwired corded USB headsets you will run into some challenges if you need to connect two headsets for training.

What are your options? First, understand you can’t connect two hardwired USB headsets to one PC for training. Next, review employees’ roles and daily routines. Based on their roles and daily routines, is corded best option? Perhaps single or multi-connectivity wireless headsets are better options. If you deem corded is best, then let’s look at training options for USB softphone environment.

All major headset brands (Plantronics, Jabra/VXi, Sennheiser) include standard training solutions for USB softphone environment and typically consist of:

  • Two QD (Quick Disconnect/Easy Disconnect) Headsets + Training-Y Cable + QD to USB Adapter

Before you buy all hardwired USB headsets, make note of how many trainers/supervisors and how often training is done so you can order the appropriate number of standard USB training solution.

Alternative options.

  • Two Jabra QD Headsets + Jabra Link 265 USB Training-Y
  • Same Series Wireless Headsets using Conference feature

Contact your dedicated Call One, Inc. Account Executive to help you identify what solution is best in your environment.

 

Conference rooms and huddle spaces need inexpensive, easy to use, platform agnostic devices…

By Danny Hayasaka

October 28, 2016

It’s been really fascinating to watch the evolution of the meeting space. I remember conference rooms, the analog speakerphone and using a conference call service to connect multiple participants. Oh, and paying by the minute.

Video was added to enhance the experience. It required expensive codecs, hardware, bridges, managed services and a degree from MIT to operate. So the reality was video conferencing wasn’t used and the codecs sat there and collected dust.

Nowadays there are so many options for audio and video meetings via Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Vidyo, BlueJeans, Adobe Connect, Fuze, ReadyTalk, and on and on. Additionally, meeting spaces can now be anywhere from the traditional conference rooms to huddle spaces.

With so many options, the need for platform agnostic devices has increased. Additionally, customers are in search of “easy”. How do they video enable a room easily, inexpensively and doesn’t require a specialized degree or certification to operate?

Fortunately, there are plenty of options from multiple vendors. That’s the other fantastic thing that has occurred…customers are no longer tied to “one” brand for a complete solution. They can mix and match depending on need and budget.

You can use devices from Logitech, Jabra, Plantronics, Sennheiser, Konftel, Revolabs and more!!!

For personal use, you can use a USB/Bluetooth headset or USB/Bluetooth personal speakerphone and Webcam.

For small groups of 2-5 people, you can use a USB speakerphone and Webcam.

For groups of 6-10, you can go with ConferenceCams, USB speakerphones and Webcam or PTZ webcams.

For even larger groups you have options for ConferenceCams with extended mics, or more robust speakerphones with USB connections and PTZ Webcams.

 

 

All these solutions cost thousands of dollars less than traditional video conferencing solutions and they are extremely easy to use. Most are “plug and play”. Simply plug the USB cable into your PC or laptop and off you go.

Logitech is making it even easier with their ConferenceCam Kit which includes Intel NUC, Keyboard, Mouse and Iluminari Quicklaunch SE (a fully configurable and simplified user interface that brings appliance-like ease-of-use to the meeting room, minimizing the need for user training or IT support.)

What does this mean do inexpensive, platform agnostic, easy to use devices mean for business?

Increased user adoption, more collaboration and decreased IT Help Desk trouble tickets.

Below are listed some examples of products that can be used to video enable a space. There are more from other manufacturers/brands. Below are some of the more popular, tested/certified webcams and speakerphones:

Webcams, PTZ Webcams and ConferenceCams:

USB and USB/Bluetooth/NFC Speakerphones:

 

 

New ear hook give Sennheiser wireless headsets a whole new feel…

May 17, 2016

By Danny Hayasaka

One major complaint customers had who have used Sennheiser wireless headsets is the over-the-ear wearing style just wasn’t good.

Sennheiser has introduced a new ear hook accessory HSA 20 that is designed to offer an improved, flexible and perfect fit to the already existing SD Office and D10 wireless headsets.

A click-on adapter fitting the SD Office and D10 headsets is used for mounting the new improved ear hook featuring a soft leatherette sleeve.

Improved noise isolation and a secure fit are offered with in-ear earbuds in three different sizes (S, M, L) that are mounted on the adapter for the perfect individual fit and optimal wearing comfort.

I was fortunate enough to actually get some of these hooks to test for myself. Of course, I couldn’t write or talk about my experience until now.

Initial thoughts… why didn’t they do this sooner? I’m not huge over the ear fan but I tell you what… this was a very comfortable fit. The SD Office and D10 headsets are super light as it is, the stability this new ear hook accessory HSA 20 offered was very nice.

It’s funny how when people test wearing style stability people shake their heads around like they’re at a metal concert but really? Who does that in an office environment? Don’t answer that. I did bend over to pick something up off the floor and other normal daily movements. The headset stayed in place.

I was able to wear all day comfortably. Really like the soft leatherette sleeve. You don’t think it makes that big a difference, but it does.

 

And yes you can easily switch out the hook for right or left ear wear.

If you have a Sennheiser SD Office or D10 wireless headset but weren’t too keen on the over the ear wearing style… you may want to consider the new ear hook accessory HSA 20.

Much more comfortable ear hook for Sennheiser SD Office, DW Office and D10!!!

By Danny Hayasaka

April 25, 2016

No one can complain about Sennheiser’s audio quality. However, many customers did complain about the over the ear wearing style for their convertible wireless headset models.

Sennheiser has remedied this by developing and producing a new more comfortable ear hook for the SD Office, DW Office, and D10 variants.

It’s the NEW HAS 20 Ear Hook, Adapter and earbuds set. Product Code: 506524

What’s in the package? Ear Hook, Adapter and 3 sets of earbuds: Small, Medium and Large

Attaching the adapter to Sennehiser Office series headset “a snap”. You can easily switch from right ear to left ear wearing style simply by changing the Ear Hook itself.

The earbuds are easy to change out as well.

I really dig the thin super soft leatherette sleeve wrapped around ear hook. Makes for more comfortable wearing.

Maybe you’ve been on the fence about trying a Sennheiser SD Office or D10 because of the over-the-ear wearing style. Here’s an opportunity for you to revisit.

And I’m not even an over the ear fan. I personally prefer in the ear, behind the neck or headband. This was so lightweight I barely noticed I had it on.

My USB headset isn’t working… “Have you updated the firmware?”

By Danny Hayasaka

January 21, 2016

We get lots of calls from customers who claim their USB headset isn’t working. One of the first questions we ask is, “Have you updated the firmware?” Most issues are corrected once customers download the software and update the firmware.

Yes, you need to download the appropriate software when you purchase a corded or wireless USB headset from Plantronics, Jabra, VXi and Sennheiser. Jabra and Plantronics also offer an Enterprise solution that allows IT to manage remotely versus going from station to station making changes.

Here are links that will direct you to the current software downloads:

Most also have software for Mac.

Here are some of the feature/functions that USB headset software offers (go to each link for specific details on the various software and supported devices and softphones):

    • Change device settings
    • Visible mute and battery status
    • Readiness Status
    • Device-level call control with call answer/end, mute, and volume adjust
    • Compatibility for a broad range of softphones
    • *Remote Call Control (Answer/End Call, mute, redial etc) from the headset
    • Readiness Status
    • And More!

Most of the software offers a graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it easy to “see” what you are connected to and status.

The GUI also allows the end-user to quickly make device setting changes.

You can quickly and easily make device setting changes with a few clicks.

The main point is if you are experiencing issues with your Plantronics, Jabra, Sennheiser or VXi USB headset and haven’t downloaded the software and updated firmware… that may be the issue.

 

Can I extend the range of my Bluetooth headset in a UC environment?

By Danny Hayasaka

January 11, 2016

I’m speaking for Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business only, however, I’m certain many UC platforms support this feature.

Plantronics, Jabra, Sennheiser, and VXi all produce multi-connectivity Bluetooth headsets that allow end-users to pair Bluetooth headset to their mobile device as well as their PC/Laptop via USB Bluetooth dongle.

Despite many of the UC Bluetooth headsets supporting Class 1 range (up to 100ft range), many users would like more range.

The majority if not all professionals have a mobile device (Smartphone/Tablet) at all times.

Here’s a tip I have used to increase the wireless roaming range within an office space. I simply utilize the “Simultaneously Ring” and “Call Forwarding” features of our Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business client. I have all Lync/SfB calls forwarded to my mobile device if I’m going to be away from my desk. This allows all calls to ring on my mobile device, whether I’m on the Sales Floor, Admin, IT, Operations area downstairs or even on my way to lunch! I don’t miss a call as I have my mobile headset paired to my mobile phone.

In Lync/SfB you have the options to forward calls to: Voice Mail, Mobile, Home (phone), New Number or Contact, or My Delegates. You have the same options for the Simultaneously Ring feature.

For more detailed info on these Microsoft Lync/SfB Features go to: Set Call Forwarding options

I am currently using the Plantronics Voyager Edge UC however I have evaluated tons of Microsoft Lync/SfB Optimized/certified/compatible UC Bluetooth headsets to include: Plantronics Voyager Legend UC, Plantronics Voyager Focus UC, Jabra Motion UC, Jabra Stealth UC, Jabra Evolve 65 UC, Sennheiser Presence UC, Sennheiser MB Pro 1 and 2 UC & VXi Voxstar UC.

There are many options available when it comes to multi-connectivity Bluetooth headsets depending on your use case and wearing style preferences. You can choose from single ear, dual ear, over the ear, in the ear, and over the ear. The Plantronics Voyager  Focus UC offers Active Noise Canceling speaker option. The Jabra Stealth UC offers remote access to Siri /Google Now voice assistant. Each model offers a different list of feature functionality as well as varying talk times. Contact a UC headset specialist to help guide you in making the right choice for your business communications needs.

Here is a list of Mobile & Softphone Connectivity Headsets (These Bluetooth headsets pair to your mobile phone/tablet as well PC/Laptop via USB Bluetooth Dongle):

 

“What is the best Bluetooth headset?”

May 28, 2015

By Danny Hayasaka

I’m often asked, “What is the best Bluetooth headset?” The answer is always, “That depends”.

Let’s first understand Bluetooth. Bluetooth isn’t a mystical, magical power. It’s short-range wireless technology. There are currently three main wireless range categories for Bluetooth.

  • Class 3 – up to 3ft range
  • Class 2 – up to 33ft range – Most commonly found in mobile devices
  • Class 1 – up to 300ft – certain commercial grade Bluetooth headsets offer this range

Additionally, there are various versions, profiles and protocol stacks. Perhaps in another blog, we can get into those. For now, let’s focus on Bluetooth headsets.

Like any other communications and collaboration device, the use case will determine which headset is most appropriate. Because our company focuses on B2B, I’ll narrow my options to commercial/professional grade products. There are a TON of consumer-grade Bluetooth headsets available. I focus on business communications devices.

We’ll need to understand the environment. Is user in private office, open office, car, airport, coffee shop, etc.? Additionally we’ll need to understand the application, is it FaceTime, Skype, Google + Hangouts or is it an enterprise-grade UC platform like Microsoft Skype for Business/Lync, Cisco Jabber, or other. In addition to a mobile device, will the user need to connect to a PC or laptop? What about a desk phone?

How, what, when and where to start to determine which Bluetooth headset will be the better fit. Additionally, personal wearing style preferences also help you to choose.

Here are some suggestions for Bluetooth headsets based on use case:

  • Commercial Drivers or users in very noisy areas will require strong noise canceling mics and extremely long talk times. There are no better than VXi when it comes to noise canceling mics and 20+Hrs of talk time:
    • VXi BlueParrott Bluetooth Headsets (single connectivity however you can order VXi BT2 USB Adapter for connectivity to PC/Laptop)
      • VXi B350-XT+ (24hrs talk time)
      • B250-XT+ (20+ hrs talk time)
    • Microsoft Skype for Business/Lync Mobile Users – Laptop and Mobile connectivity
      • Plantronics Voyager Edge UC-M (B255-M)
      • Plantronics Voyager Legend UC M (B235-M)
      • Jabra Stealth UC-MS
      • Jabra Motion UC-MS
      • Jabra Motion UC+ MS
      • Sennheiser Presence UC ML
    • Unified Communications (Cisco, Avaya, etc.) Mobile Users – Laptop and Mobile
      • Plantronics Voyager Edge UC (B255)
      • Plantronics Voyager Legend UC M (B235)
      • Jabra Stealth UC
      • Jabra Motion UC
      • Jabra Motion UC+
      • Sennheiser Presence UC
      • VXi VoxStar UC

Speakerphones for Mobile Devices

July 24, 2014

By Danny Hayasaka

When it comes to Speakerphones for mobile devices, there are a variety of options available. I personally have used Jabra, Plantronics, Logitech and recently Sennheiser’s speakerphone solutions for mobile devices.

Why would you need speakerphone for mobile? Better audio quality. Like most folks, all contacts are stored on my mobile phone. It’s easier and more convenient to just call from mobile device for ad-hoc conf call. The issue is the audio quality of the speakers and mic from most mobile devices is poor. If you have two or more folks who need to participate in call, it’s a good idea to have speakerphone that can enhance the audio quality.

To keep this blog short, I’ll concentrate on just the smaller speakerphones by Plantronics, Jabra, Logitech and Sennheiser that are great for two to four people. Polycom, Konftel and ClearOne also provide solutions for mobile devices.

Plantronics, Jabra and Logitech provide Bluetooth connectivity to mobile device where Sennheiser offers 3.5mm plug audio cable connection. Logitech also supports NFC (Near Field Communications).

 

 

Plantronics Calisto 620

This unit offers dual connectivity to PC (via USB dongle) and Mobile device (via Bluetooth). It is a rechargeable wireless device with up to 7hrs of Talk Time with up to 5 days of standby time and includes neoprene carry case. I do have a concern with this unit. You have USB cable and AC Wall Charger option however those items don’t fit in carry case. They do offer a little slot on the underside of unit to slide USB dongle into for storage.

 

 

Jabra Speak 510

The Jabra Speak 510 and 510+ models both offer dual connectivity PC (via USB dongle) and Mobile device (via Bluetooth). They are also rechargeable and wireless with up to 15hrs of Talk Time. Both the 510 and 510+ include a hardwired USB cable that conveniently wraps around base for storage and portability. The 510+ includes a USB dongle for wireless connectivity to PC and neoprene storage case.

 

Logitech P710e

This unit has some cool features that some may appreciate. In addition to Bluetooth, the Logitech P710e also supports NFC (Near Field Communication). You must be connected via USB cable to use with PC but that’s ok as it also has nice USB cable management system on the underside. It does include rechargeable battery and provides up to 15hrs of Talk Time.  The P710e has unique feature none of the other speakerphones offer which is a device stand for your mobile phone or tablet. At first, most will wonder, “Why?” I have a couple reasons: 1. Stability when doing video call with smart phone or tablet. 2. Great stand when watching movies via mobile device. Also includes neoprene carry case.

 

Sennheiser SP 20

The Sennheiser SP Series are the latest additions to the personal/small group speakerphone space. Please note currently neither SP 10 or SP 20 models support Bluetooth or NFC.  Only the the SP 20/20 ML variants offer mobile device connectivity via 3.5mm plug. Both SP 10 and SP 20 models connect to PC via USB. The SP 20 offers USB and 3.5mm audio cable management around the base of unit for easy storage. Also includes a neoprene carry case. It also has rechargeable battery for wireless use with mobile device and provides up to 20hrs of Talk Time.

But which sounds the better?

Based on my own personal testing, I’m going to rank them in order of best to okay as none were horrible when it came to audio quality, it’s just some stood out. Additionally, I’m ranking in terms of both speakerphone audio quality during call as well as streaming media audio quality.

Ranking for Audio Quality via Call

  1. Jabra Speak 510/510+
  2. Sennheiser SP 10/SP 20
  3. Plantronics Calisto 620
  4. Logitech P710e

Ranking for Audio Quality for Streaming Media

  1. Sennheiser SP 20 (Hands down, no contest. Sennheiser SP 20 has sound-enhancement profile that makes streaming music sound awesome)
  2. Plantronics 620
  3. Jabra Speak 510/510+
  4. Logitech P710e

Again, these are just my rankings based on personal use with Microsoft Lync, iPhone and iPad.