Finding a UC Voice or Two in the CES Consumer Forest
It's hard to get excited about UC headsets anymore, but I was surprised by the Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. The headset tucks a lot of engineering into a small package to get rid of wind noise, including six layers of noise cancellation, along with other features.
Dubbed "WindSmart" technology, the Plantronics 6 layers of tech include four (4) microphones in the headset, aerodynamic shaping for air (wind) flow, "wind boxes" to protect mics, a noise cancellation algorithm that adjusts to wind conditions in real time, and on-headset acoustic processing.
Four microphones sounds like overkill on the surface, but it isn't when you go deeper into audio processing. A typical cell phone these days has two to three microphones while Amazon's Alexa has seven microphones to resolve "far field" voice some distance away. The Voyager 5200 UC leverages multiple microphones to figure out where wind noise is coming from and to filter (cancel) it out from normal voice input. List price is $219.95, but street price is running from $145 to $180 or so.
Other features in the 5200 UC include dynamic routing and dynamic mute alert. The headset, like its consumer Backbeat Pro 2 full headset cousin, senses when it is on ear and routes audio to the mobile device if not on ear. Dynamic mute alert means you get an in-ear voice that tells you if you are muted when you speak.
The 5200 UC comes with a BT600 Bluetooth dongle, providing a 30 meter (98 feet) range and providing a color status light indicating if a person is currently on a call. It has a dedicated button for connecting with a virtual assistant, such as Siri, Google Now, or Cortana. With a battery life of 7 hours, it also has also an optional portable charge case for mobile workers, with different LED indicators providing charge status of the case's batter and current headset charge.
But it's important to note that "consumer" products are an important part of the workplace. People go off-the-shelf and BYOD for headsets and earphones because it may be easier or quicker to run down to the local Big Box store to get an item that works equally well at the desk or home.
Falling into the dual-use home/office category are Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 headset and the Backbeat Fit earbuds. The Pro 2 can be used equally well in open office environments and by frequent air travelers, providing on-demand active noise cancellation. A button push provides an "open listening mode," digitally bringing in voice without the need to remove headphones. Listening at, $199, The earphones have a 24 hour battery life with Bluetooth on and can provide up to 60 hours of active noise cancellation if Bluetooth is toggled off.
Fitness earbuds sound counter-intuitive, but the lightweight wireless Backbeat Fit provides an alternative to bulky traditional "cans" that cover the entire ear. They also easily transition from a bike ride or mid-day workout into the office, being completely waterproof and sweatproof. Weartime is around 8 hours, with battery life stretched by an automatic power down when they are removed from the ears.
At some point, the distinctions between business and consumer hardware will fade away. Until that time arrives, Plantronics is offering the best "on ear" hardware for the business world as its consumer side edges forward to broader business applications.
Jennifer Adams, Head of Global Collaboration Markets at Plantronics will be speaking during session at next week’s ITEXPO in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The session, “Business Communications Essentials,” will discuss how to match specific needs based on individuals to the right communications technologies and how this can help dramatically improve the overall efficiency and productivity of any workforce.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi