I’ve had a lot of time to consider my work from home situation lately, especially since I find myself talking on the phone all day long.
Recently, I reviewed a very nice Bluetooth speaker for conference calls, but what about when you don’t want everyone in your house to hear your calls?
I’ve been testing three Bluetooth headsets from Plantronics.
Each headset is very different, but they all do basically the same thing — let you take phone calls or participate in audio or video conferences through your Mac or Windows PC. Two of them are great for music, too.
Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC
The Voyager 8200 ($379.95) is a pair of over-the-ear headphones with active noise canceling that are designed to let you hear and be heard while keeping the sounds of the outside world to a minimum.
You may not need noise canceling as much in a home office, but if you share space with a spouse who’s also working from home, you may treasure that feature.
As I type this sentence, my wife is across the room FaceTiming with one of her friends. I could ask her to go to another room, but I just put on the 8200s, flipped the ANC button and turned on some music.
Active noise cancellation uses microphones on the outside of the ear cups to monitor the ambient noise in your room and neutralize it before it gets to your ear. It works best on constant low-frequency sounds like the droning of a jet engine. Don’t expect miracles: It won’t completely mute a noisy office mate (or spouse). The 8200 has dual-mode ANC, which lets the user adjust the level of noise cancellation, but I didn’t see much use for the middle setting. I just kept the setting on or off.
There are buttons to answer or hang up the phone and control music playback on the ear cups, and you can pair the 8200 to two devices at once. It was very nice to have my phone and computer paired at the same time.
Music playback sounds incredible with or without ANC, and the 8200 is smart enough to pause the music when you take the headphones off your head.
The 8200 is very comfortable where it sits on your ears and on the top of your head. I found wearing them for several hours was easy.
The microphones are built into the ear cups and sound very natural on phone calls.
The rechargeable battery is charged with a microUSB cable, and you’ll get up to 24 hours of playback on a charge.
A 3.5-millimeter cable is also included in case you don’t have a Bluetooth option. The headphones work just as well wired as they do wireless.
The 8200 headphones have voice prompts when you power them on to tell you the battery level and which devices are connected.
There’s also a USB Bluetooth adapter to plug into your Mac or Windows PC if your computer does not have Bluetooth built in.
If you have a device with Bluetooth Class 1 device, you can wander up to 98 feet away and stay connected. The headphones can also tell you when you are talking while muted, which is handy in conference calls.
Pros: Great sound (music and calls), comfortable, good noise canceling.
Bottom line: All-day comfort and great sound with ANC. What’s not to love?
Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC
The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC ($299.95) is a neckband headset with a horseshoe-shaped band with the electronics, control buttons and battery and two earbuds attached by wires.
I’m not a huge fan of neckband headsets, but I can certainly see their purpose.
They have good battery life (up to 16 hours of listening and 9 hours of talk time) and good range (up to 98 feet for Bluetooth Type 1 devices).
There is ANC, but it is not as pronounced as it is on the 8200.
Earbuds can be a finicky fit in some ears. The level of ANC depends on how good the seal is in your ear. I tried all the ear tips and really didn’t get a great fit, but music and phone calls still sounded very good.
The 6200 does a good job of eliminating background noise if you happen to be in a noisy environment or outside on a windy day.
You can set the neckband to vibrate when you are receiving a call, and you can just pop in one or both buds and press one button on the neckband to pick up.
The 6200 can pair with up to eight devices and stay connected to two at a time.
It also has dynamic mute alert to tip you off when you are taking when muted.
You can charge the 6200 from a microUSB port or from an included desktop dock. Just set the headset down on the dock at the end of the day, and it will be ready for you in the morning.
Pros: Light, comfortable, good sound, easy to charge and control.
Cons: Ear tip fit can be tricky. I didn’t find a good seal.
Bottom line: A good telephone headset that will work well on the jogging trail.
Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC
Unlike the others, the Plantronics 5200 UC ($119.95) is not a pair of earphones. Instead, it sits in and around just one of your ears.
I’ve used a lot of Bluetooth headsets in the last decade, and the 5200 is certainly the best one I’ve used. In fact, I’ve owned one for a while now and use it every day.
The 5200 UC feels right at home on my ear. It is adjustable so it can sit on your left or right ear. The bulk of the headset sits behind your ear (kind of like a hearing aid), an earpiece fits into your ear and a boom microphone extends toward your mouth.
It has four adaptive microphones to reduce background noise and wind if you happen to be outside. I’ve taken plenty of calls outdoors, and my voice is all the callers hear.
It has smart sensors to figure out when you are wearing it, so you can start a call on your computer or phone and it will automatically transition to the headset when you put it on.
It also has dynamic mute alert, and Plantronics recently added Amazon’s Alexa voice service to the 5200. Just call out to Alexa and she’ll answer you or add milk to your shopping list or turn your lights on.
The 5200 will announce caller ID information for incoming calls, and you can answer or ignore the call with just your voice. It’s truly hands-free.
The headset is available on its own, but the version I bought includes a carrying case ($39.99) that has a built-in battery to charge up the 5200 when you’re away from a wall charger.
The battery in the 5200 will last for up to seven hours of talk time, and the charging case adds two more complete charges for a total of 21 hours.
Pros: Comfortable, long talk time, clear sound on both ends of the call.
Bottom line: For a comfortable, quality Bluetooth headset experience, this is it.
(Article written by Jim Rossman)