Experimenting With The Plantronics MDA200 & Various Cordless Headsets

A few people have commented offline about my recent review of the Sennheiser DW Pro2 DECT headset. The major thrust of opinion seems to be that the DW Pro2 is simply unreasonably expensive. As I said in the review, that’s your call to make dear reader. However, such commentary has driven me to consider an alternative.

For the past week I’ve had a Plantronics MDA200 in-house. I’ve had some time over the holiday break to try it with the various headsets that I have on-hand. It happens that I currently have a Plantronics Voyager PRO UC v1, Voyager Pro UC v2, Savi Go and Savi W430 hereabouts. This assortment seems a reasonable basis for experimenting with the MDA200.

The MDA200 is a cute little box. It measures a little less than 4” on a side and just under 1” tall.

Plantronics-MDA200-Rear-View-600px

It has a total of five connections:

  1. USB connection to a host computer
  2. 3.5mm EHS connection to a desk phone
  3. RJ-45 audio connection to a desk phone
  4. Coax power connection
  5. Front USB port for the headset, BT or DECT dongle

Plantronics-MDA200-Front-View-600px

The MDA200 comes with one removable cable that’s terminated in an RJ45 at one end and RJ9 at the other. This cable provides call audio to/from the MDA200. There’s a tap midway along that cable that allows it to be inserted between a phone and its handset. In this manner the MDA200 accommodates phones that don’t have a headset jack.

Plantronics-MDA200-Audio-Cable-2-600px

The MDA200 also sports a USB cable that’s permanently attached. This is used to connect to a nearby computer and provides power to the device. An optional power supply allows the MDA200 to be used without a USB connection.

Since all of the Polycom phones that I use have an RJ9 headset jack I only needed to connect the ends of the headset cable. The phone’s handset remained independent of the wiring to the MDA200.

To have control of hook switch status via the headset & MDA200 I had to order the Plantronics APP-5 Polycom Hookswitch cable.

Plantronics-APP-50-EHS-Cable-600px

This cable has an RJ9 and 5 pin connector at one end, another RJ9 and a 3.5mm plug at the other end. It’s a truly curious beast. You probably won’t find this cable at any local retailer. It’s not cheap either, costing around $50 from Amazon.

The 5 pin plug fits the EHS jack on the various Polycom desk phones that I tried. In my case that was a VVX-1500, VVX-500, IP650 and IP335. The RJ9 connectors on each end of the the EHS cable remained unused.

  • thomasAT

    Hello Michael,

    thank you very much for your great review on the MDA200, it looks like a very interesting product. Have you noticed a difference in the audio quality between being connected via the MDA200 or the original Plantronics Bluetooth Dongle? How would you describe the difference of the audio quality between your (expensive) Sennheiser DW Pro2 and the combination of the MDA200 and the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC v2 (or the Savi Go) on a Polycom 650?

    Regards,

    Thomas

    • The MDA200 has absolutely no impact on the performance of the attached headset. All signal handling is in the digital domain where “bits are bits.”

      The remaining question is thus simplified to which headset sounds better? The DW Pro sounds best, both to the user and the party at the far end. This I attribute to good drivers and a noise cancelling mic that’s well placed on a long boom.

      The Savi Go and the Voyager Pro UC sounds about the same, any advantage going to the Savi Go for it longer mic tube. However, the Voyager Pro UC has great noise cancellation, making it better suited to outside use.

      For voice they’re all pretty good, with the DW Pro being the best…at a price.

  • larry ramsey

    Michael, I have an RCA 6.0 dual-line DCET phone and use Microsoft LYNC UCS on my PC. I have a Plantronics Blackwire C220 for my UCS.   The dual line phone currently has my home and VOIP lines.  I will be moving to purely LYNC UCS.  Would the MDA200 be a good solution to allow me to continue to use my desk phone with my UCS?   Will I need this plus the “hydra” cable as well? 

    • mjgraves

      Larry,
      I don’t think that the MDA-200 will do what you need, at least not on its own. 

      I Googled for the RCA phone you describe. The one that I found didn’t have a dedicated RJ-9 type headset jack. That means that you must put the headset inline with the handset. That’s typically done using a headset amplifier like the Plantronics M Series.  However, these don’t accommodate a USB headset.

      You might be able to use an adapter from Headset Buddy to connect one of the DECT handsets to the MDA-200. That seems less than ideal.

      In such cases you can end up spending so much connecting various exiting bits of gear that you’d be better of considering replacing the RCA phone for just a bit more $.

  • MarshallB

    Hi, MJ:  A lot of people are being asked to go to the MS Linc UC platform.  I would like to know if this MDA 200 provides dial tone when connected to the box using the RJ-45 connector?  (my current phone is an analog T-T phone that is connected through a T-Mobil   home service and I want to keep using that).  Thanks for your help ! 

    • mjgraves

      Bear in mind that the MDA-200 is intended for use with business grade
      desk phones that have a dedicated headset jack and EHS connection. If the
      proper kind of adapter cable is available then perhaps it can work.
      Unfortunately, I’ve passed the MDA-200 on to a co-worker in California
      so I don’t have the hardware with which to experiment.

  • mjgraves

    Bear in mind that the MDA-200 is intended for use with business grade
    desk phones that have a dedicated headset jack and EHS connection. If the proper kind of adapter cable is available then perhaps it can work. Unfortunately, I’ve passed the MDA-200 on to a co-worker in California so I don’t have the hardware with which to experiment.

  • marc

    did you test the device on windows 8.1?
    i don’t get this working.. on windows 7 and 8 i have no problems..
    i there any frimeware upgrade available?

    • mjgraves

      At the time that I had the MDA-200 I had only Windows XP and Windows 7 systems at my disposal. Thus I was not able to try it with Windows 8 or 8.1. I eventually passed the MDA200 to a coworker in California, so I not longer had access to it.