Preface: I’m taking a little different approach with this review. Plantronics offers the Voyager Pro headset in several versions; the Voyager Pro targets the common portable application accompanying mobile phones, while the Voyager Pro UC extends it reach to use with soft phones or Unified Communications (UC) clients on computers. Since these use cases might be considered separately I’ve decided to offer the review in two parts, one addressing each use case specifically.
While I have tried a number of Bluetooth headsets over the years, I’ve found that most are seriously disappointing. Until relatively recently I had simply given up on trying to find a Bluetooth headset that would meet my needs.
In the fall of 2009 Plantronics gave me a Savi Go Bluetooth headset to use in the presentation that I was developing for Astricon. Given the project at hand I had some very specific needs, including wideband audio capability to compliment a SIP soft phone. The new generation of cordless headsets targeting “Unified Communications” application seemed like a good match for my needs. “UC” implies wideband audio.
Although I was prepared to be disappointed yet again, my experience using the Savi Go was much better than I had expected. Unlike the BT headsets I had tried previously, it sounded good to me as the wearer, and also to the person on the far end of the call.
At least in part I attribute the audio quality to the fact that the Savi Go has a mic boom that reaches around to the front of the wearer. This is relatively unusual amongst Bluetooth headsets, and provides very direct pickup of the dialogue. While I used the Savi Go with both soft phones and cell phones, that very mic boom makes the Savi Go a little less than ideal for mobile applications. It simply doesn’t fit in the pocket as neatly as other models.
Early in 2010 Plantronics introduced the Voyager Pro & Voyager Pro UC, a pair of new models, reputedly their best ever. Like so many of the latest Bluetooth headsets the Voyager Pro series claims considerable technological sophistication, employing advanced techniques to reduce noise and increase voice clarity.
The difference between to Voyager Pro and Voyager Pro UC comes down to target market and accessories. The Voyager Pro is aimed at the retail consumer who wants a great headset for use with a cell phone. It sells for around $80 and can be found at numerous online and brick & mortar retailers. In part one of this little saga let me consider the use of the Voyager Pro headset in mobile applications, paired to my cell phone.
I received my Voyager Pro UC in September 2010 and have been making regular use of it in a variety of applications. Whereas the Savi Go lived on my desk much of the time the Voyager Pro UC can more often be found in my pocket or computer bag. It travels with me all the time.
Unpacking the headset I found an array of nicely considered accessories including; a wall charger, USB charging cable, a nylon bag for storage , and the BUA200 USB Bluetooth dongle. The package also included a CD with some driver software intended to manage the use of the headset with a PC.
The Voyager Pro UC is physically compact. It’s stubby boom rotates and swivels making it adaptable to be worn on the left or right side. You might initially think that the boom is potentially fragile, it is in fact a carbon impregnated plastic, making it remarkably light, rigid and very tough. It has survived in my computer bag many months without incident.
The soft plastics tip of the headset that fits into your ear comes in several changeable sizes with soft foam covers. If you’re like me you’ll probably find the one that fits you best and promptly lose the rest into a junk drawer. The fact that they are replaceable may be handy over the long term.
The headset has four buttons; power on/off, volume up/down and a multi-function button that is used to answer or hang up the current call.
To pair the headset with a Bluetooth device simply put the headset into discovery mode by holding the power button until the light just above it flashes. The BT host should then find the headset and establish the pairing relationship. You may be asked to enter a pass code to establish pairing. The default pass code is “0000” I had no issues pairing the Voyager Pro with any BT host that I tried.
Initially I used the headset with my cell phones and laptop, only occasionally using it with my desktop. Since I could pair the Voyager Pro UC with the built-in Bluetooth radios on my HP laptop and netbook I didn’t make much use of the BUA200 in the first month or two.
When used with the Blackberry 9700 and T-Mobile G2 (aka HTC Desire Z) the Voyager Pro UC worked very well. It’s comfortable to wear over the long haul. It sounds good even in narrrowband applications with mobile phones. My wife tells me that it sounds as good or better than any other headset that I’ve used. As the person I most often call while travelling, she would know.
This is the first Plantronics headset that I’ve used that featured a micro-USB charging connection. This is great since it means not needing to carry a unique charger or cable. I charge that headset using the same AC adapter that I carry for my phone, or a USB port on my laptop.
The headset provides considerable battery life. From a full charge I found the talk time to be around six hours. The only time I ran it all the way down in one session was on a marathon VUC call. I typically only charge it once or twice a week. The battery is not end-user replaceable.
The Voyager Pro UC actually talks to you, alerting you to various facets of its status. When you first turn on the headset a soft female voice reports its projected talk time remaining. When it connects to a Bluetooth host it advises you of that fact. Lastly, as the battery nears depletion it also lets you know.
Unlike the Savi Go that I have used previously, the Voyager Pro is a Class 2 Bluetooth device. The 2.5 mW limit of the class 2 radio means that it’s cordless range is limited to about twelve feet in free space. This is consistent with my experience with the headset.
I have found that while travelling I can leave my cell phone on the desk or night stand while wandering around my hotel room without encountering any loss of audio quality. In my home office I can wander to the area of my desk & workbench, but not so far as the coffee machine some thirty feet away.