Review: Plantronics Voyager Pro UC Bluetooth Headset – Part 2

PLANTRONICS-SAVI-&-VOYAGER-PRO-UCIn part one of this review I examined the use of the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC in mobile applications. In this chapter I’ll share my experience using it in my office for computer-bound applications.

Given that I still have the Plantronics Savi Go headset in my home office I felt that at least theoretically the Voyager Pro UC presented me with more opportunities for mobile applications. After all, the Savi Go is a Class 1 Bluetooth device with a one hundred foot range that covers my workspace completely. The Savi Go sounds good and I like the convertible wearing options. In general, I didn’t feel that I needed something better for office-bound activities.

Nonetheless, most people will buy one headset for use both in the home office and with their mobile phone. Thus I felt it only appropriate to explore the use of the Voyager Pro UC around my home office.

As mentioned in part 1, the Voyager Pro UC is a Class 2 Bluetooth device, so expect twelve to twenty feet of cordless range from the Bluetooth host. As a practical matter this has proven adequate, although there have been moments when a little more range would have been handy.

For example, I definitely can’t make it to the coffee machine while on a call hosted from my desktop. The altar of the Java Juice dispenser is about thirty feet from my desk, with two walls in the path. Should I wander that far afield the call audio gets choppy until the headset reports “PC disconnected.” This is a minor inconvenience compared to the advantage of being able to use the headset with both computers and mobile phones.

Like the Savi Go, the Voyager Pro UC features what Plantronics calls “multi-point connectivity”. In my home office I tried the headset with a total of five different Bluetooth hosts. It can be simultaneously paired with several Bluetooth devices. In my case that means my desktop PC, my cell phone and occasionally a laptop or the Gigaset SL78H cordless handset. Should I decide to answer or make a call on any of those devices the Voyager Pro UC is able to handle the call if the device is in range.

Incidentally, the Gigaset SL78H handset doesn’t support wideband over Bluetooth, but that’s nothing to do with the Voyager Pro UC…it’s a known limitation of the Bluetooth implementation in the SL78H.

Plantronics includes a CD with the Voyager Pro UC. That disc includes driver and management software for the BUA200 USB Bluetooth interface. I started by installing this software to my Windows desktop. I could see that there are settings to adapt the headset for use with various enterprise UC clients and soft phones.

I also found a menu (shown above) where the headset could be forced into wideband or narrowband audio modes. It defaulted to wideband mode, so I presumed that all was working correctly.

The few times that I initially tried using the Voyager Pro UC with soft phones was during VUC calls. As these calls can run long it makes sense to use a headset so that I can keep working. I typically use the ZipDX issued release of Eyebeam, v1.5 to join VUC calls. It’s known to be G.722 capable and something of a reference for me.

When I first tried using the Voyager Pro UC on a VUC call I was positive that I was hearing wideband audio coming from the conference bridge. However, there was some question as to whether I was sending wideband audio. The call leg was clearly in G.722, so the call path was wideband, but my voice…such as it is…didn’t seem to be in wideband. Puzzled about this occurrence, I went back to using the Savi Go headset that day. Eventually the incident faded from memory.

However, in November friend and VUC sponsor David Frankel of ZipDX contacted me to ask if I had positively confirmed the wideband capabilities of the Voyager Pro UC. He had purchased a one and found he was unable to pass wideband audio using the BUA200 Bluetooth dongle.

The BUA200 Bluetooth dongle is the very same interface that came with the Savi Go. Since the Savi Go was confirmed by my own measurements as wideband capable, I expected that the Voyager Pro UC would be similarly capable. I honestly hadn’t given it a second thought.

In the light of David’s experience I made a few test recordings to verify the performance of the Voyager Pro UC using various different Bluetooth interfaces. Using the built-in BT radios in my laptop (HP8510p) &  netbook (HP5102) I confirmed frequency response appropriate for G.722 based wideband calling.

I also tried a Kensington BT dongle that I had on-hand, which also successfully passed wideband audio.  Given these successful experiments I was surprised to confirm David’s finding. When used with the BUA200 Bluetooth dongle the Voyager Pro UC did not actually pass wideband audio.

Further, the setting in the management application that allows the headset to be forced into either wideband or narrowband mode didn’t seem to have any impact. Once I had proof positive of this situation I opened trouble ticket with Plantronics support. I send them audio samples, screen shots of the menu settings and a description of my experiments.

Over a period of a couple of weeks I exchanged some email with their support team. They gave me a few settings to try, but none of them worked to overcome the issue. They reported that they would need to investigate further…so I waited further advice about a solution.

Keeping the tale in timeline order, my next little experiment with the Voyager Pro UC was when I attended a meeting in Las Vegas early in January. Dan Berninger had invited me to a gathering of what might have once been called the HDConnect steering group, to coincide with the fact that most of these people were gathering for CES.

At that evening’s meeting Tony Stankus of Gigaset Communications had setup one of their new DX800A desk phones, which include Bluetooth capability. Since the DX800A was registered to the ZipDX conference servers I was able to quickly pair it with the Voyager Pro UC and positively confirm that the DX800A supports wideband over it’s Bluetooth radio.

As encouraging as that was I was still unable to make use of the headset in wideband mode with my desktop. I was occasionally posting to Twitter about my use of the headset, including this wideband trouble. Eventually, someone from Plantronics UK organization advised that I would need to get the Voyager Pro UC v2 in order to find a solution.

  • Don

    Great review Michael. Is it necessary to always use the BT dongle, or will the Voyager Pro UC do wideband audio with embedded BT, e.g. as included in most PC and Mac laptops?

    • Yes, it works well…in wideband…with the BT radios in my HP 8510p laptop & 5102 netbook. It also worked well with the Kingston BT dongle. I had that on-hand from a time when I wanted to use a CS55 with my desktop PC. Finally, I tried it with a Skype on Android Tablet. It worked well there also, in SILKy encoded audio, too.

      Note that I am not a Mac user so I cannot speak to their use with OSX.

  • William

    I’ve been trying to do some research on the availability of wideband capable bluetooth headsets that are currently available on the market.
    In the last few months there have been some announcements about the new bluetooth Hands free protocol (HFP) version 1.6 which adds support for wideband encoding among other things.

    What has me confused at the moment is that the voyager pro uc uses HFP 1.5 which does not have any specification for wideband audio. So how exactly is this thing working? Based on the fact that you have been able to use the wideband capability of this headset with non plantronics branded bluetooth modules I can assume that it’s not using some added plantronics proprietary protocol extension.

    My only explanation at the moment is that all of the bluetooth modules that you have tried are using CSR chips andnd that they all support the proprietary CSR AuriStream codec.

    You wouldn’t happen to have a good Plantronics contact person that might be able to answer this would you?

  • Deaman49

    Great Review, and hit on a few of my concerns and findings.  I use the Voyager Pro for phone calls and use on my Computer with Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I functions Great!  I’ve tried many Bluetooth devices, and this is the first one that is comfortable to wear for long periods of time.  Ulike many other Reviewers, I hardly tap the actual power of this device, but love it.

  • I’ve had a bit of a hit and miss experience with mine and hoping someone you know might be able to help, Michael.  I was gifted another (yes, another!) Voyager Pro from Plantonics recently after attending their stand at Cisco Live.  This one is the Voyager Pro UC v2 with the BT300 headset. All I’m trying to do is convince it to play nice and send wideband audio and the only way I can do it is via the BT300.  I have tried so far on a Galaxy Nexus running ICS 4.0.4, a Macbook Pro (2011 model), and an iPad 3rd Gen.  I get weird behaviours from all of them. 

    If I connect the Voyager to the MBP without the BT300, I can send A2DP audio to it but as soon as the Mac tries to use it as an input it switches across to the HFP1.5 profile and everything goes narrowband. Using the BT300 it sends and recieves wideband, which is unexplainable if, as William below says, the Voyager Pro UC v2 doesn’t support HFP 1.6.

    The GNex seems to have a mind of its own and so does the iPad. They both stream A2DP audio to the headset just fine, but when I use it in an application like Skype, all kinds of random stuff happens. Usually Skype just acts like it doesn’t even know the headset’s there. Other times it might send audio via A2DP but recieve via the inbuilt Mic.  Sigh. 

    Whoever suggested Bluetooth was simple ought to be dragged out on the road and shot.  Does anyone have an idea what’s going on and how to fix it?

    • mjgraves

      It seems that your issues are in the Mac domain. In my case I was using the Voyager Pro UC paired to a Windows XP laptop or Win7 Pro netbook. In both cases the OS recognized the device automatically. 

      In the case of the XP system I had to installed BT support. I had not used BT on it it previously and so initially had it disabled.

      Sorry I can’t be more help. I’m just not a Mac user.