Experimenting With The Plantronics MDA200 & Various Cordless Headsets

With the two cables connected appropriately, the BT300 dongle plugged into the front of the MDA200 and the attached USB cable plugged into my PC the entire rig was almost ready to roll. All that remained to was to navigate the menus on the IP335 and ensure that it was set to expect Plantronics type EHS signaling.

Polycom-IP335-Headset-Mode-600

With this setting confirmed I began by trying the Voyager Pro UC v2 with the SoundPoint IP335.

The MDA200 has two buttons on its top; one denoting a computer, the other the desk phone. Tapping the button for the desk phone took the IP335 off-hook, presenting dial tone in the Voyager Pro UC. Tapping the button again hung up the phone, abandoning the call.

The main button on the Voyager Pro was also engaged in control of hook state. When a Skype call arrived at my PC simply tapping the button on the headset caused the call to be answered. The calling party was presented on the Voyager Pro UC.

In all cases where HDVoice was possible the MDA200, Voyager Pro UC, IP335 combination presented wideband audio. Calls arriving via the PSTN suffered related indignities, arriving as G.711 encoded narrowband streams…no fault of the gear I had locally installed.

In the case of the Voyager Pro UC the multi-point pairing feature came in very handy. The headset was able to handle calls on my cell phone interspersed with calls via my PC or the IP335. It was a reasonably painless process taking calls from any source.

Of course, the Voyager Pro UC and BT300 supported only limited cordless range. Hoping for something more flexible I tried the Plantronics Savi Go with the BUA200 USB attached Bluetooth dongle. Happily, that combination of phone, interface & headset worked just as well. However, the Class 1 Bluetooth radio provided the additional cordless range that I expected.

Turning my attention to the Savi W430 DECT headset I was hoping for even greater cordless range. The Savi W430 did provide the extended range that I expected from a DECT radio, but it didn’t provide the same kind of EHS integration that I had experienced with the Voyager Pro UC.

With the Voyager Pro UC I was able to start or end a call from the headset. With the Savi W430 the button on the headset controlled the DECT radio link but not the hook status of the current call. To alter the hook status of the current call I had to use the buttons on the MDAA200 or the IP335. This was a bit less convenient that the other two headsets.

I double-checked the Plantronics software that I had on my PC to ensure that the D100 DECT dongle for the Savi W430 was running the most current firmware, which seemed to be the case.

It’s worth considering the mechanical reality of how the various pieces involved come together to provide a solution.

Plantronics-MDA200-Rear-Connected-600px

The audio cable and the EHS cable are not exactly perfect companions to the MDA200. As you can see, the EHS cable has a right-angle style 3.5mm plug. Given the recessed connector apron of the MDA200, the EHS cable doesn’t fit nicely unless your MDA200 is sitting at the very back edge of your desk, which seems very unlikely. Alternatively, you can rotate the right-angle connector as shown. However, that makes it interfere with the RJ45 end of the audio cable. Certainly less than elegant, the three parts present an imperfect, but workable combination.

The economics of this arrangement also bears some examination. Street price on the Voyager Pro UC is around $120. The MDA200 runs around $80, and the EHS cable another $50. That’s $250 to address all three use cases; mobile, desk phone and computer.

Plantronics MDA200 allows their USB connected headsets, whether wired or wireless, to be transparently used with two or possibly three devices at a time. It works as promised and there’s little doubt that it’s very convenient.

If you already have something like one of the Voyager Pro series you can definitely use the MDA200 to extend the utility of the device you already own. Using the same headset in the office, whether with a desk phone or computer, makes perfect sense, especially when it’s a good quality, HDVoice capable headset.

If you don’t expect to see any benefit from sharing the same Bluetooth headset between your PC, desk phone and cell phone then the MDA200 may not be such a compelling solution. For example, the combined cost of the MDA200, EHS cable and Savi W430 is well into the range where there are much more compelling cordless headset solutions from various companies.

Finally, from the perspective of a wired USB headset the MDA200 is clearly a hit. It lets you take a relatively low-cost headset from the Blackwire Series and use it with a proper desk phone as well as a range of soft phones. What’s not to like about that?

9 thoughts on “Experimenting With The Plantronics MDA200 & Various Cordless Headsets”

  1. 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

    1. 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.

  2. 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? 

    1. 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 $.

  3. 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 ! 

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

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