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.
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.
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?