The Questionable Economics Of EHS Cables & Lifters

If you spend a lot of time on the phone then I believe that you need a proper headset. Many headsets require some form of interface hardware to connect to a desk phone. Many IP phones, like my Polycom Soundpoint IP series, require the use of an “Electronic Hook-Switch” (aka EHS) cable or a mechanical lifter.

A mechanical lifter is a Flintstone-like approach to hook switch control by purely mechanical means. It literally lifts the handset to take the phone off-hook, replacing it down again to hang up the call. To me this is essentially a kind of telephony steam punk.

Moving to 21st century methods, an EHS cable allows some aspect of the headset to control the hook state of the phone electrically. That is, it allows you to answer or hang up a call using switching that’s built into the headset. This may be true with both wired and wireless headsets.

To be blunt, lifters and EHS cables just aren’t cheap. The few times that I’ve had to buy an EHS cable it cost in the $50 – $80 range. That’s a considerable price when compared to the cost of the headset or the desk phone itself.

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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.

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Revisiting The Plantronics Voyager Pro UC

Plantronics-Voyager-Pro-UC-MDA-300px I’d like to thank William for pointing out the relatively new Plantronics MDA200 interface device. Introduced in October of this year the MDA200
is a device intended to “UC enable” existing USB connected Plantronics headsets.

In the case of a wired headset, like the .Audio or Blackwire series, it allows a headset to be easily switched between use with a desk phone and a soft phone on a computer.

In the case of a Bluetooth headset with a USB interface it allows three-way connectivity between a desk phone, computer and cell phone. That’s very interesting indeed.

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Searching For The Perfect Cordless Headset

Let there be no doubt, I’m manic. I find myself on something of a quest to find the perfect cordless headset. Over the past year or two I’ve tried a number of different makes & models. Some have been very good indeed, but none have been ideal.

As I transition my desktop phone from a Polycom Soundpoint IP650 to a VVX-1500 I find myself wanting something more. To be more specific, I would like support for very high-quality wideband audio, even beyond G.722. The VVX-1500 supports Siren14 and G.719 so let’s actually hear the difference, right?

To be fair, nothing that I’ve tried thus far was designed to support use with a hard phone. In using the headset with the VVX-1500 I need support for an “electronic hook switch” (a.k.a. EHS) connection. That allows the phone to go off-hook from the headset so that I could answer or hand up a call while distant from my desk.

Oh, and by the way, by “distant” I mean to achieve some serious range, ok? I suspect that means DECT over Bluetooth, but class 1 Bluetooth might work, too. Remember, the coffee machine is some 70 feet away…and my personal productivity is definitely influenced by my coffee intake.

So, a while ago I began asking around, speaking to people that I know use of this type of hardware. I asked for specific recommendations.

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HDVoice Capable Sennheiser DECT Headset

Sennheiser is a name that I’ve known my entire career. They are a well respected name in pro audio circles, specialists in high-quality microphones and headsets. They are not as well known for headsets targeting computer and telephony applications, but it happens that they do have some offerings in that area.

In fact, this past week they were named in a press release from Telstra in Australia. In this release Telstra announced the launch of the Polycom VVX-1500 video phone, a device that I’ve written about previously. However, along side the VVX-1500 they were also launching the Sennheiser DV Office, a DECT wireless headset.

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