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Get More from Your HD Voice Implementation with Sennheiser's New Wideband Headsets
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
HD or high definition voice is carried on VoIP networks and is availed through the implementation of numerous codecs, including L256, G.719 and G.722 (including the newer G.722.1 and G.722.2). Basically it is a way of getting increased audio performance out of a VoIP network, which is capable of carrying higher-definition audio compared to traditional copper phone lines. Another term used alternatively with HD Voice is "wideband" audio - however that term is more generic considering that all VoIP networks are by default wideband, regardless of which codec is being used.
With traditional phone service, which uses "narrowband," the frequency range is extremely limited, hovering around 300 Hz to 3 kHz. With a VoIP network and one of the above codecs implemented, however, the high-end frequency range can be boosted to 7 kHz to 20 kHz. This is the response range that is most important for understanding of human language.
But if the network end devices being used - such as the telephone handset or headset - are not capable of supporting the increased frequency range (i.e. HD Voice), then the users will not benefit from the implementation. As such, telecommunications hardware makers must build support for this increased frequency response in their products - otherwise the investment in HD voice on the network is wasted.
So what's the point in implementing HD Voice in the first place? The answer can be summed up in two words: Clarity (News - Alert) and understanding. By improving the quality of the audio signal and the reproduction via the receiver, an end user can benefit through the increased clarity and improved understanding of what the calling party is saying. For example, in the contact center, agents very often have to ask customers to repeat what they just said. This adds seconds if not minutes to the length of each call and boosts up AHT, or average handle time, for each interaction. Considering that some contact centers handle hundreds if not thousands of calls a day, it's easy to see how improving speech recognition can lead to a dramatic improvement in AHT and overall agent productivity - not to mention increased customer satisfaction.
Although some companies have implemented HD Voice in their corporate offices, very few have extended its use into the contact center (due mainly to the cost of implementation and the recession). However many of them will likely want to implement it in their contact centers in due time, considering the advantages it brings, plus the fact that it is becoming more affordable. To prepare for this eventuality, and to meet the current demand for HD voice-ready headsets for corporate positions, Sennheiser has released its first HD voice-ready headsets, with more to come before the end of 2010.
Interestingly, Sennheiser's new HD-ready series headsets include three models that are part of its CC or contact center line. They include the CC 515 IP; CC 520 IP; and CC 550 IP. All three are "ideal for VoIP communication via softphones on PCs, Macs and IP desk phones" and offer "warm and natural HD sound for superior voice clarity, accented speaker recognition, and reduced echo," according to the company. In addition all three sport Sennheiser's patented ActiveGard technology, which protects against acoustic shock and sudden spikes in volume, and Sennheiser's advanced noise-cancelling microphones, which filter out ambient sounds for clear speech.
Perhaps more importantly, each model of the company's new wideband headsets comes equipped with speakers and microphones that meet the Wideband TIA (News - Alert) 920 standard required by many phone manufacturers.
As per a company brochure, the CC 515 IP is a "robust single-sided headset with extra-large ear cap for enhanced fit and comfort;" the CC 520 IP is "durable, binaural headset for maximum productivity;" and the CC 550 IP -- the top of the line model -- offers "precision sound and speech quality" and sports larger ear pads offer improved comfort.
Office headsets in the series include the SH 230 IP and SH230 IP USB (the USB model); the SH 330 IP; and the SH 350 IP.
When using any of these models with a softphone, the user will be required to use Sennheiser's HeadSetup software. This is a free, dedicated software suite "that operates like a translator, converting different call control protocols into the language the wideband headsets understand, and vice versa."
"HeadSetup allows Sennheiser's 500 series, 300 series and 200 series headsets to be connected to Wired Call Control to operate with a selected range of softphones," the company states. "Using HeadSetup with Wireless Call Control enables all control functions to work with VMX Office and all other Sennheiser wireless mobile headsets using a Bluetooth PC connection."
All Sennheiser USB headsets are designed to interoperate with Microsoft (News - Alert) Office Communicator, "so there is no need to install HeadSetup when connecting our USB headsets through OC. Conversely, HeadSetup is required when communicating with softphones supplied by majors such as Cisco (News - Alert), Avaya, Skype and others."
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Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet , covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page .
Edited by Patrick Barnard