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TMC Labs
August 2002

DuoPro 161N and DuoPro 171

Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Ph: 800-544-4660
Fx: 831-426-6098
Web site: http://www.plantronics.com

Price: $144 for 161N, $129 for 171

Installation: 4.5
Documentation: 3
Features: 4.5
Overall: A-

Headsets have become a mainstay for call center agents, sales staff and for any other position requiring lots of phone talk time. But not all headsets are created equal, which requires careful thought as to the headset of choice. For example, a cheap microphone that transmits poor sound quality to the caller reflects badly on the company, making it appear a less-than-professional organization. Armed with the proper headset, an employee can be not only be more comfortable, but more productive as well.

TMC Labs examined two of Plantronics' DuoPro line of headsets. The DuoPro models include the 151, 151N, 161, 161N, 171, 171N, 181 and 181N; we examined the 161N (noise canceling over-the-head headset) and the 171 (convertible over-the-head to over-the-ear headset).

Installing a headset is usually a no-brainer; however, headsets have many more moving and interchangeable parts these days and we feel Plantronics should include more detailed instructions on which pieces are removable and how to remove them. Not that it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how to remove or add various pieces, but we were unsure which pieces were removable and which were not.

Thus, we were afraid we might break the headset when we tried to remove various pieces. For example, we were able to easily remove the plastic microphone tube from the 171, but were unable to remove the noise cancellation microphone from the 161N even though it appeared to be removable because the metal joint connecting the microphone to the rest of the headset looks very similar to the joint used to attach the removable over-the-head piece or the removable over-the-ear piece.

In using both headsets, we found the sound quality to be excellent and both models had a comfortable feel to them ' probably due to their light weight. According to Plantronics, the DuoPro over-the-head models have been ergonomically engineered to distribute weight evenly across the head. All the DuoPro headset models appear very durable with their metal-reinforced pivot points, which need to withstand the demands of everyday use. Also, all versions of the DuoPro headsets feature a swivel-mounted microphone joint for flexibility and built-in cord management for balance. The over-the-ear headsets can be worn over the left or right ear.

The noise-canceling model of DuoPro features a unique anti-twist boom that has a very 'tight' feel to it. While the boom is movable to allow for adjustment, it is tight enough to prevent movement due to gravity or a hand gesture near the face. This keeps the microphone properly aligned to minimize 'voice fade,' ensuring clear conversations.


  • Over-the-head style ' Unique double T-pad headband distributes weight evenly so speaker pad does not press on the wearer's ear.
  • Over-the-ear style ' Conformable earloop can be molded for a secure, comfortable fit.
  • Behind-the-head style ' New contemporary design neckband provides a stable, discreet fit.
  • Available with voice tube or noise-canceling microphone (over 65dB).
  • Can be worn on either ear.
  • Quick disconnect ' lets a user walk away from the phone while still wearing the headset. Includes an adjustable clothing clip and 10-foot coil cord for freedom of movement.
  • Comes with a 2-year warranty.

Room For Improvement
The 'convertible' headset (over-the-head to over-the-ear) is a nifty idea. However, we did not like the fact that it required a screwdriver to convert from one mode to the other. Some sort of easy snapping mechanism would have been preferred.

For both headsets tested, the voice quality was superb, the fit was very ergonomic, and they were very lightweight. The 161N has excellent noise cancellation at an affordable price. The 171 and 171N have the advantage over competing products in that you are not stuck with an over-the-head or an over-the-ear headset ' you get the best of both worlds. Usually, most people prefer one mode or the other, but with the 171 series, if an employee leaves the company and a new employee occupies that cubicle and prefers the other mode, there is no need to purchase a different headset. Overall, the Plantronics DuoPro line of headsets exceeded our expectations and we would highly recommend them.

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