Publisher's Outlook

Plantronics Headset Line Exudes UC Dominance

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Recently I received a care package from Plantronics with a number of their headsets and other products, and when I opened the box it served as a not so subtle reminder of just how dominant the company is.

Back in 1982 when my company TMC (I am CEO) launched the first magazine in the call center space, Plantronics was one of the few companies in the market, and almost 30 years later they have evolved into an organization delivering unified communications endpoints for virtually every segment of the market.

Case in point is the Blackwire C435, a small, lightweight corded stereo headset with microphone, which comes with a travel pouch. The sound drivers are relatively large, yet fit in the ear comfortably due to a clever design. Moreover they deliver crisp sound, and the microphone extends to your mouth allowing you to be heard clearly.

In my testing, I used Skype to call an iPhone 4S on the AT&T (News - Alert) network. It sounded great, and I played a variety of music from pop to the Theme from Jurassic Park from John Williams, and the 1812 Overture from Tchaikovsky. On these last two pieces the midrange really shined, and the cannons in the overture played without any distortion. The DSPs and audio programming Plantronics uses on its USB headsets have always been superior in my past testing, and this device was no exception.

The Calisto 825 is a hybrid device that connects to UC systems such as Cisco and Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync while providing a speakerphone for a small group. The desktop gadget is incredibly flexible as it allows you to connect via Bluetooth to a cell phone and offers a Bluetooth microphone attachment the PA50 for crystal clear voice clarity. The 825 allows a user to make UC, Skype and mobile calls speakerphone calls from its keypad, or you can use a corded (via two jacks) or Bluetooth headset. I tested the wireless microphone 20 feet away, through a few walls, and it still was able to transmit my voice clearly to the caller on the other end of my test Skype call. At $259 list it’s a good value.

The MDA200 switcher is a simple device that switches between PC and PBX (News - Alert)/PSTN-based communications. Two large buttons allow you to switch effortlessly between the two modes.

Plantronics mentions that the MDA200 simply passes on the enumeration of the headset so to the PC it appears as if the headset is directly connected, which is ideal as you want the settings you adjust on the PC to be passed to the headset.

The list price at $129 is high, but I have seen it around $70 online, which is a good price for a device that will integrate wireless headset capability to computer-driven and traditional telephony.

The Savi 440 is sleek, uses DECT wireless and works with UC solutions from the major players such as Avaya, Cisco and IBM (News - Alert). You plug the included D100 adapter into your computer, make sure it is the default device, make a VoIP call, press the headset’s on button, and you are done. I love this headset, which has a street price of about $200.

The company says this is the lightest DECT headset on the market – I haven’t tested the claim but it is really comfortable and I barely realize it’s there. Also the range is very good – I walked about 100 feet away through steel, concrete and much sheetrock and still was able to be heard and hear clearly. It definitely has better range than any other office cordless phone or headsets I have tried. Its range is even superior to some of the most specialized long-range Wi-Fi access points on the market. And it comes with an array of ear buds and over-the-ear loops as well as a full over-the-head padded assembly for maximum comfort

The Savi W740is really the top of the line when it comes to UC and productivity. It is an upgrade from the W01 Savi Office headset system I have used for years and is similar to the Savi 440 in terms of fit, comfort and weight. The W740 works similarly and adds Bluetooth so now my cell phone is paired with it. What this stops is fumbling to switch headsets throughout the day. The 740 has a removable battery for people who spend many hours on the phone.

Also of note is the fact that Plantronics expends considerable time and effort ensuring and testing headset comfort. In fact, the company has a wall of ears  it uses to test out fit, and it includes long-wearing comfort tests in its development process.

Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) is CEO and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of TMC’s ITEXPO, one of the world’s largest and best-attended communications and technology conferences. Rich has also developed a large and loyal readership for his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi