Over the years, Plantronics has been synonymous with outstanding headsets and communications devices. Many of us have utilized the different voyager products from Plantronics as our Bluetooth headset for our mobile device; some of us might even have used the voyager as our business headset while using Lync or Skype as our softphone. In this write up, I will show you the Voyager Focus, a very different member of the Voyager family, but one that takes the UC experience up a notch.
Just to start, the Voyager Focus is a stereo headset. This is going to be the first change you will notice if you are a veteran Voyager headset user. I am normally the kind of person that does not like using a stereo headset for voice calls. I prefer to have a single earbud and microphone. After using the Focus for a week now, I can say that I am fine with THIS stereo headset. In the box, you will find everything you need to be able to get maximum use from the headset.
The box contains:
- the Voyager Headset
- a USB Bluetooth dongle (specifically, the BT600)
- a carrying case for the headset
- USB cradle for the headset.
Interestingly enough, there is no wall adapter for the headset. Normally, I would identify this as a negative, but realistically, today’s tech-savvy users have drawers full of adapters for USB devices. I have tried using a Plantronics adapter that I had for my Calisto 620 Wireless Speakerphone and that is more than adequate. However, I have found that my laptop adapter from iGo has an accessory charging port and it’s much more convenient. Keep in mind, you don’t HAVE to use the cradle at all, there is a micro USB port on the bottom of one of the ear cups that can be used for charging when you are away from your desk or on the road.
The headset itself is very versatile. The obvious function is that of a phone device, however, nobody wants a singular function device these days. That’s why you see folks walking around with their Beats Headphones making phone calls. Now Beats headphones are great for sound quality, however, they weren’t designed to be a telephone headset. Suppose you have a telephone headset (supporting wideband HD audio) that could be used for music. That might be a good combination. In this case, the Voyager Focus shines. The device allows for multiple Bluetooth pairing, meaning, I can have this device paired with the BT 600 in my PC, my iPhone 5 as well as my wife’s iPhone 5s (she decided to take the headset out for a walk one night).
Plantronics has always had a good user experience related to their devices. The Voyager Focus is not any different. Call control is very simple, when a call comes in, you can put the headset on and lower the microphone and the call will be answered. If the headset is already on your head, you can simply press the ‘Call’ button located on the ear cup with the microphone and your call will be answered.
During your call, you will need to mute your microphone at some point, which is also very easy. On the underside of the microphone (this is a very familiar location if you have utilized Plantronics Voyager headsets in the past), there is a red button that controls your mute function and also doubles as a way to allow outside noise to come into your headset when listening to music. With this button, you can hear someone if they come to speak to you and more importantly, you can hear yourself so you don’t find yourself shouting at someone when your headphones are on . A nice addition to the mute function from the Voyager Focus comes with the Plantronics Hub application add-on. When installed on your PC or mobile device (I have it on my iPhone) you have the option of activating Mute notification. Many of us have found ourselves in the situation where we are speaking and nobody can hear you because your phone is muted. The Focus not only provides you with a visual notification on your PC that your phone is muted, but the headset will provide you with audio feedback if you are speaking while the microphone is muted. I personally love this feature.
The other ear cup is where you can find you music controls and your volume control for your headset. At any time, I can have music playing on my PC, or my iphone through the headset and calls will come through. Music will be automatically paused and your call will be answered. Once you have completed your call, your music will restart. Something to note, if you are listening to Pandora (or any other web based music service) on your PC or smart device, your headset will NOT be able to send the controls from the headset. This will only work if you are using a music app (like the Pandora app for iPhone, or iTunes, or whatever). Volume is controlled, not with a rocker switch, but with a dial. The ring around the player controls will spin in either direction to control the volume on the headset.
Many people might not be overly comfortable utilizing a headset like this as their only device. Reason is that folks who travel, like to have their noise cancelling headset available for when they are on the plane. Good news, the Voyager Focus as Active Noise Cancelling technology available. Like all headsets with noise cancelling, it is available via a switch on the headset. In this case, the switch is located on the underside of the ear cup with the music controls.
The Plantronics Hub application is where you can configure additional settings for the headset and tailor it for your own preferences.
The main screen of the app lets you select between however many number of Plantronics devices are currently connected. At a minimum, you will likely have 2, the headset (shown above) and then the BT dongle (in this case the BT600). Once you have selected the headset, you have the option of making a number of custom selections. I sample of those are shown here:
As you can see in the pictures, the device has been designed for customers using softphones. If you are using Lync/Skype then you get some additional options around your presence and how it is affected by various events related to your use of the headset.
Last but not least, how long does it last? Well, as you can see from my screen shot above, you can see that the Plantronics hub software believes the battery has another 12 hours of talk time available. I have used the headset all day so far (4-6 hours) without any trouble. The headset provides you with audio status of the battery when you turn it on and continues to provide audio cues during the use of the headset during the day. Additionally, if you leave the headset turned on, but take it off, the headset will eventually go to sleep to conserve battery, giving you even more time than before. Charging it, is not an issue because if you are travelling and don’t have the cradle, a micro USB cable will be sufficient to charge the headset.
The Plantronics Voyager Focus is a very different way of approaching mobile communications. As someone who has always preferred using a monaural headset when making phone calls, I have found myself carrying this device with me everywhere. It is very comfortable and I have found that I have put my corded earbuds off to the side. I don’t even use my Beats phones for calls or even for music or movies on my phone. I don’t believe that I will pair it with my kindle to use as my ONLY headset. However, I do expect that I will use this as my go to mobile headset moving forward. I will tell you, this headset is not inexpensive. A search on the web has shown me that this device sells from Amazon and other outlets for as much as $250. Not an inexpensive device. That said, when you have more and more people utilizing Skype for Business as their business phone, then it could be that the $$ is worth it. Either way, I find this to be a great device or it should be a great option for road warriors or desk workers alike. It has the features that a call center or desk bound worker would like and it has the features a road warrior would like (in Active Noise Cancelling) making this the only headset to take while travelling and lighten the load.