People always talk about their favourite smartphone or tablet or laptop. But how often do you hear real buzz around a Bluetooth headset? For a relatively unimaginative device, the Bluetooth headset market is flooded with options, from more established players to cheap, unheard of brands. And even so, it's not really easy to pick out a headset that's packed with enough features to distinguish it from the rest.
Plantronics, which has remained one of the market leaders for Bluetooth headsets, offers many options, but none have garnered as much interest as the Voyager Pro which was launched way back in 2009. At the time of its launch, the Voyager Pro was criticised for its bulky and retro looks, but subsequent iterations of the headset, in the form of the Voyager Pro Plus and Voyager Pro UC furthered its popularity. Last year, Plantronics announced the latest version in the series, the Voyager Pro HD. It's finally hit the markets this year and I've been using it for the last week to see what differences the new headset brings.
Look and feel
Looking at the different versions of the Voyager Pro series, it's clear that not much has changed by way of design. The Voyager Pro HD remains essentially the same business-like, over-ear headset that Plantronics wants it to be. The boom mic protrudes a fair bit so it's clearly visible when you're wearing it, but the result is that the mic is closer to your mouth, contributing to the voice clarity that is the trademark of the Voyager series.
The headset is constructed out of a combination of plastic and rubber. The large earpiece containing the battery pack fits behind the ear and a flexible rubber moulding adapts to the shape of your ear. On the battery pack below the Plantronics branding you'll find a single power button and a micro USB port underneath it for charging. On the top of the headset are two separate up and down volume buttons. The long, swivelling boom mic can be adjusted for left or right ear wearing. On top of the mic is a discreet button which can be used to answer or end calls.
The Plantronics Voyager Pro HD comes with rubberised ear cups in three different sizes and two foam covers. The ear cups can be attached or removed from the headset with a smooth twisting movement, making it much easier than fiddling around with the gel inserts of other Plantronics headsets.
The headset itself is quite large and weighs about 17 grams, slightly heavier than the average Bluetooth headset, but not significant enough to make it uncomfortable.
Features and comfort
Probably the most interesting feature of the Plantronics Voyager Pro HD is its Smart Sensor technology, which enables you to answer a call by simply putting on the headset. This means that you don't have to wear your headset continuously. Taking the headset off your ear seamlessly transfers the call back to your handset.
The headset also automatically locks the call button when it's not being worn to prevent accidental dialling if it is in your pocket. It also features multipoint technology allowing connectivity to two phones simultaneously (and eight in total).
In addition, the Voyager Pro HD is equipped with A2DP streaming so you can stream music and media wirelessly from your handset, although you'll have to make do with mono sound. I listened to a couple of tracks from my phone's music player and whenever I got an incoming call, the headset automatically paused the music to allow me to answer the call. Once the call had ended, the track started playing from where it left off.
If you have Skype on your phone, the headset can also switch between your Skype and an incoming call.
Discreet voice alerts tell you when the headset is connected and notify you of battery life and when the phone is out of range.
The Plantronics Voyager Pro HD has a few additional features to complement the experience. An Android app, Plantronics MyHeadset, provides you with instructions and tools for using the headset.
If you connect the headset to an iPhone or Android (version 3.0 and higher) you'll see a small battery meter displayed on the homescreen which tells you how many hours of talktime you have left.
The headset also comes bundled with the Plantronics Vocalyst service, which lets you listen to and send emails and texts and even update your Facebook status. The service comes with a subscription fee but Plantronics is offering it free with the Voyager Pro HD for one year.
Call quality and use
The Plantronics Voyager Pro HD outdoes itself when it comes to voice clarity. Volume levels were more than adequate on my end and callers often said that my voice sounded louder and clearer than when I was using my handset. Disturbance from wind or traffic was also minimal and a noisy overhead fan or a strong breeze didn't interfere with voice clarity too much.
The range of the headset was quite decent and I only detected a bit of crackling after about 30 feet.
Talktime is slated to be 5.5 hours with 10 days of standby time. The Voyager Pro HD does a good job of conserving power and it needed charging only once in two to three days with moderate usage.
The headset is quite comfortable to wear for long hours and the over-ear design means you don't have to stick the ear-cup too deep in your ear.
If you ignore the bulky and slightly outdated looks, the Plantronics Voyager Pro HD is one of the best Bluetooth headsets out there in terms of comfort and call quality. The slightly premium price tag could also be a deterrent for many but remember you're paying for a headset that's stood the test of time.
Love: Excellent voice clarity, comfortable
Hate: Bulky design, expensive, Rs 4,999