Headphones, as soon as a product primarily for music followers or audio engineers, at the moment are a day by day sight within the workplace and on the road. Not only for listening anymore, they not solely allow you to take telephone calls however show you how to hold your focus within the noisy open places of work so beloved by many corporations.
I attempted out two lately launched Bluetooth headphones by well-known audio distributors: the Sennheiser MB 660 UC, which prices $445 (Amazon price) and the Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2, priced at $200 (Amazon price). Each provide all of the options that right now’s enterprise customers are in search of — wi-fi connectivity, portability, good sound and energetic noise cancellation (ANC). Nevertheless, they differ in quite a lot of methods, not least of their method to the way you management the options and the way a lot you pay for them.
Sennheiser is well-known by audiophiles for the standard of its merchandise. The Sennheiser MB 660 UC headphones embrace a wealth of choices for individuals who need to have the ability to hearken to their music — or take their calls — with out interruption from the surface world.
It is apparent from the outset that the Sennheiser headphones imply enterprise — each figuratively and actually. They arrive in a tough case, which will definitely hold them protected (however may even add to the burden if you’re touring). Contained in the case, in addition to the headphones themselves, are an audio cable; a micro-USB energy cable; and a USB dongle for communication with laptops that are not outfitted with Bluetooth.
The headphones had been fairly snug (though a bit comfortable) on my head, with padding on each the ear cups and on the steel headband. All controls are on the suitable ear cup, consisting of a contact pad (which is used for many energetic sound controls), and two tiny management switches, one which offers with completely different sound modes and one which handles Sennheiser’s NoiseGard energetic noise cancellation (extra on each of these later).
You flip the headphones on and off by twisting the ear cups from a flat place to at least one during which they’re going through one another (in different phrases, from storage place to sporting place). A nice feminine voice lets you already know that the system is powered on or off, and alerts you to different adjustments you make (corresponding to altering the sound mode). Not like another headphones on this worth vary, the Senheisers do not routinely pause or play if you take them off your head.
The headphones use a contact floor on the suitable ear cup to allow you to regulate the quantity, quick ahead or return, pause or resume. Whereas I discovered the usage of a featureless contact floor fascinating, I are likely to favor controls that I can instantly establish by really feel (corresponding to buttons or raised symbols) relatively than a touchpad-like interface.
The noise cancellation function makes use of 4 microphones, two with openings to the surface of the headset and two contained in the headset. You’ll be able to select to show it on or off, or you may put it in adaptive mode, which routinely adjusts the noise cancellation relying on how loud issues get round you. (You too can manually regulate it utilizing Sennheiser’s CapTune app.) Since I do not work in an open workplace scenario, II tried it by enjoying a information feed whereas utilizing the headphones to hearken to quiet music; to inform you the reality, I used to be unable to inform the distinction between the three modes.
The CapTune app additionally means that you can regulate its sound modes (which it calls Impact Modes) for various kinds of audio: Membership, Film, Speech or Off. (For those who favor, you may cycle by means of them through a button on the suitable ear cup, which is quite a bit slower.) You too can regulate the audio prompts — you may change the language, or go for tones solely, or flip them off altogether.
And you’ll regulate the equalization (EQ) utilizing both of a number of pre-programmed specs (Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, Classical, Voice, and so on.) or by creating your personal customized setting. The SoundCheck function additionally permits you to regulate for issues like increase, spatial or reverb or DLC, both by utilizing (once more) preprogrammed specs (Membership, Film or Speech) or by utilizing the Director mode, which begins with all these results turned off and provides you choices to regulate every.
What with the sound modes and the NoiseGard noise cancellation settings, it took me a little bit of experimentation to search out the settings that had been most applicable. And even then, issues could possibly be a bit complicated; for instance, I discovered that having the headphones switched to Speech mode improved the sound throughout a telephone name — however the Results Modes button does not work throughout a name, so it’s actually solely sensible when you can also make the swap earlier than an outgoing name.
The Sennheiser MB 660 UC sells for about $445.
Plantronics, one other well-known audio model, tends to go for the middle-level audio followers — those that could also be much less educated about sound, however who nonetheless need a good pair of earphones for the workplace or residence.
The Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2, the newest model within the firm’s BackBeat line of headphones and earbuds, are a nice-looking, with snug padded earpieces and a padded headband; they’re barely smaller and lighter than the earlier mannequin.
One factor I’ve observed about Plantronics merchandise is that they have a tendency to emphasise ease of use, and the BackBeat Professional 2 is not any completely different — beginning with the big “R” and “L” lettering contained in the ear cups so you already know which matches over what ear.
The left ear cup has the audio controls on the surface; a button within the middle pauses and performs, buttons to the left and proper of that allow you to quick ahead or rewind. A rotating ring on the sting of the cup controls the quantity. A small three-way swap units the energetic noise cancellation management to on, off, or pass-through (permitting audio from outdoors to cross by means of the cups).
The precise ear cup has the micro-USB port for energy and an audio port if you wish to join the headset bodily (cables are included for each), the ability swap and a mute swap. A collection of LEDs lets you already know the battery power (if you begin up, a voice may even let you already know the battery power and connection standing).
The precise cup can also be used to reply/finish calls by a single press to the surface — since many headphones use the identical button for play/pause and to reply calls, I discovered this a bit complicated at first, however bought used to it fairly rapidly.
Not like the Sennheisers, the BackBeat Professional 2 will pause your music in the event you take the headphones off; calls may even transfer again to your telephone, which is absolutely handy. You do, nevertheless, have to make use of the ability swap if you wish to shut the headphones fully off.
Plantronics’ app is named the Plantronics Hub; not like Sennheiser’s CapTune, the emphasis right here is on info relatively than sound. The Hub tells you the way a lot speak time you might have left and whether or not the headphones are on or off your ear; in any other case, you may entry assistance on the way to use the headphones and even make them difficulty a sound so you’ll find them.
Plantronics features a comfortable fabric bag for storage; a separate pocket within the bag holds the cables and instruction booklet.
The Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2 sells for about $200.
Sennheiser vs. Plantronics: Sound
Until you are an audiophile, you are not going to search out all that a lot distinction between the 2 headphones — though in case you are one, there’s a distinction. I used each to hearken to quite a lot of music, together with a lightweight pop feminine vocal, a folks/jazz instrumental set, an orchestral overture to a Broadway musical, a classical choral piece and a rock music.
On the entire, the Sennheisers had been cleaner and had a fuller bass — not less than a part of which was, I am certain, on account of the truth that I used to be in a position to tweak the highs and lows through the CapTune app. That being stated, the Plantronics had been undoubtedly not dangerous in any respect, and for day-to-day use, most customers needs to be happy with them.
So far as telephone calls had been involved, once I tried the Sennheisers, the voice of my caller sounded a bit tinny, however there have been no breaks or any of the distortions that you simply get on lesser headsets. My caller reported that, on her finish, the Sennheisers sounded a bit gravelly and digital (however, once more, with no glitches or distortions).
Once I examined the Plantronics headphones, the sound at my finish was about the identical because the Sennheisers, however my caller reported that my voice got here by means of fairly clearly and had brighter, extra reasonable sound.
To be sincere, I’ve but to discover a pair of full over-the-ear headsets that do not really feel heavy to me after a comparatively brief time; I favor lighter-weight on-the-ear models corresponding to Plantronics’ BackBeat Sense, which prices just a little over $150 (Amazon price). Nevertheless, that may not be useful for individuals who want to dam out a loud surroundings — in that case, over-the-ear units are virtually a necessity. I discovered the Sennheisers just a little lighter to put on within the lengthy haul, though once more, this was a refined distinction and each headphones had been fairly snug.
Neither of those shone so far as the energetic noise cancellation is anxious; whereas the know-how did muffle outdoors noises to a substantial extent, it wasn’t fairly the soundproofing that I anticipated. The digital pass-through sounds relatively, effectively, digital; fairly frankly, I feel that merely slipping one of many ear cups off your ear to listen to what is going on on can be simply as simple and far more efficient.
That being stated, for individuals who work in an open workplace scenario or different distracting surroundings, or spend loads of time on airplanes, both of those units may make issues quite a bit pleasanter.
In case your music is necessary to you, and you may afford the roughly $445 worth, I might go for the Sennheiser MB 660 UC headphones; they’re snug to put on, have a terrific many good enterprise options (together with a tough case and a dongle for non-Bluetooth computer systems) and provide wonderful sound.
Alternatively, in the event you spend loads of time on the telephone or just need a good pair of fairly priced headphones for day-to-day use, the Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2 ought to go well with simply high quality for lower than half the value.