Headphones, as soon as a product primarily for music followers or audio engineers, are actually a every day sight within the workplace and on the road. Not only for listening anymore, they not solely allow you to take cellphone calls however provide help to hold your focus within the noisy open workplaces so beloved by many corporations.
I attempted out two not too long ago 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 supply all of the options that right now’s enterprise customers are in search of — wi-fi connectivity, portability, good sound and lively noise cancellation (ANC). Nonetheless, they differ in a wide range 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 many 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 secure (however may also add to the load if you’re touring). Contained in the case, apart from the headphones themselves, are an audio cable; a micro-USB energy cable; and a USB dongle for communication with laptops that are not geared up with Bluetooth.
The headphones had been fairly comfy (though a bit comfortable) on my head, with padding on each the ear cups and on the metallic headband. All controls are on the fitting ear cup, consisting of a contact pad (which is used for many lively sound controls), and two tiny management switches, one which offers with completely different sound modes and one which handles Sennheiser’s NoiseGard lively 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 through which they’re dealing with one another (in different phrases, from storage place to sporting place). A pleasing feminine voice lets you already know that the machine is powered on or off, and alerts you to different adjustments you make (comparable to altering the sound mode). In contrast to another headphones on this value vary, the Senheisers do not robotically pause or play if you take them off your head.
The headphones use a contact floor on the fitting ear cup to allow you to alter the quantity, quick ahead or return, pause or resume. Whereas I discovered using a featureless contact floor attention-grabbing, I are likely to desire controls that I can instantly determine by really feel (comparable to buttons or raised symbols) moderately than a touchpad-like interface.
The noise cancellation characteristic makes use of 4 microphones, two with openings to the surface of the headset and two contained in the headset. You possibly can select to show it on or off, or you possibly can put it in adaptive mode, which robotically adjusts the noise cancellation relying on how loud issues get round you. (You can too manually alter it utilizing Sennheiser’s CapTune app.) Since I do not work in an open workplace scenario, II tried it by taking part in a information feed whereas utilizing the headphones to hearken to quiet music; to let you know the reality, I used to be unable to inform the distinction between the three modes.
The CapTune app additionally lets you alter its sound modes (which it calls Impact Modes) for various kinds of audio: Membership, Film, Speech or Off. (In case you desire, you possibly can cycle by way of them by way of a button on the fitting ear cup, which is so much slower.) You can too alter the audio prompts — you possibly can change the language, or go for tones solely, or flip them off altogether.
And you’ll alter 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 individual customized setting. The SoundCheck characteristic additionally helps you to alter for issues like enhance, 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 seek out the settings that had been most acceptable. And even then, issues might be a bit complicated; for instance, I discovered that having the headphones switched to Speech mode improved the sound throughout a cellphone name — however the Results Modes button would not work throughout a name, so it’s actually solely sensible when you may 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 desire a good pair of earphones for the workplace or house.
The Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2, the most recent model within the firm’s BackBeat line of headphones and earbuds, are a nice-looking, with comfy padded earpieces and a padded headband; they’re barely smaller and lighter than the earlier mannequin.
One factor I’ve seen 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 works over what ear.
The left ear cup has the audio controls on the surface; a button within the heart 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 lively noise cancellation management to on, off, or pass-through (permitting audio from outdoors to go by way of the cups).
The proper 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 also let you already know the battery power and connection standing).
The proper cup can 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 shortly.
In contrast to the Sennheisers, the BackBeat Professional 2 will pause your music when you take the headphones off; calls may also transfer again to your cellphone, which is actually handy. You do, nevertheless, have to make use of the ability swap if you wish to shut the headphones utterly off.
Plantronics’ app known as the Plantronics Hub; not like Sennheiser’s CapTune, the emphasis right here is on data moderately than sound. The Hub tells you ways 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 possibly can entry assistance on learn how to use the headphones and even make them concern a sound so you’ll find them.
Plantronics features a gentle material 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 seek out all that a lot distinction between the 2 headphones — though if you’re one, there’s a distinction. I used each to hearken to a wide range of music, together with a light-weight pop feminine vocal, a people/jazz instrumental set, an orchestral overture to a Broadway musical, a classical choral piece and a rock track.
On the entire, the Sennheisers had been cleaner and had a fuller bass — no less than a part of which was, I am positive, as a consequence of the truth that I used to be capable of tweak the highs and lows by way of the CapTune app. That being mentioned, the Plantronics had been undoubtedly not unhealthy in any respect, and for day-to-day use, most customers must be happy with them.
So far as cellphone calls had been involved, after 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).
After 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 way 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 quick time; I desire lighter-weight on-the-ear models comparable to Plantronics’ BackBeat Sense, which prices a bit of over $150 (Amazon price). Nonetheless, that will not be useful for many who want to dam out a loud surroundings — in that case, over-the-ear units are virtually a necessity. I discovered the Sennheisers a bit of lighter to put on within the lengthy haul, though once more, this was a refined distinction and each headphones had been fairly comfy.
Neither of those shone so far as the lively 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 moderately, nicely, 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 rather more efficient.
That being mentioned, for many 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 so much pleasanter.
In case your music is necessary to you, and you may afford the roughly $445 value, I might go for the Sennheiser MB 660 UC headphones; they’re comfy to put on, have a terrific many good enterprise options (together with a tough case and a dongle for non-Bluetooth computer systems) and supply glorious sound.
However, when you spend loads of time on the cellphone or just desire a good pair of fairly priced headphones for day-to-day use, the Plantronics BackBeat Professional 2 ought to swimsuit simply fantastic for lower than half the worth.