May 06, 2009, 8:24 PM — The scoop: Voyager PRO Bluetooth headset, by Plantronics, about US$100 (available at Plantronics.com and Best Buy through May).
What it is: The latest premium Bluetooth headset by Plantronics, this noise-canceling headset is designed to appeal to mobile professionals who spend a lot of time on their phones and want performance and a business-acceptable look and feel.
The Voyager PRO is designed much like the earlier, very popular Voyager 510, in which the battery is part of the behind-the-ear portion of the headset (rather than have the bulky part sit on the front of the headset). This design creates a much more comfortable fit, as users don't have to jam something in their ear, and the flexible earloop is also very comfortable. This allows power users to keep their headset attached to their ear all day without getting the "I have an annoying headset on my ear" feeling.
Plantronics says the Voyager PRO features as many as six hours of talk time and as many as five days in standby mode, and offers audio alerts to the users when the battery is running low (at 30 minutes left, you get a "low battery" vocal warning, and at 10 minutes you get another warning asking you to recharge the battery). A "mute" function (by pressing the + and -- volume buttons at the same time) is aimed at workers who may want to listen to conference calls but not have their ambient noise be heard.
Why it's cool: Noise-cancellation features are almost a requirement these days for a premium Bluetooth headset, and the Voyager PRO delivers, with dual noise-canceling microphones, Plantronics' Audio IQ2 proprietary technology and up to 80 db of noise cancellation.
In addition to reducing ambient noise, the Voyager PRO includes "wind noise reduction", in which three levels of wind noise are reduced for users who want to talk on their phones while outdoors. The headset also features stainless steel wind screens and special acoustic fabric (made by the same folks who make Gore-Tex) to help separate speech from the wind. In my test calls with the headset, nobody complained or asked if I was on a headset, the true judge of whether noise-cancellation is working or not.
The killer reason to try this headset is for its inbound noise improvements. Recognizing that communication is a two-way street, the Voyager PRO includes inbound audio quality so that the headset owner can hear the conversation as well. With earlier noise-canceling headsets I've tried, the person on the receiving end could hear my voice just fine, but I was struggling to hear them. On the Voyager PRO, the custom speaker includes an adaptive 20-band equalizer and self-adjusting volume feature that adapts to the noise level around the user and increases or decreases the volume to a proper level. This made calls on the headset more enjoyable for both parties involved.
Some caveats: In one noisy environment (a mall food court), the self-adjusting volume feature overcompensated a bit, and the volume in my ear got a little loud. Also, not so much a caveat but a warning -- the headset is very comfortable on the ear, so you have to remember to take it off if it's raining outside, as the device is not weather-proof.
Grade: 5 stars (out of five).