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Review: 3 Bluetooth headphones for travel, work and play

Publish Date:

Friday, March 4, 2016 3:30 am PST

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Plantronics Voyager Focus UC

With their desktop charging stand and included USB Bluetooth dongle, the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC headphones are a good choice for business users, either in or away from the office.

At 5.4-oz., the Voyager Focus UC headphones, $300 (vendor price), weigh less than the SoundLink II. The flexible headband can be twisted, but pops right back into shape. The on-the-ear headphones, which are covered with leatherette pads, were comfortable enough but felt loose on my head; if I bent over or sneezed, I felt as if they would fall off (and they actually did a couple of times).

The desktop stand makes charging much easier. Just slip the ear cup with the microphone into the stand and the device begins to charge, although the stand's blue light doesn't change. The headphones are road-ready as well, with a micro-USB port for charging.

The Voyager Focus UC headphones also come with a travel case and a USB Bluetooth adapter for use with an older PC. Because they come with the Bluetooth dongle, Plantronics apparently felt that a USB-to-audio-in cable (or port) was not necessary.

The basic black color scheme is interrupted by a flat orange cable that is visible on either side of the padded part of the headband. You can replace the leatherette ear cushions for $10. They're not marked for right and left because the Voyager Focus UC's microphone is on a boom that can rotate between right and left orientation. In other words, it's ambidextrous.

On the same side with the boom is the power switch: press it to power up the headphones and push it further in to start the pairing sequence. There's also a call button for going between music listening and phone use. In the middle of the outer ear cup, there is a series of LEDs that show the charge level and signals the headphones' readiness to pair.

The other ear cup has a volume dial and controls for play/pause and moving tracks forward and back. There's also a switch at the bottom for turning on the Voyager Focus UC's noise-reduction circuit.

A computer-generated voice tells you when the headphones are ready to pair as well as the charge level. It took about two minutes to pair the unit with each of my devices.

The Voyager Focus UC was the long distance champ of the three reviewed here -- I was able to stay connected 45 feet from the source. This can help while in the office where you can walk around and still listen to your tunes and stay on a call.

The headphones are able to reproduce audio between 20 and 20,000 hertz. However, to my ears, the sound wasn't quite as good as the SoundLink II, with an overall flat response that rang hollow at times. In some classical pieces, the percussion got lost and rarely did the midrange tones shine through.

On the other hand, they are good for phone conversations. With three microphones in the Voyager Focus UC's boom, they delivered good, accurate sound to the other end of the conversation, although it wasn't quite as loud as the SoundLink II, and several times the voice faded out. The boom's base has a handy mute button.

The Voyager Focus UC headphones can do more than transmit your voice -- they have what Plantronics calls OpenMic mode, where they pick up and send the area's ambient sounds to the speakers in case you need to hear what a co-worker is saying.

Also useful is Mute Alert, which senses that you're talking when you've muted the microphone and reminds you that the microphone is off. You set it up via the Plantronics Hub application for Windows or OS X.

The system's noise-reduction system is easy to turn on and off, but when I tried it, it had little effect on outside environmental noises. It did make the audio louder, though.

The Voyager Focus UC ran for 7 hours and 40 minutes on a charge, several hours less than either the QuietPoint or the SoundLink II.

Bottom line

The Voyager Focus UC headphones are (by a less-than-significant $20) the most expensive headphones of the three reviewed. However, their many useful features, long range and excellent microphone makes them a good companion for work.

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