Sennheiser; new UC devices

Sennheiser SP 30/30+

So let’s start with absolute gem – the Sennheiser SP 30 portable wireless speakerphone for personal conferencing or up to 8 people. One of the hot topics in UC is the choice between all-in-one display-based solutions, like the Windows Collaboration Devices from Avocor, Sharp and others, where everything you need, including audio or a camera is included in the standard package,  or a solution integrated around a selection of best-in-class products for the specific user’s requirements.

There are some absolutely cracking products on offer in this space, and while many of the all-in-one solutions are also first class, they do offer a great deal of flexibility for very specific collaboration needs. The SP30 offers a natural conversation experience and exceptional audio performance and sound quality via Bluetooth or USB-C, from a device which can be portable for those who work in different locations.

As a portable wireless speakerphone it comes in a carry case, is light weight and has a diameter only a little bigger than a CD. The SP30 provides personal conferencing or up to 8 people. It is possible to set up a conference call at a moment’s notice in any location or use the device as part of a permanent conference room or huddle space solution. We set our review sample up with a Logitech camera, Intel NUC and a LG display, and also with a laptop for a solution that is dead easy to move around and set up.

Sennheiser markets its SP series of speakerphones with the tag line “A conference call in your briefcase.” A choice of Bluetooth or USB-C connectivity provides freedom and flexible connection options. Two long-range, noise and echo cancelling microphones and an ultra-low distortion speaker with clear voice reproduction allow a natural, conversational flow even in challenging environments. Our test confirmed the manufacturer’s claims and it should also be said that the SP30 is as cute as ninepence, with clever design touches like secure storage for the USB dongle.

American pricing is $209 to $259, which translates to a UK street price of around £123 (SP30 at Best4Sytems) to £158 (SP30+ with the dongle at Best4Sytems). At these prices, we are definitely convinced.

Sennheiser MB 660 UC MS

OK so enough gushing praise, now for the one that left us scratching our heads. The Sennheiser MB 660 UC MS is described as a wireless, Skype for Business Certified, adaptive ANC headset” designed for knowledge workers “demanding business-grade communication and premium Sennheiser sound quality for maximum productivity in open offices”.

The idea is to constantly monitor the background environment for noise, to apply Sennheiser’s NoiseGard hybrid adaptive ANC technology to seamlessly adjust the level of noise reduction in the headset. “This unique technology enables you to take control of your sound environment, so you can have a productive, disruption-free workspace.”

The Sennheiser MB 660 UC MS – a wireless, Skype for Business Certified, adaptive ANC headset: too clever for its own good?

All good. No one could quibble with the build quality of the product, but the operation of the MB 660 UC is another matter. In the name of innovation, Sennheiser has introduced call and media controls direct from the touch pad built in to the ear pieces of the headset: various touches allow you to answer/end call, reject, hold, mute/unmute, redial; play/pause music, change track, volume up or down Unfortunately, it is far from immediately apparent which touches trigger which commands.

Should an audio headset require a training course to use? In today’s BYOD world, the exact participants in say, a Skype for Business meeting, are hard to predict. If the meeting start is delayed because the need to train people on how to use the headset, in what way is the product, as claimed, optimised for UC?

To be fair, the good points include both the quality materials used in the MB 660 and the 30 hours of battery life. But features like turning the device on and off by

turning the ear cups. As for the rest, one owner reports that: “I do not know all the commands – just the most important ones.” We were concerned that we might accidentally unmute the device at an unfortunate moment – give us a switch or a button to remove any chance of this happening.

Crusty I know, and we are probably not attributing true credit for some of the clever technology in this product. For example, SpeakFocus technology features 3 digital microphones for clear sound against the noisy background of an open offices. The Advanced Own-Voice-Detector detects the user’s voice and optimises speech intelligibility, as well as reducing background noise for the listener.

Room Experience “externalises” the sound giving the user the impression that conversation is taking place with a listener in the same room. Finally, Sennheiset’s TalkThrough technology allows the user to hear announcement of train and plane departures, for example, without removing the headset. Clever – but too clever for its own good?

Sennheiser Presence Grey UC

After our recent office reorganisation spread our resources over four floors and two buildings, the usefulness of the Sennheiser Presence device became immediately apparent. No more ‘hunt the handset’ or ‘find the device’, the Presence Grey UC keeps the user in touch with desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

The manufacturers describe the Presence Grey UC as suitable for is for “mobile professionals who require a consistently excellent communication solution.” The device is “Optimized for Unified Communications and certified for Skype for Business.” Or review sample came complete with a neat little carrying case and a USB dongle. For a compact and light weight device, the Presence Grey UC packs a good deal of technology, including some of the elements we liked in the MB 660 UC, like the Own-Voice-Detector, SpeakFocus and WindSafe technologies(which filters wind noise).

Again, the device features three digital microphones and Sennheiser’s noise filtering technologies. We found that Presence Grey UC delivered audible clear sound and was a genuine time saver. Not at all bad for something that can be had as cheap as £99.77 (minus the carrying case) from Amazon UK.

“For a compact and light weight device, the Presence Grey UC packs a good deal of technology, including some of the elements we liked in the MB 660 UC.”

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