Long Term Review: Plantronics Focus UC

By | August 28, 2016

I know your all waiting for the Cloudbond followup, but I’m back with another Plantronics headset review. I meant to quickly review this before IgniteAU last year but everything’s been a little busy since then, So I’d figured I’d post this as a more long term review than just a first impressions. As always, Full disclosure. This is a review unit from Plantronics (it’s even marked “NOT FOR SALE” on the headband) but as usual I’ll say what I like about it even at the risk of not being sent more gear, but with how long it took me to write this one.. I don’t expect Plantronics will be in a rush to send me anything else to review. Oh well.

If your just after the quick bits here’s the info you need.

Pro’s

  • Great sound quality
    • Uses its own dongle for PC eliminating a lot of issues with the windows Bluetooth stack
    • Built in DSP when using noise cancelling
  • Manages being paired to 2 devices just fine
    • Notifications sent to your mobile device still play in ears when you’re playing music on PC
    • Calls on PC correctly interrupt music from your mobile device
  • Mic has brilliant wind rejection
    • Mic is based on the ‘Legendary’ (ha) Plantronics Legend UC/CS Bluetooth headset
    • I can use Google Now with my head out the window at 100kmh (don’t try this)
  • Real button controls plus motion aware stuff
    • Mutes mic/pauses music when you remove it from your head
    • Answers calls / switches to headset mode when you pick it up off a desk

Con’s

  • Not Full Can style headphones
    • Not so much an issue with ANC
    • Audio can still “bleed” to nearby office users if you get a bit excited with the volume
    • Can sometimes take some re-adjustment to sit just right for full bass response
  • Status LED are tiny
    • Hard to tell if your listening to music or on a call
    • Spoke to Plantronics about this, apparently they were limited by battery size, still would have loved to seen a larger “In call” indicator versus listing to music
    • Check out a Blynclight if this is a concern, Greig has just reviewed the latest model here https://greiginsydney.com/review-embrava-blynclight/
  • Price
    • It’s a lot and can be a hard sell to management
    • It’s coming down, but still expect to pay around $300 for a pair

 

Summary

We managed to pick up a fleet of these devices cheaper than normal thanks to a bundle special with one of our distributors and now everyone in the technical team uses them as their “goto” devices. We now engage in what we call “Headphone Land” to reduce distractions to a minimum, even to the point we had to setup a Persistent Chat room to discuss lunch because everyone is so focused.

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Some more retail units for our office

The nitty gritty of the hardware

 

First thing I noticed when taking these out of the box is that they look like some sort of strange love child between two of Plantronics other products. The Backbeat Sense and the Voyager Legend. And it makes total sense, I’d still like to see these in a full can form factor like the Backbeat Pro or the Jabra Evolve 80 but after actually living with the device the larger form factor may have been difficult to achieve.

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My review units

These units are designed for all day wear and whilst full cans would provide better noise isolation and deeper bass response, the smaller pads mean I can get away with wearing these around the office, without looking like some kind of DJ snob and stuff them in my smaller bag without taking an entire segment for just my headphones

 

Speaking of noise rejection and the pads. They are nice and soft and whilst pressing on the ears they can stay on all day without getting sweaty, painful or annoying just fine. But can take some practice getting to sit on the ears “just right” for the maximum sound quality and isolation from ‘the real world’

 

I’ve found that I don’t really use the “open mic” function much, but it is rather nice. Pressing the red mute button on the microphone boom turns on the mic, lowers the music volume and pipes the surrounding audio into the earpieces, whilst it allows you to listen to your surroundings. However it still gives the impression to others that you’re not listening to them.  Handy for announcements and stuff or maybe listening to something covertly (you don’t do that do you?) but I still find it better to pull the headphones down to my neck, where they automatically pause any music/mute my mic if I’m on a call so I can give the person my full attention. In addition the remote party can’t hear the private conversation I’m having with a co-worker.

The Microphone boom can flip for usage on the left or the right of the head. The internal DSP automatically flips the left and right channels to suit whichever way you’re wearing the headset.

 

For the controls they are well laid out and easy to access.

I use the headset in the “Microphone on the Right” configuration,  so on the right side of my head I get the Mic on the outer ring of the ear pad. The nice solid feeling power/pairing switch, With the call answer/reject button and the USB micro b port which is used for charging and firmware updates. As well as the small Charge/Status LED’s There is also a special 5 pin connector for the charging dock.

 

On the left hand side another Physical switch for the Active Noise Cancelling, a rotator switch for the volume and media controls with play/pause previous and next supporting both AD2P controls on paired Bluetooth devices and Windows media players using the dedicated BT600 dongle with Plantronics Hub

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The BT600 glows Purple while streaming Music, Flashes blue during a call, and turns Red when muted.

The headband has a nice padded inner loop along with swivel for both ear pads allowing the headphones to fit weird form factor heads, lay flat on your chest for when your boarding planes and pack up quite small for storage in your bag. The headband notches are adjustable to 10 places on each side and are numbered in case you like me have a big head and need to adjust it each time you pull it out of the bag.

 

From a build quality perspective I have nothing to complain about. Unlike my Plantronics Rigs (the old ones) they show no signs of cracking / deterioration for the amount of time I’ve been using them. My pre-release units are still holding strong despite being regularly stored in my overly packed bag without their protective bag

 

The Software

Speaking of Mute, this is where Plantronics Hub comes in to a world of its own again, as with most PLT devices Plantronics Hub is fully integrated with this particular headset. So when I attempt to talk in a conference call after I muted myself. I get a nice pop up on screen reminding me that mute is on (and optionally an audio prompt) Thanks to the fact is pairs via Bluetooth to your mobile phone you can have Lync/Skype4B automatically update your status to “In a call” when you take a call on your mobile device without needing to run the Skype4B app… neat. (this works on most PLT dual paired devices, the Legend UC/CS the 5200 UC etc)

You can also have the software automatically change your status based on if you are wearing the headset or not, but I found this to be more of “Demo bling” rather than something actually useful. Your mileage may vary.

Closing note

All in all this is still my goto device and even having being given one as a review unit (see disclosure above) I would have no issue spending the $300 or so on a unit for myself or my team.

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