Stuck between headphones with boom mics and simple in-ear headphones with in-line mics, the humble Bluetooth earpiece has seen its boom times come and go. That’s not to say that it’s curtains for the old mono Bluetooth headset — they remain a strong choice for mobile workers who need to be ready to take a call at a moment’s notice, but don’t want to block the rest of the world out when they’re not on the line. It helps that these tiny headsets are much easier to travel with than headphones, too.
Of course, it’s still hard to just beat a pair of cheap in-ear headphones with a serviceable in-line mic. To really be valuable, you’ve got to deliver something special in sound and microphone quality — two things that Plantronics has historically been pretty good at. One of their latest products, the Plantronics Voyager 3200 UC, promises to deliver just that. The headset improves on the company’s Voyager Edge headsets, featuring some of their best mic and audio technology while adding some business-friendly features that help this new Voyager headset stand out.
The Plantronics Voyager 3200 UC is meant to be an all-in-one Bluetooth headset that can last an entire workday in many conditions. That’s not just because it’s lightweight and travels well — the headset comes with a charging case that nearly doubles the battery life of the headset itself. Being a Plantronics UC product, there’s also a pop-out Bluetooth USB dongle inside the case for use with PC and Mac. With a smartphone, the headset is connected by going into Bluetooth settings — with PC and Mac, simply pop in the dongle to your computer and setup is done for you. It’s a terrific addition for anyone that might need to use multiple devices throughout the course of the day.
The Voyager 3200 UC is one of Plantronics’ smallest headsets to date, but that doesn’t mean it lacks the features of the larger headsets. The earpiece has volume buttons, an on/off switch, and a mute button that doubles as a personal digital assistant button when held down. The face of the earpiece is one large button that can both activate Bluetooth pairing and give a quick readout of battery life and to which device the headset is currently connected.
The headset has a lot of programmed voice prompts, but the most useful ones are call alerts. The call alerts read out the name of the person calling, after which you can simply say ‘answer’ or ‘ignore.’ You’ll get alerts when you get an incoming call while you’re already in a call, too, and the headset is capable of switching you to the new call. The headset also knows whether or not it’s being worn — if you’re not wearing it, the call will be routed to your phone’s speakers. Put the headset on, and the call is shifted to the headset without you needing to do anything.
The Voyager 3200 UC has three mics that are used to pick up your voice and cancel background noise, which is the main addition that separates this model from the older Voyager Edge headsets. In areas with moderate background noise, I found that others could hear me very clearly, but when I used the headset in busy cafes and out on the street, the background noise did prove to be distracting to those on the other line — the same issues can make words get lost when dictating to digital personal assistants like Google Assistant and Siri. Voice quality was consistent throughout, however, and can be improved by turning on HD Voice — that feature is off by default to save battery life, but can be turned on using the companion app.
Sound quality was great, too — the headset is clearly tuned for human voices, and to great effect. Calls come through clear (or as clear as the other person’s mic allows), and while background noise did have some effect on calls, I could carry on a conversation in any environment.
One pretty neat feature Plantronics added to this headset is the mute alert. They’re looking out for anyone who has muted themselves on a conference call, listened politely, then dropped an unbelievable nugget of wisdom that no one hears. If you’re muted and say something, the headset will tell you that mute is on to save you the breath. But, again, it depends on where you are. This worked perfectly when I was working at home, but in places with more background noise, I had trouble hearing the mute alert over background noise on top of the speech of everyone else on the call.
Plantronics estimates battery life to be six hours, but this will vary quite a bit based on how often you’re in a call, how far you have the volume turned up, and whether or not you use HD Voice. The only really important thing is that it lasts all day, though, and that’s why the charging case is great. It’s easy to pop it onto the case if you’re off call or on break, helping the headset stay charged all day. The case comes with a little strap that can be looped around a backpack or a piece of luggage, too, so it’s pretty easy to keep track of. If you’re in doubt, you can press down on the face of the headset to get a quick battery life readout, too.
While that charging case has gotten a redesign, the Plantronics Voyager 3200 UC headset itself is almost identical in design to the Voyager Edge headsets we’ve reviewed in the past. That means you can expect a nice, lightweight build, but with small buttons that can be kind of hard to press. As before, the headset feels loose in the ear, but actually fits securely — even while I was walking around.
Plantronics does include a detachable plastic ear hook, but it’s pretty stiff. It does alleviate that precarious feeling, but you might find it uncomfortable after a couple hours. The Voyager 5200, which has a unit that goes behind the ear, is probably a better design in this respect, but is a little heavier.
The Plantronics Hub app adds a handful of customization features. The app can be used to ping your headset if you’ve misplaced it — it happens! — and personalize alerts or change the language. You can also enable softphone control, update firmware, or change the mute alert to go off at regular time intervals, instead of just when you speak. The app also adds a small battery meter to the notification bar (tested on Android), which I thought was the most helpful addition.