How can a set of headphones be a business headset without a boom mic? Dated, probably to the ’90s, images of call centers come rushing in, mics aggressively invading the personal spaces of lines and lines of workers. The Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC headset wants to keep that image in the past, using advanced microphone technology in the earcups to negate the need for a separate boom mic. They’ve done that while adding Bluetooth connectivity, active noise cancelling, and, with the UC designation, support for all kinds of business communications.
The Voyager 8200 UC is being positioned as Plantronics’ premium business headset, with a high asking price of $380. They look the part, too — the sleek headband and faux-wood finish on the earcups make them look attractive in the office and on the street alike.
After using the Voyager 8200 UC for a few weeks, I found them to mostly live up to the looks and the price, although Plantronics does fall a bit short in some areas, especially in active noise cancellation. We’ve got the details ahead, including exactly what you can expect in call quality, active noise cancellation, and fit. If you’re constantly on the go and need to be ready to take and make calls at all times, you’re going to want to keep reading!
Plantronics – $380 (comes in black or white)
The Good: Excellent battery life, secure fit, seamless Bluetooth handoff between two devices, great microphone quality, solid sound quality for voices, automatically pauses or mutes mics when you take them off to save battery
The Bad: Loose bass, active noise cancellation is far from perfect
Who they’re for: Mobile workers who spend a lot of time in calls, business managers looking for high quality and compatibility with a wide variety of communications services
The Gear: Plantronics sent us the black Voyager 8200 UC headset.
Next page: In the box
The Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC comes with the soft carrying bag you see pictured, plus a small Bluetooth dongle for use with PCs, a Micro USB charging cable, and a 3.5 mm audio cable. I usually prefer hard cases for traveling just in case I happen to have something heavy in my bag, but soft cases are a little easier to pack — which one’s more important is up to you. Unfortunately, the headphones aren’t all that travel-friendly either way, as they don’t have a folding hinge. It’s a bit of a shame, as they’d otherwise make good headphones for air travel — there are just so many wireless headphones that fold up out there better suited to the role.
But, Plantronics nailed it with the 3.5 mm audio cable — it’s not just for show. The cable allows you to use the headset even when it’s turned off or the battery is dead, which is something we sadly can’t say about every wireless headset out there.
One last little gripe — the little Bluetooth dongle is awesome, as I’ll get to later, but there’s no good way to store it! A little slot somewhere on the headset would’ve been great — as it is, I usually just shoved the dongle in one of my pockets, which isn’t the best solution.
Next page: Controls
Like most Bluetooth headphones, you’ll find the full array of controls on the earcups. On the left side, you’ll find track back, track forward, play/pause, and the active noise cancellation slider — you can choose off, half cancellation, or full cancellation. The play/pause button doubles as a voice assistant button — just hold it down to activate Google Assistant, Siri, or whichever one you happen to use.
Volume is handled by that black studded ring around the cup, and it’s not quite like anything I’ve used. To raise or lower volume you push the ring backward or forward, which then snaps back into place. It’s not as precise as I’d like — each turn raises or lowers the volume by eight on Windows PCs, regardless of how much or how little you push. Despite that, the ring really grew on me, and eventually felt so intuitive that I accidentally tried to reach up and push non-existent rings on other headphones!
Over on the right, you’ve got the dedicated mute button and the power switch. Pushing all the way up on the power switch enables Bluetooth pairing, which was rock solid throughout the testing period — I never had to re-pair any of my devices (you can pair the headset with up to eight devices). The right-hand earcup is one big button — give it a double-tap, and it’ll call the last person you talked to.
Next page: How good are they for calling?
Unsurprisingly, the Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC were outstanding when it came to calls. Voices on the other lines came through clear and distinct, which really helped when I had to talk to multiple people on one call. They’re tuned for voices, and it shows.
But, it was always going to be the mic array that made or broke the Voyager 8200 UC. Plantronics made a pretty bold move in axing the boom mic, but they did it for good reason. Each earcup has two mics that use a technology called beamforming to focus directly on your mouth, and the system works! Everyone I talked to told me I sounded clear, with minimal background noise. The only exception was when I needed to call my bank while on the light rail (because someone thought it’d be rad to use my credit card number to take free Uber rides) — the customer support rep told me she could tell I was on public transport, but that my voice still sounded clear. I even had people say I sounded clear when I walking around during windy days — point is, the Voyager 8200 UC doesn’t have a boom mic because it doesn’t need one.
One very useful feature is the ability to connect to two devices simultaneously. For me, this meant being connected to my PC using the Bluetooth dongle and to my phone. The headphones would always kick in to tell me when I was receiving an incoming call, even telling me who was calling. I could go from listening to music on my PC to on a call on my phone and back to my PC with no effort.
Speaking of music, while that’s not really why the Voyager 8200 UC was made, it is a stylish set of headphones with pretty good battery life (they always lasted a full day, without fail) — they’re going to be playing music at some point! Vocals were rock solid, of course, but I was pretty impressed by highs and mids in general. Bass response was better than I expected, but it’s pretty loose — I heard a lot of distortion at higher volumes.
The Bluetooth connection also didn’t disappoint. The connection was never rattled by wind, and I found it to have enough range to cover most of my apartment. Things got a little choppy when I had a couple walls between me and my phone, but nothing too bad.
Oh, and one last neat little feature — if you start talking while muted, the headset will warn you so you don’t have to repeat yourself! You can adjust that and a handful of other call features (see above) in the Plantronics Hub app.
Next page: Active noise cancellation
Active noise cancellation is hard to get right, but at such a high price, I expect a lot. Unfortunately, I did run into some problems here. The good news is that if you’ve ever tried ANC headphones that give off a faint high-pitched sound, you won’t find that here. They don’t add pressure to your ears, either.
But, there are some big gaps in noise cancellation. When it’s fully turned on, I thought it did a really good job of blocking out traffic — I could only hear buses and cars faintly when on or near the street.
It’s background voices that seem to throw the headset off. I tried using them at a cafe and found that I could still hear (and even make out) what a couple people five to ten feet away from me were saying. At that same cafe, I found that background music almost completely fools the noise cancelling tech — I tried turning ANC off and on, and the background music came in just as loud either way.
To be fair, it’s these exact ranges that trip up the vast majority of other ANC headphones out there, too. But, $380 is a big ask, so I’d have liked to see a bit more (or hear a bit less) here.
Next page: Comfort
Yeah, those pads are as comfortable as they look. They covered my ears completely, which is always nice — my ears didn’t get hot or shoved into the side of my head. The Voyager 8200 UC is a pretty snug fit, though, so if you’ve got thicker glasses frames you might feel some discomfort after a while. But, that goes with the territory — if a set of headphones are made to block out background noise, a tight fit is non-negotiable.
The headband has a solid amount of padding, too, making the headset cushy all around. I never felt any pinching sensation on the top of my head, and on some days I wore these for well over five or six hours straight. They look great and feel great, so I give lots of credit to the Plantronics team here.