Price: $ 220
When you think of Plantronics, a company best known for call center and aviation headset music may not be the first thing to think on.
Here's what we like
- Big sound
- Long battery life
- Can be used with 3.5mm wire instead of Bluetooth
And what we don't
- No way knowing exactly how much battery life remains without connecting to another device
- Could not install the Hub tool on the Kindle Fire
- The iOS version of the Hub tool is limited than the Windows version
Recently, the company has branched out with some good audible headphones and earphones. The BackBeat series of earphones and BackBeat Pro 2 over-the-ear headphones provide good sound, albeit at an affordable price. The supplier's latest over-the-ear headphones are Voyager 8200 UC. These add to the product line instead of replacing Plantronics premium BackBeat Pro 2 headphones, the previous top of the line.
My ears, not yours: A headphone speaker Primer
Before reading an audio review, whether it be headphones, speakers or any other audio equipment, keep in mind that everyone's hearing is somewhat different. People tend to be more sensitive to certain frequencies, and not everyone has the same music. As a reviewer, I was able to use available measuring equipment and software to dig out the headphone frequency response. But a graph isn't going to give you any idea of what the headphones really sound like or want to wear them for more than a few hours. To be informative, every audio report must be at least somewhat subjective.
Most reviewers have a list of tracks they use to test a set of earphones / headphones. Since my taste in music is probably different from yours, I will not list the tracks I used, just say I spent hours a day over a two-week period playing tracks in the Spotify playlist, which has just over 600 songs Today. These range from Chicago and Texas Blues to the 60s Garage Band rock. There are even some countries in there.
If you are interested in putting these or other headphones through their steps, please see our guide to testing out headphones. Also useful if you want to create your own test package, this site has a wide range of audio test files. If you want something super fast and easy, Spotify even has a self-regulated headphone test list that you can take for a spin.
As said, my preferences tend to be more against bass than treble, but I also listen for a balanced response. After all, most audio equipment and applications have equalizer where you can adjust the response to your taste. As they say in commercials, your mileage may vary.
A step up from my faithful Sennheisers
I've had many headphones over the years, and my favorites have changed as I've had the opportunity to test new ones. Curiously, one of my favorites is still a pair of Sennheiser HD Pro 280 phones that must be nearly two decades old. They are struggling to be uncomfortable for a certain time, but still sound good.
Before I tested the Voyager 8200 UC, my go-to headphones were also Plantronics-BackBeat Pro 2. These provide great sound, very good battery life and are comfortable to wear for hours on end. The Voyager 8200 UC phones provide just about the same positive features, plus a few more that make them better for office use while traveling, and just listening to music or TV.
I'm not going to list the data sheet of Voyager 8200 UCs here. It doesn't give you much of a "taste" of how they sound or feel. As you can see in the pictures, they come in black and cream and are large, and it is mostly that all other headphones must be over the ear.
They have very comfortable memory foam padding on ear and headband, a synthetic leather cover on both, orange accents on the earrings and on a label attached to the headband, and uppercase letters to indicate which ear tag is left and right. It's really not as stupid as it looks since many headphones and earphones have small letters to indicate proper orientation.
A metal screen on both the front edge of the earmuff hides the microphones used by the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), another reason to have the right earmuffs on the right ear, and retrieve the voice when using the phones in an office environment to make or answer calls on calls. Plantronics designed these headphones to be comfortable to use when listening to music, traveling or working in the office. And they ship with a USB Bluetooth dongle as well as a 3.5mm cable that can be used to connect the headset directly to a music source.
Active Noise Cancellation is a feature that both Plantronics headphones have in common and they seem to work a little better on Voyager. There is a small slider on the edge of the left earphone. Right down and the ANC is turned off. Slide it to the middle position, and some cancellation kicks in, but loud background sounds, like a doorbell, can still be heard. This is the setting I spent most of the time in the office while I was working. Finally push the switch up to the top position and more ANC kicks in. There always seems to be some loud sounds that make it through even in this peak setting, which is good. You will be able to hear about the noise. I was not able to test Voyagers in an airplane, but I would probably leave them in the middle so I could hear plane entries.
Also on the left ear pin are the volume controls using a volume wheel located on the periphery of the cup and controls used when playing audio tracks to skip forward or backward. The volume wheel is also used to control the volume of the microphones located on the front of each earplug. When you touch the center of the cup, you get access to voice control using Siri, Cortana or Google Now (a strange choice because Google Now has expired for Google Assistant).
There are several more slide switches on the side of the right earpiece as well as a micro-USB connector on the bottom of the cup to charge the battery and a 3.5 mm connector for using the headphones in plug-in mode. Along the leading edge of the ear cup is the mask covering one of the two microphones, a slider that turns off the microphone and the power switch, which has three positions off, on, and pairs. By connecting the headphones with Bluetooth, you get a wireless range of nearly 100 meters so you can wander around a room or office and still stay connected. The 8200 UCs can also be connected via NFC (Near Field Communications). Rather than the wheel on the left earmuff, the middle of the right earmuff is a switch. Tap it to make, answer, or end a call.
And for travel, the earbuds turn inwards so that the headset is flat and can fit into the soft travel set packed with the phones that also have a zipper for USB and 3.5 mm audio cables provided. This ability to fold into a flat package makes it easy to carry 8200 UC in your luggage.
Huba Huba: Software Based Control
Plantronics promotes Hub software as a useful addition. I found it true for the most part. While the Android version refused to install on the Kindle Fire HD, which I usually listen to music, it installed well on both Windows 10 and IOS. In order to make the Windows 10 version work, I had to install the USB dongle that came with the headphones. Both versions allow you to adjust call and volume settings, and both give you the amount of switching time remaining on the battery charge.
The available options on the IOS version of the tool were very sparse compared to the Windows version. "Find My Headset" worked perfectly and sent a high tone to the headset that would definitely help you find the phones if you were within 5 to 10 feet of them. Slightly below the label of the connected device (Plantronics Voyager 8200), connection status messages, in this case Connected, are a display of remaining talk / listening time. The settings menu is where the most useful features are located, but if you actually find them useful, it's a matter of meaning. I didn't find any settings I want to use.
It is a feature that you may want to install the tool to have. It's the "How Do I Have" selection, which has excerpts from the Voyager User Guide. That and the call waiting time message on the tool's opening screen are enough to justify the free tool, but the features beyond that seem quite scant.
Great sound, good features
Simple operating controls and useful tools are fine, but the bottom line of any audio equipment, and especially headphones, is how they sound, Both while listening and when the headphones are meant to be worn to make and receive phone calls. I was able to use the Voice Control button to give commands to Siri, but failed to get Cortana to recognize commands. Voice quality in phone mode is excellent, perhaps a legacy from Plantronics many years that produce phones for the office and aviation headphones.
Listen to music was also rewarding. One advantage of listening to the same tracks over and over with different headphones is that after a while you tend to pick up subtle differences in sound. A headset can have some obscure bass or sharp treble. The Voyager 8200 UC has almost the same sound characteristics as the BackBeat Pro 2s I've been using for years, with a noticeable difference. The Voyager 8200s appear to have lower sound levels at the same settings on the device it is connected to. This was not a problem. I just used the volume wheel on the left earmuff to increase the volume.
Other than that, the answer is exactly what I have come to expect – smooth bass and sharp but not sharp treble. Center tones are clear, and on many tracks there is a noticeable sense of presence. It is also reflected when I use the headset to listen to the television. Voices are much more pronounced than when the TV plays through speakers, and background sounds, such as phones ringing in the background, come through when you are on the headset, but not when listening to the TV speakers. And Voyager's 8th century is comfortable enough to wear for hours. I haven't been walking with them, but it's not uncommon to use them for three or four hours at a time. The Voyager 8200s have an earpiece sensor that pauses music or audio playback when removing the headset, which is fine if you are interrupted while using them.
Plantronics claims up to 24 hours of talk time for the Voyager 8200s. I didn't get that long, but when fully charged, the Hub software showed that I had 21 hours and 40 minutes left on the battery. When you turn on the headphones, you are met with Power High, Power Medium, Power Low or a Refill Headphones message. These messages are accompanied by the lights on the right earmuff. When fully charged, five lights illuminate. which goes down to three lights for medium and a single light for low charge. When charging, the reverse is true, the lights go from one light illuminated through two, up to five at full charge. Charging from a completely discharged state took about the three hours Plantronics says it should take.
Should you buy them?
While the list price of the Voyager 8200 UC headphones is $ 319, in many cases you can get them for just over the $ 200 price we have here, $ 220, today's price point on Amazon and quite a consistent one. For that price, they represent a bargain. If you really prefer earplugs for earplugs, the Plantronic Voyager 8200 UC headphones are really worth a look with a good combination of comfort, sound quality and easy-to-use features.
Here's what we like  Big sound
And what we don't
- No way to know exactly how much battery life remains without connecting to another device
- Could not install the Hub tool on the Kindle Fire
- iOS version of the Hub tool limited than the Windows version