The Ultimate Business Headset? Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Review

We are very excited to finally be giving the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth headset an in depth review. We’ve had the headset now for a few months and have had a lot of experience with it. We hope that this review will not only be helpful for those looking to purchase a headset but also for those who already own this particular model and would like to get more out of the experience.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc--headset-review-rear-view-qtoothThe UC in the name stands for Unified Communications. For this version of the Voyager Legend, the UC designation means that it is intended to work seamlessly across many types of communication devices and formats, such as Bluetooth-enabled landlines, cell phones, VoIP, softphones, laptops, desktops, tablets, etc… Officially there are two models that go by the Voyager Legend UC name. The B235 version is built for UC Standard applications and softphones from Avaya®, Cisco®, IBM®, Skype® and more. The B235-M is the Microsoft-certified version and is optimized for Microsoft® Lync and Microsoft OCS 2007. Although many aspects of this review can apply to both models, the unit tested was the UC Standard B235. Make sure you understand that difference so that you will know which one you need for your particular setup before purchasing.

The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth Headset is a serious contender as the ultimate work or office communication controller. It is designed to automatically switch between multiple audio sources as needed. The user can instantly go from listening to any type of phone or computer audio, be it iTunes, Google Hangouts, podcasts, internet radio, to using most types of VoIP softphone services like Skype, Avaya, Cisco, or IBM, to making a standard phone call. How it achieves this will be explored later in the review.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-qtooth

2 Things That Require Immediate Explanation

Not only have we used the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC for the past few months, but we’ve also read many of the prominent online critic and user reviews. They raised a lot of viable questions. We thought we would take everything that we’ve learned and address the two things that we feel deserve the most immediate attention:

 1. Call Quality

The initial call quality of the Voyager Legend UC was absolutely horrible. How can this be?! We have owned many Plantronics headsets in the past and call quality has never been an issue. We were stunned and massively disappointed. (Don’t worry, this ends well!) And to add to the mystery, the headset worked fine on all of our tests with our MacBook Pro, our older Samsung phone, on Skype and Google Voice calls, even on Google Hangouts, so why not with our iPhone 5s? Was there something wrong with our phone? Every time we were on a regular phone call it was nothing but static, drop outs, and garbled nonsense. The reaction was to immediately snatch the headset off our ear and to apologize profusely to our caller. Embarrassing doesn’t begin to cover it, especially on some of the business calls.

That made us try our calls in different environments and to re-check our settings, using friends and family as test subjects of a more patient nature. No dice. Still sub-par performance. We even ended up scanning the online forums to see if there was any scuttle on the poor performance of the iPhone 5s’ Bluetooth signal reception. Nothing to indicate the types of issues we were experiencing. We then tried some other manufacturers’ Bluetooth headsets and all of them performed at the level we expected for each device.

We would like to consider ourselves reasonably tech savvy here at QTOOTH, but when confronted with a device that really should just work out of the box, we were very frustrated. The call quality of the Voyager Legend UC was so poor that we quickly lost faith. No one, not even us, has a lot of time to mess with defective or difficult to use technology. We probably would’ve had this review done a month or more earlier if it wasn’t for this issue. Some people would’ve said “Hell no!” and sent it back immediately. However we are of a stubborn type here and, having had such good previous experiences with Plantronics, we decided to give it another go. This time we did even deeper research online and checked out UC-specific forums. There we came across a post from someone who mentioned how upgrading the firmware on their Bluetooth headset (not a Plantronics) improved the call quality on their Samsung phone. “Hmm… oh yeah, firmware.” we mused. Usually that just fixes or adds auxiliary features and functions. Never heard of it changing the actual call quality before, but it was worth a shot.

Off to the Plantronics website we went. After downloading and hooking up the Plantronics MyHeadset Updater, we realized that our headset was two firmware versions behind. Interestingly, the most recent update specifically improved performance when paired with phones using iOS7, the latest Apple mobile operating system featured on our iPhone 5s. A few minutes later our Voyager Legend was not only up-to-date but performing like an entirely different headset. We have to admit that this left us feeling somewhere between relieved and a bit disappointed. Relieved because the headset had now become a more useable product, disappointed because we had struggled with the device for more than a month and the cure was so simple.

 Here is a link to the Plantronics MyHeadset Updater.

Updater How To Video:

And just so you know:

  • Plantronics Voyager Legend UC firmware as of the writing of this article, March 10, 2014, is V 99.0 (Now Version 106.0 as of October 19, 2014 – Editor)
  • Plantronics BT300 Bluetooth USB Dongle firmware as of the writing of this article, March 10, 2014, is V 861.0 (unchanged as of October 19, 2014 – Editor)

This incident should come as a warning to Plantronics, and all manufacturers, that they should prominently post somewhere that their product may need updates, both software and firmware, right out of the box. This could be either on the packaging itself or in any manuals or user guides. This was completely lacking in this case. Maybe we just got an older unit and all the ones currently being shipped have the most recent firmware, but we would now recommend that every new owner of ANY headset IMMEDIATELY check the firmware and making sure it’s up to date as part of the initial setup.

2. Why Did Plantronics Choose A Proprietary Charger Connection?

“Why did Plantronics choose a magnetized charger connection that is unique to them?” “How will the user recharge the device if they lose the special chargers, cables or adapters?” “Why didn’t they use a Micro-USB connector like almost every other manufacturer?” “At least Micro-USB cables can be found almost anywhere on the planet!”

The above statements were the most common complaints in reviews everywhere, and it made us curious as well. Let’s take a look at what Plantronics provides as part of the Voyager Legend UC accessories package. Maybe it will tell us what their mindset was behind the choice.

The set comes with three ways to recharge the device:

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-micro-usb-proprietary-adaptor-qtooth1. A 2-foot/61cm USB to Micro-USB cable with a slide-on adaptor to convert it to their magnetized 5-pin connector.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-usb-charging-stand-qtooth2. A magnetized desk charging base with a hardwired 4-foot/122cm USB cable.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-charging-case-bt300-headset-review-qtooth3. A charging case with a magnetized bed that not only hooks to a computer or wall-charger through a Micro-USB-to-USB cable but also has its own internal rechargeable battery that can fully charge the headset twice before the case itself needs to be recharged.

All three of these can be used with the included wall plug to USB convertor:

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-charger-usb-adaptor-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-charger-usb-adaptor-2-qtoothAs pictured, the wall plug to USB convertor can come equipped with different AC plugs depending on the country where it is sold. Different variations can be purchased separately and should be a very welcomed and convenient feature for travelers.

The first method for recharging the headset threw us for a loop… literally! Why did they decide to use this tiny adaptor? It’s gotta be the easiest thing to lose. Tiny and black, it could hide itself just about anywhere. Never mind the toddlers in the house, it’s so small we were afraid even we might swallow it. We have to admit that we were a little slow on realizing why the adaptor had a tiny cloth-covered elastic loop attached to it. We knew it was meant to attach it to something, but what? After a few weeks, while trying to figure out the call quality issues, it suddenly dawned on us. Of course! Wrap the loop around the cable and then pass the adaptor through the loop will secure it to the cable!

Here are a couple of pictures to show what we mean:

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-usb-proprietary-adaptor-looped-qtoothStep One: Wrap the elastic around the cable near the Micro-USB end of the cable and then pass the adaptor through the loop formed by the elastic.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-usb-proprietary-adaptor-engaged-qtoothStep Two: Pull the adaptor to tighten the loop and then slide the adaptor onto the Micro-USB connector. Voila! Now you have something that is at least as large as the cable to lose instead of something smaller than the end of a thumb.

Simple enough. But what baffles us is why are they not more specific about it in the manuals and Quick Start Guide? We did notice later that this is subtly pictured in a few of the manual images, but nowhere is there clarification or explanation. It could even be already looped onto the included cable from the factory. People shouldn’t be expected to figure out small but important details like this on their own.

As for the  2-foot/61cm cable that is intended to be used with the adaptor, we agree with all of the reviewers that complained about it being too short. The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is meant to be a premium, business class headset. For the $200 retail price, these should come with a high quality USB-to-Micro-USB cable that can easily reach to where people will need it most: the power strip tucked down behind the desk. Perhaps something more in the 6-foot/3-meter variety.

Next we’ll take a look at the desk stand charger. It’s 4-foot/122cm cable length is probably adequate for most scenarios, unless the only USB port you have is on your desktop computer… which is most often situated under people’s desks. Luckily, most recently manufactured monitors and many keyboards have their own USB ports.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-in-charging-stand-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-charging-stand-qtoothFinally, we’ll take a look at the charging case. As mentioned before, it connects any USB port through its own Micro-USB connector. This means that the case itself is acting as a convertor to go from the Plantronics proprietary magnetized 5-pin connector to Micro-USB. The case, which holds both the headset and the included BT300 Bluetooth dongle, is well-built. It is the perfect size to fit in a pocket or a purse. Here are more detailed pictures:

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc--headset-review-in-charger-case-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-charging-case-qtoothHere’s our take on why they chose to use a proprietary charging connector: the key is in the connection being secured by using a magnet. Plantronics recognizes that most people just don’t want to wear any headset all of the time. They would prefer to be able to take the headset on and off as needed. People are used to answering phone calls single-handed. Since USB connectors require the use of two hands to unplug a cable from its socket, the magnet allows for simple disconnection of the headset from its charger using one hand… in theory, anyway. In practice it was a little different. Lifting the headset out of the charging case was easy enough, but it was a little more tricky with the cable adaptor and the desk stand.

The magnetic pull of the cable adaptor is quite strong. Even giving the headset a strong shaking won’t always release the cable. The only consistent way to get it to release requires a bit of a sleight of hand, holding the headset between the thumb and the first two fingers while using the third and fourth fingers to swipe off the adapter. With a little bit of practice I’m sure it could become routine. As for the desk stand, the magnet is so strong that lifting the headset out of its cradle usually takes the base with it. To achieve a one-handed pick up, the trick is to first rocker the headset forward in its cradle, just enough to break the magnetic hold, then lift.

Once again, NONE of this is obvious and there is no mention of it in the manuals or in any of the sales literature. QTOOTH is actually just venturing a guess as to what the reason is for the connector, but it would be nice if Plantronics explained their choice and then gave some instruction on how to best benefit from it.

 Now to the Rest of the Review!

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-box-review-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-open-box-review-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-complete-package-qtoothWhat’s in the Box:

  • Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth Headset
  • Charging Carrying Case that provides 2 complete recharges of the headset
  • Desk Stand Charging Dock with attached 4-foot/122cm USB cable
  • 2-foot/61cm USB-to-Micro-USB cable
  • Plantronics Proprietary Magnetic Cable Adapter
  • Wall-plug to USB Charger
  • Additional silicone ear bud tips with foam sleeves in Large and Small sizes (Medium size is pre-installed on headset)
  • Quick Start Guide, Safety and Precautions Guide, and a “first year free” activation code for the Plantronics’ Vocalyst program

Design and Comfort

The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC uses the same over-the-top-of-the-ear design that they have been using for many years now. Essentially the same as what hearing aid manufacturers call BTE, or behind-the-ear, this design has proven itself to be fairly comfortable when worn for longer periods of time. One of the benefits of this design is that it takes a lot of the weight off the sensitive inner folds of the ear. However, this can lead to crowding if the user also wears glasses, or is wearing a hat or a helmet, or heaven forbid both:

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-mount-issues-qtoothplantronics-voyager-legend-uc-headset-review-mount-issues-helmet-qtoothLuckily, we have ears that tend towards the larger scale of things and this really didn’t seem like a big issue to us. However, for those who may not benefit from over-sized ears this may be something to consider.

It is a good thing that Plantronics uses the over-the-ear mount to help relieve the weight. Many of their competitors’ designs can weigh in the 8-10 gram range. The Voyager Legend UC is touted as weighing 18grams. We weighed ours and it came in at almost 19 grams (.6649 ounces).

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-headset-weight-qtoothIn general, the Voyager Legend UC stays relatively secure on the ear. However we would not recommend it for anyone doing anything truly active, like exercising. Turning upside-down, leaning over to pick something up, or giving a vigorous shake of the head “no” a few times will cause it to dislodge and fall off the ear. However, keep in mind that this headset is targeted more for the business user who typically aren’t in a physically challenging environment.

The silicon ear bud tips come in three sizes and seem to do a good job at providing a tailored fit. The foam sleeves are also handy, especially if you are doing something that will make you sweaty or you need to share the headset for some reason. They are easy to clean and dry quickly. Speaking of sweating, the Plantronics headset has a P2i liquid-repelling nano-coating that should help extend the life of the product when it comes to general environmental dampness.

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc--headset-review-rear-view-qtoothThere is a total of four physical buttons on the Voyager Legend UC. Two of them are located on the boom of the microphone. One is used for answering/ending voice calls while the other one activates voice commands. It took some time to instinctively locate these buttons, but overall they are well positioned and easy to reach. The power on/off switch and the volume control switches are to be found on the rear of the unit. We actually found these consistently easier to find and to use than the buttons located on the boom. Perhaps all of the controls could/should be located on the rear of the device? Overall though we are quite happy with the button selection and appreciate that they are not trying to have a single button do everything. Some competitors do that in an attempt to simplify operation of the headset. We find that approach too limiting. We’d rather have the most commonly used functions represented by a dedicated button. It’s actually simpler.

Charging Times – Battery Life

The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is listed as having a 7-hour talk time and lasting 11-days in standby mode. It will also recharge fully in 90 minutes. In our tests we found these estimates to be quite accurate. The 7-hour talk time is a bit shorter than many competitors’ headsets, who are averaging 10-hours of talk time. However, this could be due to the extra functionality that is built-in to the Plantronics device (of which we’ll get into in a bit). The charging case also does an admirable job of quickly recharging the headset to its full power. And yes, it will do it twice before it needs recharging.

The BT300 Bluetooth Dongle – The Key to What Makes the Voyager Legend UC Great

plantronics-voyager-legend-uc-review-bt300-usb-dongle-qtoothThe Plantronics Voyager Legend UC comes with the BT300 Bluetooth dongle that plugs into the USB port of any compatible device, typically a desktop or laptop computer. The dongle is a small piece of hardware that when attached enables additional functions. These functions are what makes the UC, Unified Communication, aspect of the Voyager Legend come alive.

The first question that might come to mind is, “If my PC or my laptop already has Bluetooth, do I need to use the dongle?” No, you do not need to use the dongle. The headset will communicate as normal with your computer. However, you will be missing out on the call management system that brings an extra level of usefulness to the Voyager Legend headset.

 

Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Headset BT300 Review QTOOTHBy having the dongle in place and by downloading the Plantronics Spokes software, the transition between audio coming from your laptop, PC or phone and taking a call becomes seamless. A good example of this in use is listening to music on iTunes, or streaming online audio from a service like Spotify, when a call comes in on Skype. Accept the call on Skype and not only does it mute the music or streaming audio but it will actually pause it as well. Finish with Skype, or any similar softphone/VoIP call, and Spokes will automatically resume your audio or streaming content where you left off. Same with listening to content from your phone or tablet, as soon as a phone call comes in the audio will pause and mute. Take the phone call and go right back to where you were before. Or, it could be a mix of all of those, from phone call, to music on the PC, to playing a game on your smart device, to chatting on Skype and back again. Seamlessly. This isn’t possible without the BT300 dongle. The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC headset/BT300 combo becomes the hub for all of your communication mediums.

 Sound Quality Revisited

Once we were sure we were on the latest firmware and got the Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth headset to perform in a more predictable fashion, how did the sound really stack up against the competition? Well, we found it to be very competitive when dealing with audio that was coming directly from our PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones. We would have to mention that the audio that streams from the BT300 dongle is better than just pairing the headset directly with the given device.

The one place where the Voyager Legend could be a little better is in a traditional phone call. Every other audio source we would consider to be among the very best you can currently get through Bluetooth. Why it doesn’t work quite as well during a phone call is a mystery to us. Perhaps there are still refinements that can be done through firmware.

Music and video audio on the Voyager Legend is good, as long as you remember that the main purpose of this device is to deliver the human voice as clearly as possible. In order to do that, the equalization is set to emphasize the frequencies of the human voice needed to cut through any noise in the environment and provide better comprehension. This means that the sound is a bit mid-rangy with strong treble response. Perfect if you are making a phone call or listening to talk radio or a podcast, a little on the brash side for music and video. We’ve heard that there is a hack available out there that provides an app/software controllable for this headset. We would LOVE to get our hands on that! Being able to adjust the EQ depending on the sound source would make this one powerhouse of a headset. Personally, we don’t understand why ALL headset makers don’t provide programmable EQ as part of the package. Maybe in time!

Here are some samples of how the headset actually sounds on the recipient’s end in a few different, specific situations.

Audio Test: Plantronics Voyager Legend to Apple MacBook Pro via BT300 Bluetooth Dongle

Audio Test: Plantronics Voyager Legend to Apple MacBook Pro without BT300 Bluetooth Dongle

Audio Test: Plantronics Voyager Legend UC during Standard Phone Call-Using Apple iPhone 5s

Added Functionality, Vocalyst and More…

One of the cooler things about the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is its built-in proximity  Smart Sensor™ that detects whether or not the headset is being worn. Plantronics realizes that most people might prefer keep the headset powered on in its charging case or cradle and to only put it on when a call comes in. With Smart Sensor™, all the user has to do is to pick up the headset and place it on their ear and the headset will automatically answer the call. Another benefit of the sensor is that when the device is removed from the ear, not only is the call disconnected but it  will even pause playback of any music or other media that is currently playing on your phone or computer. Once the headset is placed back on the ear it will automatically reconnect and resume playback. It should be noted that the pause/resume of media playback only worked for us on media players like iTunes. It did not work for us using Spotify or online players like YouTube. A related feature also makes sure that media playback is paused when a call comes in. Finish the call and the song, podcast, or movie will automatically restart right where you left off. Awesome!

A newly added voice command menu lets you use your voice to answer calls, check battery level, redial, put headset in pairing mode and for a host of other headset commands. Caller Name Announcement (mobile only) tells you who is calling without needing to glance at your mobile phone while enhanced voice alerts announce remaining talk time, connection status, battery level and mute, enabling you to work smarter.

One of the much touted aspects of the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is their Vocalyst service. Available for free for the first year, this premium service is integrated with your Plantronics hands-free product that lets you do things hands free using only your voice.

Plantronics wants you to think of it as an assistant built into your headset.  When you want to do something you call the Vocalyst service, using a voice command or a button on your headset, say what you want to do, and it gets done.  You can record reminders, send text messages, do email and use a range of popular services like Facebook, Twitter, Evernote and many more, just by using your voice.

Here is a list of the free services:

vocalyst-available-services-free-subscription-qtoothHere is a list of the premium, paid services:

vocalyst-available-services-paid-subscription-qtoothAs you can see it is a fairly comprehensive list. We’re not sure how many people actually commit to paying for the premium service, but it was fun to be able to mess around with it. Our only issue, and a very minor one, is that it does take a bit of time to navigate through the menus to get to certain features like a news feed. When we tried the news feed from the New York Times, it took up to 20 seconds to get the Vocalyst service to start reciting excerpts from the main headline stories of the day. We found this delay to happen every time we switched from one function to another. It may not seem like long, but to us it felt like being put on hold with nothing to indicate whether or not we had successfully initiated the next function to occur.

Once we were in a specific application things went well. It was very simple to use voice commands to skip from story to story or from email to email. Dictation of emails went smoothly and it was surprisingly accurate in its voice-to-text interpretation. Here is an example of a reminder that we sent to ourselves that later called us back at the appropriate, pre-selected time:

Audio Test: Plantronics Vocalyst Reminder

It was also a nice touch to receive a very personable email from the Vocalyst support team the day after I signed up. The email was filled with tips and direct contact information to make sure that I was having the best experience possible. They even guarantee a 24-hour or less response time to all inquiries. This level of service is what really let’s you know you are dealing with a company that takes its long history of providing business communications seriously.

So, who is Vocalyst for? Since we are more of the office-bound type we don’t feel like we would use it too much. It would be faster for us to just find the info we need on our computer of tablet. But if you are the type of business person who is always on the move and spends a lot of time in your car or on mass transit, someplace where hands-on manipulation of your devices is impossible, Vocalyst could be indispensable and a joy.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve taken care of the issues outlined at the beginning of this article, we have really started to enjoy using the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC. It is quickly becoming our preferred choice of connecting to our phone and our laptop. Aesthetically it is still on the large side, but since this is meant more for use around the office, practicality might win the day.

If you are someone looking for a headset for music, working out, or leading a very active lifestyle, we might suggest other headsets. But if you are a working professional who is looking for a great solution for business communications, the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC would make a great choice.

This is one of the most advanced Bluetooth headsets on the market with one of the largest support systems out there. So many of the competitors have promised to deliver on a more complete experience but have never really seemed to follow through. Plantronics has been one of the largest providers of business communications solutions for almost half a century and it shows. They know their customer and they know what their customer wants. The Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth headset delivers.

  • Carl Sonego

    My take on the magnetic connection; this is the 3rd Plantronics Legend I have owned, and the first version did come with a micro usb port. This had a tendency to break eventually (getting pushed into the headset, making it impossible to recharge). Plantronics was fair enough about replacing them (they sent 2 actually) over 2 years, they would not replace it when it happened a third time; though they did suggest the newer design with the magnetic connector. Having tried other headsets with disappointing results, I eventually went back to the Plantronics due to its superior performance. I find the magnetic connector a major improvement over the original usb port. I would still have the second one, had I not accidentally driven over it with my vehicle (oops). Couldn’t expect Plantronics to cover that one…

  • Thanks for a great post… I stumbled across this after googling for solutions to the poor quality I was getting from the headset. Latest version of the firmware is 107.0… I was on 36.0! Oops 🙂 Never occurred for me to look for new firmware until now. Wahoooo!