Review: Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC – Noise Cancelling Headset for PC and Mobile

July 25th, 2018 No comments

I finally had a chance to put the Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC headset through some paces. This $380 (MSRP) headset sports boomless dual microphones – one on the front edge of each ear cup. Of course, this is a departure from “normal” UC headsets, and takes getting used to. But that’s not the only thing different. Dual mode active noise canceling (ANC) makes for a much quieter environment – whether you’re in a busy room, or mowing the grass (more on that later). This headset can be connected to two sources at one time, such as a PC and a mobile device. For a PC connection, the included BT600 USB Bluetooth dongle comes into play, and provides just under 100 feet of range. For a mobile device, it gets paired like any other Bluetooth device. There is also a removable 3.5mm audio cable included – perfect for watching those movies on the seat-back in front of you on a long flight.

This headset sports 24 hours of battery life for listening, but that drops to roughly 20 hours of talk time. When in standby mode, this headset should hold a charge for quite a while. Plantronics says a month, but I haven’t tried it that long. I use it too often! But more importantly, how does it sound? 40mm drivers give damn good sound, whether it’s speech related as part of a UC conversation, or you’re head-banging to Motley Crue.

Configuration/Setup

The free download Plantronics Hub software allows for configuration of the headset, as well as upgrading the firmware. That second part is key here.

When I first got the headset, receiving audio during calls had a horrible clipping problem. Within 2 minutes, I’d opt for a different endpoint as it was very distracting. Music from my mobile device sounded fine, however. I tried various options in the software, such as disabling HD audio, etc. But that didn’t work. Upgrading the device to the latest firmware resolved the problem, and the audio has been quite clear ever since. The firmware upgrade process is pretty straightforward. Once the headset is powered on, it appears as the ‘headset’ tab in the Hub software. Click on the ‘Notifications’ button in the upper right, then ‘Check for Updates’. The upgrade process only takes a couple of minutes over the air. Other things in the Plantronics Hub software include the following screens under ‘Settings’:

General

Answering Call Alert – This provides verbal feedback when you answer a call from the headset. You’ll hear ‘Answering Call’.

Audio Channel Tone – Hear a tone that the headset is on and ready.

Caller ID – With this enabled, you hear verbal prompt of incoming caller ID info from you cell phone’s contacts list.

Mute On/Off Alerts – Hear feedback when muting and unmuting the headset. Options include various tones or a verbal alert.

Mute Reminder – Get a reminder that you’re muted. Some nice options here include feedback when you start talking, but you’re muted. This is similar to the on-screen feedback in Teams for the same thing.

Online Indicator – This is an on-headset LED indicator to alert others around you that you’re in a call.

Second Incoming Call – This setting configures how you’re alerted when you’re on one system, such as a Skype for Business call, and a mobile call comes in.

Software Settings related to feedback and logging.

Ringtones & Volume

Ringtone – Whether you hear a ringtone from the device.

Sidetone – This is how much (if any) of your own voice you hear while on a call. Most people take this for granted and don’t realize you hear your own voice when talking – until it’s not there. This option has Low/Medium/High settings. I find that I needed it to be on high. Feedback from me on this is it would be nicer if this was more granular, and if the high setting was a litter louder.

Volume Level Tones – This setting provides feedback when you’re adjusting the volume on the headset. Options include feedback at every level, or just minimum and maximum.

Softphones & Media Players

Target Softphone – This sets what the headset defaults to. Many are listed here, including Avaya, Cisco, Skype for Business, Broadsoft, consumer Skype, etc. An option I don’t see here is for Microsoft Teams.

Media Player Action on Incoming Call – Here is a nice feature that dictates what happens to your media player when there is an incoming call. ‘Pause & Resume’ is nice.

Softphones & Media Players – This is an extensive list of various UC clients and media players that you can enable/disable access to.

Sensors & Presence

Wearing Sensor – Mostly a master setting for everything else.

Active Call Audio – This is a nice option that defines what action is taken when take off the headset while you’re in a call. ‘Mute microphone’ is my choice, but you can also transfer the call to your mobile device or take no action.

Auto-Answer – Another nice option to reduce fumbling. This dictates what happens when you put the headset on when your phone rings. Having it answer the call is nice, avoiding having to click a button on screen or press one of the buttons on the ear cups.

Auto-Pause Music – This option is specific to streaming music, and whether you want to end/resume the stream when you remove the headset or put it back on.

Aware for Microsoft – This is nice idea, but I couldn’t get it to work. Supposedly, when enabled, this will update your Skype for Business status when you’re in a mobile call.

Wireless

Extended Range Mode – if you’re finding that you’re often near the edge of the reception coverage, you can enable this setting to provide a little more range. The downside is that it disabled wideband audio.

HD Voice – This provides for richer audio, but consumes more battery power. But hey, that’s why they’re rechargeable, right?

Streaming Audio – This enables streaming audio mobile device, but at the cost of battery life. But we simply MUST have our Van Halen, right?

Advanced

Anti-Startle – Helps reduce loud noises for your hearing protection.

Noise Exposure – This is a tad different from the Anti-Startle. This monitors overall sound to make sure you’re below the level set by the EU government. Anti-Startle is more for sudden noises, while this is overall throughout the day.

For those in the enterprise, Plantronics Manager Pro can be used to maintain and monitor devices via a web browser.

Review

A great feature of this headset is its Active Noise Cancellation: The headset works great regardless if the active noise cancellation (ANC) is turned on. When enabled, it does a great job of reduction of steady noise sources such as airplane or lawn mower engine noise. Even if you aren’t listening to an audio source, the reduction in noise means you could take a quiet nap on a flight. When the ANC is turned off, you don’t hear a big change in the quality from audio sources like you do with some Bose headsets.

Controls on the right ear cup include a on/off hook button on the side, power and mute switches on the back. A USB micro port on the bottom of the right ear cup allows for charging, and a 3.5 mm jack next to that is for the included audio cable. Also on the right ear cup are several LEDs. A series of blue LEDs cycle when the headset is charging. A single blue LED lights up when you’re in a call, and it changes to red if you’re muted. On the left ear cup, there is the ANC switch on the back, play/pause, next & previous buttons on the side surrounded by the volume dial. The volume dial turns about 15 degrees in either direction to raise or lower the volume. Personally, I’d prefer that this be a continuous dial. On the front of each ear cups are the microphones used for both speech and noise cancellation.

Turning on the headset yields several voice notifications, including that it’s powered on, the battery level, and what it’s connected to. Pressing the power switch up and releasing will repeat these notifications. The option to mute the headset when taking it off is great, as is the ability to answer the phone automatically when putting it on. I really like these as they streamline the whole experience.

The Dynamic Mute Alert feature is advertised as “Dynamic mute alert senses and alerts you when you talk when muted.” This didn’t always work as I expected. Sometimes it would take up to 10 seconds before I would hear the “muted” notification. I would expect it to be a little faster. Sometimes, I wouldn’t hear it at all. That’s too bad, as this would be a great feature.

Other than audio quality, there are some things I always look at when testing a headset for use in the office.

Fitment: Fit of the headset is very good. It doesn’t squeeze my giant melon like the original Jabra Evolve 80 headset does. The 8200 UC is comfortable enough to wear on hour+ long conference calls. But lets look at a couple of other tests.

Sweat test: Over the ear headsets can generally get warm since they completely encase your ears. These are no different, even in a comfortable office environment. Mowing the grass with the 8200 UC headset results in pretty sweaty ears, but no degradation in audio quality or fit. And that includes not getting overly slippery.

Head tilt test: This is the test where you look down towards the floor, chin touching your chest, and see if the headset slides off your head. Over the ear headsets generally do well because your ears tend to keep it in place. With this headset, it pretty much stays in place unless you nod strongly, and then you can feel the headband slide forward a bit, but not enough to pull the headset off. I’ve had some where they slide right off my head when looking down.

Overall audio test: I used this headset in many Skype for Business and Teams calls – both one-on-one and conferences. Once the firmware issue was resolved, the headset worked great each time. I had no problems with clarity for received audio, and other call participants said my sending audio was also quite clear. For Bluetooth audio, again, the headset worked great when paired to my cell phone. I had two instances where the connection to the cell phone dropped, but I was unable to determine whether the cause was on the mobile or headset side. In both instances, it immediately reconnected. One issue I did run into is that the Bluetooth audio would cut out for a few seconds when I would reach the edge of the PC dongle’s range. This didn’t happen every time. Usually I would just hear the voice notifications “PC connected” or “PC disconnected”. But it would happen occasionally. When using the included 3.5mm audio cable for connecting to other devices, I had not problems at all. I watched several movies when traveling internationally. The ANC worked as expected, whether on a flight or cutting the grass. It even silenced the sound of air coming through the AC vent in my office, and that’s a sound I don’t generally notice.

Overall

Pros: Great sound quality, once the firmware was updated; Connecting to multiple audio sources; Great fit; Nice features in configuration software; Voice notifications; Plenty of hardware controls; Excellent battery life; Quite comfortable; Excellent build quality.

Cons: Volume control should be continuous dial; When at the edge of the PC coverage range, sporadically causes short loss of audio from mobile; headset comes with simple pouch instead of hard case; Dynamic Mute Alert feature is very inconsistent; Sidetone adjustment could be more granular, and have a wider ange.

Overall: The Plantronics 8200 UC is a great sounding headset that works great in Skype for Business and Teams, as well as with a mobile device, while blocking out distracting noise. I’d love to see improvements in the Dynamic Mute Alert feature as I’m somewhat jaded by the same on-screen feature in Microsoft Teams. I recommend this headset for those who like over-the-ear headsets with active noise cancellation. I plan on continuing to use this headset.

Ethics Statement: Companies may send software, hardware, or other products or samples to me in order for me to review such samples and determine whether I will provide a review of the product on UCUnleashed.com. I do not accept any samples on any preconditions, such as, that I will agree to provide a review simply because the company sent me a sample, or that I will only provide a positive review. Please note that companies may provide these samples before the product is commercially available, in which case, I may agree to an embargo with the company or its PR firm. This means I agree not to publish the review or associated news until a given time.

UC Inside Track: Episode 8: Dial Plans, Normalization Rules, and the Skype Optimizer with Special Guest Ken Lasko

June 6th, 2018 No comments

In this episode with MVP Ken Lasko of Nectar, we look at core enterprise voice configuration feature in Skype for Business and Lync. This includes dial plans and normalization rules: What they are, and how they work. And we chat about Ken’s Skype Optimizer, a free solution to help build the requisite dial plan configuration for a Skype for Business environment. Why spend hours (or more) figured everything out when the Skype Optimizer will have it done for you in minutes. Work smarter, not harder!

Episode 08: http://www.voss-solutions.com/media/podcast/podcast_008.mp3

UC Inside Track is available directly via the link above, via RSS, iTunes, TuneIn, Google Music Play, and Podcast Addict.

Community Driven Conference Seeks to Fill Void

April 11th, 2018 1 comment

Several years ago, the first Lync Conference was held in Coronado. Maxed out at just under 1000 attendees, this was a great event for those in the Lync space. Networking, technical content, vendors, and a great location. The following year, the event was held at the Aria in Las Vegas, mainly because it could hold a lot more people. And it did. A bigger conference meant more vendors and more room for technical sessions. Another fun event. But soon after that, Microsoft stopped having the dedicated event, and rolling everything into the Microsoft Ignite event. First held in Chicago, then Atlanta, then Orlando. Monster sized events for sure – the Orlando location was eight million square feet. But this was a combined event across all of the Microsoft solutions. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle, and it felt less ‘personable’. Those dedicated to Lync/Skype for Business, or at least heavily focused on them, really wanted to go back to the days of the dedicated events. Well, we’re going to try to do just that. Four MVPs including myself decided to take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves! Introducing the Comms vNext Conference. We’re starting off as a one day, FREE event in Denver, Colorado. If you’ve attended or at least heard of the SQL Saturday events, this is very similar, with our event being on Saturday, June 9th, 2018. We’ll have a keynote speaker (Jamie Stark of Microsoft), along with eight one-hour technical sessions by some of the top Skype for Business and Teams folks around, including MVPs, Masters, and more. Topics will include Skype for Business, Teams, and related technologies. We’ll have vendors there, too! The event is being held at the BRAND NEW Microsoft MTC, and we’re expecting at least 100 people. If this works out well, we’ll expand it further at future events located elsewhere in the country, with the hopes we can eventually get to a regular, multi-day conference. There will also be a social event the evening before, where you can socialize with everyone and enjoy some good food and adult beverages. We’re ecstatic to announce that sponsors include Microsoft, AudioCodes, Landis Technologies, Jabra, Anynode, Pexip, and Plantronics.

Fore more information, and to register, see the website at https://commsvnext.com, and follow the conference on Twitter @CommsvNext. If you’d like to submit a speaker session for consideration, go to the website, as all of the details are there. We hope to see you there!

Prereq/provisioning script being updated to include Skype for Business Server 2019

March 27th, 2018 No comments

The biggest and most popular public script I’ve ever done is Set-CsFeatures.ps1. It performs tasks such as installation and configuration of all prerequisites for any desired Lync Server 2013/Skype for Business 2015 role, as well as many post installation tasks such as installation of many tools, and configuration of many parameters. What started out as a script to make MY life easier (as are most of my scripts), I’m glad to see the adoption by others. I’m ecstatic that enough people have reported their success and details to say that literally millions of seats have been deployed with this script.

As you can imagine, it’s a substantial effort, with the latest version weighing in at around 8000 lines of PowerShell code. And it’s constantly evolving to include the latest version of tools and applications, features requests, and bug fixes, as the changelog clearly indicates. It’s also tweaked as my own development skills evolve. It’s a true labor of love, and I’m very grateful for all of the feedback, both good and bad. Please, keep it coming! With that being said, I’m happy to report that I’m already well into adding support for Skype for Business Server 2019.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to be involved in TAP/MVP/Elite groups that give you access to the bits, I’m hoping that you’ll use this script in your labs and provide any feedback (my email address is in the header of every script I release). For everyone else, don’t expect a lot of details about things with regards to Skype for Business Server 2019 other than what’s public. TAP/MVP/Elite groups are under strict NDAs. The changes I’m adding to Set-CsFeatures.ps1 don’t reveal anything that hasn’t been announced previously.

For those who continue to use the script to deploy Skype for Business 2015, again, please continue to provide feedback. While I can’t always accommodate every request, I do what I can to implement them. And I’m extremely grateful for bug reports. Seriously. I can’t test every possible scenario, so I’m glad that you take the time to send me info so I can correct it.

Donations

I’ve never been one to really solicit donations for my work. My offerings are created because *I* need to solve a problem, and once I do, it makes sense to offer the results of my work to the public. I mean, let’s face it: I can’t be the only one with that particular issue, right? Quite often, to my surprise, I’m asked why I don’t have a “donate” button so people can donate a few bucks. I’ve never really put much thought into it. But those inquiries are coming more often now, so I’m yielding to them. If you’d like to donate, you can send a few bucks via PayPal at https://www.paypal.me/PatRichard. Money collected from that will go to the costs of my website (hosting and domain names), as well as to my home lab.

UC Inside Track: Episode 7: Enterprise Connect with Special Guest Jamie Stark

March 16th, 2018 No comments

In this special remote episode with Jamie Stark of Microsoft, we look at the announcements at Enterprise Connect 2018, including the Microsoft keynote by Bob Davis, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, O365 Engineering, and the related commentary and demos by:

1. Marc Pottier
2. Ilya Bukshteyn
3. Lori Wright
4. Jeff Monaco of GE

Episode 07: http://www.voss-solutions.com/media/podcast/podcast_007.mp3

UC Inside Track is available directly via the link above, via RSS, iTunes, TuneIn, Google Music Play, and Podcast Addict.

UC Inside Track: Episode 6: Development with Special Guest Tom Morgan

March 9th, 2018 No comments

Our first remote episode using new gear, instead of using Skype for Business. This time, Tom Morgan and I took time out of our busy scheduled at the annual MVP Global Summit on campus in Redmond, WA to discuss the basics of development for the UC stack.

In this episode, we look at the following:

1. Tom’s role at Modality
2. Bots in Teams
3. UCMA development
4. Differences between developing for Skype for Business on-prem vs online
5. What tools are needed

Episode 06: http://www.voss-solutions.com/media/podcast/podcast_006.mp3

UC Inside Track is available directly via the link above, via RSS, iTunes, TuneIn, Google Music Play, and Podcast Addict.

UC Inside Track: Episode 5: All Things Teams with Special Guest Jamie Stark

February 12th, 2018 No comments

Our first Microsoft staffer guest with Jamie Stark. Jamie and I chatted about a bunch of stuff, including:

In this episode, we look at the following:

  1. Jamie’s role at Microsoft
  2. IT Pro Tools program
  3. Microsoft Ready
  4. Enterprise Connect
  5. The Teams road map and new features in January
  6. The TAP program

Episode 5: http://www.voss-solutions.com/media/podcast/podcast_005.mp3

UC Inside Track is available directly via the link above, via RSS, iTunes, TuneIn, Google Music Play, and Podcast Addict.

Function: Get-CsMaliciousCalls – Retrieve Records for User Reported Malicious Calls in Skype for Business

January 25th, 2018 No comments

Description

A little known feature in Skype for Business is the ability for a user to report a malicious call that they’ve received. This can be done by going to Settings>Tools>Report a Call…, as shown below.

At that point, the user is presented a dialog that allows them to report the just completed call:

If you don’t see the ‘Report a Call…’ option in your client, ensure that the option is enabled in the appropriate voice policy. It can be enabled by setting EnableMaliciousCallTracing to $true, such as

Set-CsVoicePolicy -Identity Global -EnableMaliciousCallTracing $true

Clients will pick up that setting at the next policy refresh.

When the call is reported, info is inserted into the ErrorReportView table of the LcsCDR database. However, unless you’re querying for it, you don’t see it, and many don’t even know where it is, or that it’s even there. It doesn’t do much good if your users are reporting the calls, but you have no way to view the data.

There are a couple of ways you can retrieve the data. The first is some custom reports in your Monitoring Server’s reports. Next is a simple SQL query in SQL Server Management Studio against the LcsCDR database for records with a diagnostics ID of 51017. Just use the following:

SELECT * FROM [LcsCDR].[dbo].[ErrorReportView] WHERE [MsDiagId] = '51017'

The last option is to use PowerShell to make the query against the SQL server for the same info. SQL queries in PowerShell are nothing new. They’re relatively fast, and you end up with an array that can be handled like any other object in PowerShell. If you’re using the default instance of SQL server for the LcsCDR database, use the function like this:

Get-CsMaliciousCalls -Server [server name]

If you’re using a named instance, you can just add the instance name to the command, such as this:

Get-CsMaliciousCalls -Server [server name] -Instance [instance name]

As you can see from the screenshot below, the function will return objects with plenty of info. Note that the FromUri field is the user reporting the malicious call (callee), and the ToUri is the caller. We see the MsDiagHeader notes the reason as “Call Identified as malicious by user”.

Obviously, what you do with the information is up to you. You could use PowerShell to further filter the ToUri into an e.164 number and use that to block numbers at your gateways. Or, use an MSPL script on the front end/mediation servers to drop calls with that number. Quite a few possibilities. If you come up with more ways to use the data, drop me a line or post a comment below. For now, toss the function in your PowerShell profile and enjoy your new data view.

Download

This script is available in my GitHub repo at https://github.com/patrichard/Get-CsMaliciousCalls. Feel free to grab it from there, and contribute any updates or improvements.

UC Inside Track: Episode 4: Call Queues, User Groups, client updates, and Career Path with special guest Josh Blalock

January 22nd, 2018 No comments

The podcast steamrolled ahead with another great discussion. Fellow MVP Josh Blalock stopped by and we had a great chat about several topics. In this episode, we look at the following:

  1. What are Call Queues and their new features in Skype for Business Online
  2. Updated training materials in MyAdvisor.fasttrack.microsoft.com
  3. Skype for Business client updates and differences between MSI and CSR versions of clients
  4. Career path options for UC professionals

Episode 4: http://www.voss-solutions.com/media/podcast/podcast_004.mp3

UC Inside Track is available directly via the link above, via RSS, iTunes, TuneIn, Google Music Play, and Podcast Addict.

Function: Get-CsPhoneNumberAssignment – Find Where a Number is Assigned in Skype for Business

January 22nd, 2018 No comments

Description

One of the problems that can be truly maddening when troubleshooting issues is a 485 ‘ambiguous’ error in Snooper. This is when Skype for Business doesn’t know what to do with an inbound call because the number being called is configured in more than one place. Skype for Business will complain if you try to configure a number more that once in SOME areas, such as several users, but not in all areas. So you’re left with hunting around for a while to figure out where else the number is defined. Meanwhile, users are complaining that calls aren’t working. So I came up with a quick function that will look through all of the areas that a number can be defined, and will list all matches. Additionally, you can use the script to verify that a number is NOT assigned somewhere before assigning it to a resource.

Yes, I know that others have done similar things, notably Tom Arbuthnot’s Get-LyncNumberAssignment :Find #Lync Users/Objects by Phone Number/LineURI #PowerShell and Amanda Debler’s Is that Skype for Business (Lync) Number Free?, as well as other phone number management solutions such as those by Stale Hansen and Lasse Nordvik Wedø. I’ve had a previous version of my script in my profile for a long time and decided to clean it up and make it available.

Is that Skype for Business (Lync) Number Free?

This PowerShell function will look for a full or partial number to see where it is allocated. It looks at the following:

  • User LineUri
  • User PrivateLine
  • Meeting Room LineUri
  • Meeting Room PrivateLine
  • Analog Devices
  • Common Area Phones
  • Unified Messaging (UM) Contacts
  • Dial-In Conferencing Access Numbers
  • Trusted Application Numbers
  • Response Group Numbers

The function accepts input via the named LineUri parameter, or via pipeline. It returns a typical PowerShell object. Here is an example of specifying a full e.164 number.

Get-CsPhoneNumberAssignment -LineUri 12145551212

Example: Specifying a full e.164 number results in a single match. In this case, a user. Click image for larger view.

Specifying a partial number will likely show more matches.

Get-CsPhoneNumberAssignment -LineUri 1214

Example: Specifying a partial number results in several matches. In this case, some users and a dial-in access number. Click image for larger view.

Note that since it must look at all of the related objects in order to build the object, it can take a minute or so to complete. But at least now there is a single command you can run to look in all areas.

Download

This script is available in my GitHub repo at https://github.com/patrichard/Get-CsPhoneNumberAssignment. Feel free to grab it from there, and contribute any updates or improvements.