A little over a year ago I reviewed the Plantronics Voyager PRO+ Bluetooth headset. At the time, it was the best wireless headset I had used and it continued to be up until it gave up the ghost a few months ago. Luckily, Plantronics had rolled out an updated version around that time, so I have been testing out the new Voyager PRO HD model, which was given to me by the company. Plantronics was smart to not make any wholesale changes, seeing as that had done such a good job the first time around (in my opinion). Instead, they made some subtle tweaks to make this great product ever better.
The look of the Voyager PRO HD is very similar to the Voyager PRO+. This over-the-ear headset may be considered bulky by some, but its design makes it the most comfortable Bluetooth headset I have used, as well as the most stable. The headset is right- or left-ear capable, which differentiates it from many of its competitors. Along with the headset, you get a micro-USB wall charger and two extra eartips to help you find the best fit. Pairing the HD with my iPhone was very simple: Hold down the power button until you see blue and red alternating flashing lights and have your phone find the headset from its Bluetooth settings. Like most Bluetooth headsets, the Voyager HD has multipoint technology, which allows you to pair it with two devices at the same time.
Audio with the HD is even clearer and sharper than it was PRO+, thanks to the new high-definition (HD) enhancements. The Voyager’s long boom mic places the microphone closer to your mouth, thereby improving clarity. While some reviewers bemoan the fact that the Voyager HD is larger and bulkier than other models, I would rather stand out in a crowd with the more conspicuous Plantronics headset and enjoy better call quality than suffer poor sound quality while looking stylish.
The noise cancellation and wind noise reduction also do an admirable job. I had no problems hearing callers, nor they hearing me, while walking along busy Michigan Avenue in Chicago or when driving along the highway with my window open.
Another enhancement over the PRO+ is the new Smart Sensor proximity sensors, which will detect when you place the HD on your ear; calls and audio will be automatically transferred to the headset. When you take it off, calls will revert back to you handset. If you are listening to streaming audio, the headset automatically pauses the playback when you take off the HD. Furthermore, the locking call mechanism prevents you from accidentally redialing someone when you take off the headset.
The Voyager PRO HD’s over-the-ear design makes it the most comfortable Bluetooth headset I have used. It is easy to forget you are even wearing it, a trait that is rare among Bluetooth headsets. The over-the-ear design also makes it the most stable headset I have used. The headset fits snugly behind the ear and the soft earbud keeps it securely in your ear. I rarely come across this with Bluetooth headsets.
Like the PRO+, the PRO HD supports A2DP audio streaming. However, the improved high-definition sound quality make streaming audio (and calls) even sharper than before. With the Voyager PRO HD, you can stream music mono, podcasts, audio books and the voice prompts from your phone’s GPS.
Plantronics reports that the HD will deliver up to six hours of talk time and up to five days of standby time. With the Apple iPhone and Android phones, an onscreen battery indicator shows you how much battery life you have remaining.
The Voyager PRO HD as a voice-based alert interface that announces the available talk time, volume and connection status. When you buy the HD, you also get a one-year subscription to Plantronics’ Vocalyst text and voice service. With Vocalyst, you can record and listen to voice memos; send and listen to email; update your status on social networks; and receive news and weather reports. The voice recognition was a bit hit-or-miss, so I am not sure the $24.99 annual subscription cost is worth it.
Lastly, the Voyager PRO HD works with Plantronics’ InstantMeeting app, which connects you to conference calls from your iPhone, Blackberry or Android. The app scans your calendar and automatically dials the conference call number and inserts passcodes. It will even alert call participants if you are running late. The app costs $4.99.
In my review of the Voyager PRO+ last year, I said that the Voyager was the best Bluetooth headset I have used. Not much has changed with the PRO HD, only that my favorite Bluetooth headset got even better. The improved HD sound quality and new Smart Sensor technology are enhancements that make the HD even more attractive. Its superior comfort more than overcomes its less-than-stylish look. Capped off with an extremely reasonable $99 price tag, the Plantronics Voyager PRO HD Bluetooth headset should be at the top of anyone’s list.
$99.99 (currently $68.99 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.