Plantronics makes two different sets of wireless active noise-canceling headphones, the BackBeat Pro 2 ($200) and the Voyager 8200 UC ($264), and both look near identical. The difference is that, while the BackBeat Pro 2 has been around since 2016 and shares many traits as other wireless ANC headphones, like the Beats Studio3 Wireless or Bose QC35 II, the Voyager 8200 UC is designed specifically for business professionals. It has a four-mic array and is great for phone calls, and it boasts improved Bluetooth connectivity so it can sync to multiple devices — say your iPhone and Macbook, simultaneously. It also is Skype for Business certified.
The good: Excellent call clarity. In my two weeks using the headphones, I never had one person who I was on the phone with complain about not being able to hear me, which is actually a common complaint I have when taking calls on my AirPods. The sound quality from the Voyager 8200 UC is pretty great, too. And if you’re listening to music and a call comes in, a voice will notify you with an “Incoming call” message. If you want to answer it, a simple touch of the right ear pad will pick up.
I tested the headphones with my usual Spotify playlists and the audio quality was impressive and neutral — songs like “So American” by Portugal. The Man and “I Need a Forest Fire” by James Blake had strong mids and highs, while still being modest with the bass. The Voyager 8200 UC has smart sensors that will pause and play music when you take off and put on the headphones, similar to what AirPods do. They have excellent battery life and are pretty inexpensive compared to other wireless ANC headphones. Lastly, the headphones can pair two devices at the same time, like a computer and smartphone, and the Bluetooth handoff between two devices works great.
Who are they for: The Voyager 8200 UC is designed specifically for office workers who talk on the phone a lot. However, it’s not an intimidating headphone that feels overly technical — it’s really just like any other ANC headphone, with a few extra touch gestures on the earpad and a companion app that you don’t have to use. The Voyager 8200 UC is a headphone that is good for casual listening, too.
Watch out for: While it’s a very good noise-isolating headphone, thanks to some densely-cushioned earpads, the Voyager 8200 UC isn’t as effective with at active noise-canceling. I didn’t notice too big of a difference from when the ANC was off or on — I could still hear things like doorbells, keyboards typing and colleagues talking, albeit all of those noises were faint. The headphones are comfortable, but the design won’t be for everybody — the faux wood grain and earpads with huge “L” and “R” markings are pretty conspicuous. They charge via a micro-USB cable. There’s no voice assistant.
Alternatives: If you’re a stickler on price and just want a dependable wireless ANC headphone, the Voyager 8200 UC is a pretty safe bet. There are other alternatives, however, that boost superior ANC abilities, like the Bose QC 35 II ($350) and Sony 1000XM2 ($298).
What others are saying:
• “As much as I like their convenience and rich battery life, Plantronics’ Voyager 8200 UC have also become my go-to headphones for an old-fashioned reason: they sound stellar. Their sound quality is some of the best I’ve heard on Bluetooth headphones. Just today, I was listening to “Oh Devil” by Electric Guest and noticed just how well I could pick up the nuances of singer Asa Taccone’s haunting falsetto vocals amid the electric piano midtones and deep bass rhythm. Live tracks have depth that you won’t hear on many sets, and podcast audio comes in crisp and clear.” — Jeffrey Van Camp, Wired
• “I actually really like the lower priced BackBeat Pro 2 but due to the large amount of new features in Voyager 8200 UC which offer lots of extra value this is going to replace BackBeat as my daily driver. Since I am using this High Quality Headsets, I don`t use ordinary Headphones anymore to enjoy music – yes, the Audio Quality is that impressive! Need to jump on a long distance flight before I can share my thoughts about new Dual Noise Cancelation but Voyager 8200 already helped me to survive the Autumn Leaf Blower Season.” — Ragnar Heil
Connectivity: Bluetooth v4.1
Battery: Up to 24 hours listening to music, up to 1 month standby
Roaming range: Up to 98 feet