Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Active Noise Cancelling Smackdown: Plantronics Blackwire C725 vs Jabra Evolve 80

So I recently obtained two different Active Noise Cancelling headsets that are Lync/Skype for Business optimized devices. I've been using both the Jabra Evolve 80 (E80) and the Plantronics Blackwire C725 (C725) quite a bit and one thing I've noticed is that even though they are both Active Noise Cancelling, they are Apples and Oranges when you go to compare them. So I thought it would be interesting to highlight their Pros and Cons and really help those that want to find the right headset for their situation.

It is important to note that both of these headsets were given to me directly by each vendor and my assumption is that they hoped I would review them. There was no guidance as to how that was done from either vendor. These views can be considered my own opinion.

Let's start off with a opening statement of each product from each vendors own marketing material...

Plantronics Blackwire C725

The Blackwire 725 USB Headset is great for keeping you focused in noisy office environments. Featuring Active Noise Canceling technology, a nose-cancelling mic, and hi-fi stereo performance, the Blackwire 725 minimizes external noises while ensuring that PC-based calls and multimedia come through crystal clear. With the Blackwire 725, distractions go down and productivity goes up.

Jabra Evolve 80

Jabra Evolve series is a professional range of head-sets designed to improve concentration and conversations. Premium noise cancellation technology gives you peace to work in a noisy environment, open office, effectively creating a concentration zone around you so you can stay focused.

Round 1: Fit and Comfort

Right away you will notice the biggest difference between the two. The C725 is an ON THE EAR muff, where the E80 is an OVER THE EAR muff. Using both for very long calls I've noticed a few things.

E80 Fit and Comfort Negatives
  • Can start to become itchy where the muffs touch your skin
  • People have complained that it is too tight on their head (squeezing their noggin)
  • The mic is ONLY on the right
  • They are pretty bulky

C725 Fit and Comfort Negatives
  • None that I can think of

E80 Fit and Comfort Positives
  • Muffs have lots of padding
  • Band against head is padded

C725 Fit and Comfort Positives
  • Very comfortable with lots of adjustments
  • Mic can be on either side of head
  • Not bulky
  • Band against head is padded
  • Muffs are padded well

Route 2: Sound Quality

This one I realize is fairly subjective. So this is one that you'll definitely have to take with a grain of salt. But it really comes down to what do you do with your headset. Do you like to listen to music AND use it for Lync? or is this strictly a business headset only used for communication? Depending on how you answer those two questions, I could probably guess which one you would choose.

C725 Sound Quality Negatives
  • Great sound quality, but for music won't blow you mind.
  • Ear muffs allow for extra noise to creep in

E80 Sound Quality Negatives
  • Certain voices can seem deeper than normal
  • Needed to adjust side tone audio out of the box (hear yourself)

C725 Sound Quality Positives
  • I think I could literally hear a pin drop on a conference call
  • Voices sound very natural
  • Sidetone audio was perfect out of the box (hear yourself)

E80 Sound Quality Positives
  • Very rich bass
  • Music is phenomenal

Round 3: Noise Cancellation

You would think that two products that highlight Active Noise Cancellation as a major feature would actually be very similar. But I'm here to tell you that they are very different.

E80 Noise Cancellation Negatives
  • Noise Cancellation is only for the person wearing... ambient noises can be heard on Mic!
  • Needs battery charged to work

C725 Noise Cancelling Negatives
  • Ambient Noise can come in around ear muffs
  • Doesn't work unless you are in a call or using audio from PC
  • Can't be used with smart phone or other audio device (iPod)

E80 Noise Cancellation Positives
  • Amazingly effective at cutting out ambient noise
  • Can be used with smart phone (if battery is charged)
  • Has "Listen in" button on side to let you hear ambient noise... 

C725 Noise Cancellation Positives
  • Amazingly effective at cutting out ambient noise on the MIC
  • Pretty good at cutting out ambient noise on the muffs
  • Don't need to worry about charging a battery


The point of this blog post was not to find a winner, but to point out that these two headsets meet very different needs.

If you are in the office (especially cubes or call center) and on the phone all day long, then the C725 would probably be the better choice.

If you travel a lot and need a headset that you can use on the road and on the plane, then the E80 is probably a better choice.

Quite honestly, I plan to use both of these headsets depending on what I'm doing. Who knows... maybe Plantronics or Jabra will create a Active Noise Cancelling headset to rule them all.


E80 Extras you need to know
  • Listen In button is nice, but not obvious (push the jabra on the side with the mic)
  • When microphone is in the up position it is automatically muted
  • You will want to adjust sidetone audio, because otherwise you may not hear yourself at all
  • Headset can disconnect from call controls and be used with smart phone
  • Extra audio adjustments in the Jabra app on the PC.
  • You will stand out in a crowd when you use these
C725 Extras you need to know
  • The microphone boom can be used on left or right side of head
  • The headset automatically answers a call when you put it on

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lync/Skype for Business Loud Ringer

Loud Ringers for Lync/Skype for Business is one of those problems you think can't be solved. But I stumbled upon a technique awhile ago that can be used to solve this problem. This technique though, uses pieces of the product in ways they were not originally intended. But I will say that I have been doing this since Lync Server 2010 and I hope with writing this blog that more people will use this technique and maybe it will get a better method for implementation by the product group.

So enough dancing around the topic.

In order to execute this technique we need the following:
  • Analog based Loud Ringer (Algo 1825 for example)
  • Gateway with Analog FXS ports
  • Create a Lync/Skype for Business Analog Device
  • Device that can do Pin Authentication for a Common Area Phone
  • Lync/Skype for Business user that has SimRing capability
Step 1
First step is to setup the FXS port and Gateway so that a dedicated number can ring that port. I prefer to use non-DID numbers for this application, but it just has to be a unique number in the Lync Dial Plan. Later we actually use this number when defining the Lync/Skype for Business analog device LineURI. Because there are so many Gateways with FXS out there, I'm not going to get into specifics in this area. But I generally route the extension portion of the number to the port. For example if +13005551000;ext=9572 is the intended LineURI, only the 9572 portion would be configured for routing to the port on the Gateway. 

Not getting the hint? 

I manipulate the number either in the trunk configuration of Lync/Skype for Business (my preference) or the gateway to just be the extension.

Oh you you are one of those people who don't like to use ;ext= ? Then you'll have to figure out the Pin Auth on your own later.

Step 2
Next we add the Gateway with the FXS port to the Lync/Skype for Business Topology. Nothing special here, but make sure it is communicating on the correct port/protocol.
Once the Topology has been published and replication has occurred, you will need to create an analog device in Lync/Skype for Business. 

Here is an example of the command: 

New-CsAnalogDevice -LineURI "tel:+13005551000;ext=9572" -DisplayName "Someone's Loud Ringer" -RegistrarPool <same pool as Loud Ringer user> -AnalogFax $False -Gateway <IP or FQDN of Gateway just added> -OU <your favorite OU>

Here is the technet for reference.

Pssst don't forget to do an Address Book Update... you'll need it soon and might as well have it working while we do this other stuff

Update-CsAddressBook on the pool that has the user with the need for the Loud Ringer.

Step 3
Once AD Replication happens we need to set a client pin for this analog device. Say wha?! Yes... just stick with me here... 

Here is an example of the command:

Set-CsClientPin -Identity "Someone's Loud Ringer" -Pin <any pin you choose>

Here is the technet for reference

Step 4
Login to the Analog Device like a Common Area Phone using Pin Authentication. For example the extension is 9572 and the pin is well... whatever you set it to. It doesn't matter if this device stays logged in or not, we just needed to log it in once as a Common Area Phone.

This would be a great time to call the Analog Device from lync and make sure the Loud Ringer is actually working. That way we aren't troubleshooting the physical install too... later on.

Step 5
Set the SimRing for the user that needs the Loud Ringer. This can be going to their PC or getting their username and password, or using SEFAUTIL. The bottom line is you want to set the SimRing for the Analog Device above which should. 

If you don't see it as a contact you can add, you might have forgot to update the address book on the server, or maybe you need to log out and back in to force an update.

Step 6
Call the user who needed the Loud Ringer and hear their praises and celebrate that you solved that problem for them that has been hanging around for a year or two. Or if it doesn't work... dig out your Lync Debugging Tools and Wireshark. I know you'll figure it out.