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This Plantronics headphone gets shockingly better with Bose eartips

A business headphone with a hip-hop heart, the Voyager 6200 UC's biggest flaw is fixed by a $10 hack: swapping in a competitor's eartips.

The headphone also comes in black.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics describes its Voyager 6200 UC as a "business-ready Bluetooth neckband headset with earbuds." That's what you'd expect from a product in the company's Voyager line, which includes all the company's mono headsets, which are strictly for making calls. With its big bass and presence boost in the treble, however, it doesn't sound like a "business" headphone at all, unless your business is Def Jam Records. The sound is decidedly hip hop. 

So far so good, but there was one big issue for me. The eartips -- three sizes are included -- that come with the Voyagers 6200 UC fit my ears well but the earbuds didn't stay in my ears securely. If I jostled my head around or walked fast on the street I lost some of the seal from the tips and sound leaked in, causing sound quality to diminish a bit.

But then I discovered a little trick that made the headphone significantly better. Noticing Bose's eartips looked similar, I pulled them off the QuietControl 30 and, lo and behold, they fit the Voyager 6200 UC! But here's the key difference: The Bose eartips have wings on them. Suddenly, the Plantronics' buds locked nicely into my ears. (You can find replacement Bose tips on Amazon for about $10.)

The eartips look similar to Bose eartips but are missing wings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For many people, the included tips will work fine. But the Bose tips made a big difference for me. I was able to run with the headset on after the swap (how sweat-resistant it is I can't tell you, but it's certainly not being marketed as sports headphone). I should also note that the buttons for all the controls, including the the noise-canceling on/off button, seemed well placed and easy to operate by feel.

Designed to compete with Jabra's Elite 65e, Bose's QuietControl 30 and Sony WI-1000X, all of which are among a small number of neckband-style in-ear headphones that feature active-noise cancellation, the Voyager 6200 UC carries a list price of  $300 but can thankfully be had online for less than $175 (£212, $AU277).

At that price, it's a much more intriguing proposition. Not only does it come with a nice carrying case and a magnetic dock charger, but you also get a UC (Unified Communications) USB dongle to connect to you computer for use with UC applications and softphones from Avaya, Cisco, Skype and others.

It's a better headphone than Jabra's Elite 65e, which I found a little disappointing. Not only does the Plantronics sound better but its noise-canceling is little more effective. It's not quite up to the level of the Bose QuietControl 30's noise-canceling, but it does muffle sound around you to a degree (in other words, don't expect it to totally muffle ambient sound). 

The headphone itself doesn't feel quite as sturdy as Bose's QuietControl 30, but the Voyager 6200 UC's neckband is better designed and lighter. I found it more comfortable to wear than the QuietControl 30, which is saying a lot because Bose is known for its comfortable headphones. Alas, like with the Bose, there's no cable that allows you to plug into a flight-entertainment system on a plane. 

Along with a case, you get a UC USB dongle and charging dock.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as making calls goes, I thought the Voyager 6200 UC performed quite well. Callers said my voice was clear (I had "HD Voice" on), and I could hear callers quite well. The neckband vibrates when a call comes in, and there's dedicated mute button for those conference calls where you've muted your line and need to quickly unmute it to make a comment. Also, there's a sidetone feature that lets you hear your own voice in the headphones when you speak so you don't raise your voice during calls (you can adjust the amount of sidetone in the settings menu of the Hub app).

The included case.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Plantronics has tweaked the sound slightly since the headphone first launched. When I upgraded the firmware via the Plantronics' Hub app on my iPhone -- it took less than five minutes -- there was a notation about "richer" sound quality. I didn't notice a big difference, but the sound seemed a tad smoother after the upgrade. Battery life didn't change: It's rated for up to 16 hours of music listening time at moderate volume levels or 9 hours of talk time. That's good.

As I said, the headphone has plenty of bass -- it goes pretty deep and will not disappoint bass lovers. There's a little bit of a presence boost (treble push) to make things sound a little more sparkly. Overall, this headphone has been tuned to sound exciting, which you wouldn't necessarily expect from a "business" headphone.

I'd guess that the Voyager 6200 UC is a bit of an experimental product for Plantronics, and the company has more of mainstream version kicking around that might just fit under its BackBeat brand. There's something good here. It may not sound quite as good as the Bose QuietControl 30 or have as effective noise cancelling, but with Bose's eartips it might just be better for the money. Hopefully Plantronics will continue to tweak it.

Here are the Voyager 6200 UC's key specs, according to Plantronics:

  • Professional-grade audio with enhanced Digital Signal Processing.
  • On-demand active noise canceling.
  • Incoming call alert.
  • Dynamic mute alert.
  • Class 1 Bluetooth with 98-foot/30-meter wireless range (for devices that support it).
  • Customizable call and media options.
  • Hi-fi stereo and passive noise canceling with earbuds.
  • Unified Communications-ready.
  • Dedicated mute button.
  • Wideband audio and stereo telephony support.
  • Up to 16 hours of music playback at moderate volume levels.
  • Up to 9 hours of talk time.

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