True wireless earbuds (TWS) have become truly ubiquitous, but rarely are they designed around call quality.
Regardless of current workplace practices, the work-from-home culture has left an indelible mark on how we communicate. Not all TWS are created equal, and there’s a good to fair chance that we learned that the hard way using an untested, conventional pair of wireless earbuds for an important work call. You can probably pick from any of several common relatable scenarios, be it failing to connect with your laptop despite having worked previously or the microphone picking up background noise that grates on the other party in the call.
For this purpose, headsets designed solely for communications are often the way to go–tried and tested, and you can count on them to work. However, they’re usually not conducive to portable use as they just made you look like a bank teller on a lunch break who forgot to remove their headset. As such, the idea of lightweight and portable wireless earbuds for hybrid work sounds rather appealing, doesn’t it?
Enter the Poly Voyager Free 60+
This brings us to the Voyager Free 60+ UC earbuds (henceforth referred to as the Voyager), a new TWS from Poly designed for hybrid work use. Will it hit all the high notes or fall flat on its promises? If you’re struggling to recall who Poly is or why you should care, then the name Plantronics might ring a bell. Plantronics, after acquiring Polycom, changed its name to Poly, so you know that this company is undoubtedly a thoroughbred when it comes to audio and communications.
The Voyager sticks to a tried-and-tested form factor not too dissimilar to Apple’s AirPods Pro. It provides a snug fit in the ear and minimises its presence outside of it. It may be discreet, but it also exudes a touch of class with a metallic trim along the stem. The combination of a recessed button and touch operation covers the usual range of controls you would expect: media controls, call control, and assistant activation (Google Assistant and Siri). The Poly Lens app (available on Android, iOS, PC and Mac) lets you further customise the quick action buttons, but understandably it is quite limited.
But the best thing about its form factor is that you don’t have to deal with clamping force and bulk on your head. These earbuds weigh a mere 5.8g, so you will often forget you are wearing them. They are also rated IP54-rated so you need not worry about using them in the rain or during sweat-filled gym sessions.
The charging case that does it all
And true to its specialist smarts, Poly’s solution addresses a major pain point of TWS headsets: adjusting controls isn’t always easy or quick. Well, fumble no longer: the Voyager’s unique charging case doubles up as a one-stop control centre. The case sports a colour OLED touchscreen that’s large enough to display a variety of controls. It activates when you take the earbuds out of the case or when you press a button located next to the USB-C charging port, and displays a three-page touchscreen menu.
And that’s not all. Instead of having callers wonder what you are doing stabbing at your ear as you try to mute the microphone, you can simply use the charging case as a mute switch during calls to discreetly isolate your microphone from the conversation.
Understandably for a touchscreen on a pocket-sized (somewhat) peripheral, it’s not lightning-responsive. But being able to have a touchscreen where you can easily control music playback, activate active noise-cancelling mode, switch devices, adjust the volume and check the battery levels of your earbuds is a nice touch that might come in handy. On the final page, a QR code provides a convenient way to access the manual or download the companion app. You can’t customise the menu options but it’s fine given that there are only two pages of options.
Connectivity in spades
Aside from controls, the case sports more connectivity options than most earbuds would typically have. While the case is not exactly suitable for skinny jeans, nobody wears those for meetings anyway. What I’m sure people would want though, is a trouble-free connection. There are no guarantees in life of course but the Voyager is better equipped than most in this department: stowed in the case is a BT700 USB Bluetooth adapter for your computer or laptop, and is more reliable than your regular Bluetooth connection. Furthermore, this adapter also extends the range of your connection up to 30m; i.e. it’s much stronger than a regular signal. At 10 metres, which is usually the limit of most Bluetooth devices–we’ll never walk further than that anyway–the Voyager has no issues maintaining calls with no breaks or interference.
And what if you have a 3.5mm jack but no USB port? You can use the charging case as a Bluetooth transmitter. The Voyager comes with a USB-C to 3.5mm cable, so you can connect this to turntables or other devices like inflight entertainment systems and still enjoy the physical freedom of TWS earbuds. This is a pretty useful piece of kit to have on business trips.
Top-notch audio and call quality
The Voyager earbuds provide clear vocals and lifelike sound staging for music and movies. It generally performs well across a variety of musical genres, but what’s striking are the clear vocals in an orchestral setting and the ease of picking up on the softer and more subtle instruments playing in the background. The soundstage was also decent, giving us the feeling that we were right in front of the stage. Do note that the earbuds default to the Bass preset, which produces full and rich audio with punchy bass.
Like all TWS with an Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) circuit onboard, the Voyager is equipped with multiple microphones–three in this case. The Voyager uses adaptive hybrid ANC and wind-blocking tech that cancels noise for both listening and speaking. It worked very well for us, blocking out the chatting of other gym patrons and the clickity-clack from our colleagues’ mechanical keyboards.
We tried the Voyager for voice calls and conference calls in various environments and the people on the other end of the line never had any complaints about vocal clarity. Even when we sat directly next to a fan, the earbuds did a good job of blocking out the buffeting noise.
But unlike many TWS earbuds, the Voyager offers sidetone technology, which arguably is a quality-of-life feature that more manufacturers should be adding to their lineups. For headsets with effective noise cancellation or isolation, the user tends to speak louder as they are unable to gauge how loud they are speaking, which can be grating for the other party on the line. With sidetone enabled, the earbuds feed your voice back to your ears so you can hear yourself and thus, speak at an appropriate volume during calls.
Most importantly, for a headset that’s designed with voice calls in mind, the Voyager earbuds have been certified for use with platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, so you can be assured of a simple plug-and-play experience with every call.
We’re quite pleased with the battery life; after about two hours of non-stop music streaming, the earbuds had about 80% juice left in them. The case supports both wired fast charging and Qi wireless charging so it’s convenient to keep the case battery juiced. Every 15 minutes of charging gives you an extra hour of talk time, and a full charge will roughly recharge your earbuds entirely twice for up to 16.5 hours of active call use.
All in all, the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC is a very capable pair of TWS earbuds. We were impressed with its overall audio quality, battery life, and smart, innovative features. While there were minor niggles here and there, these could be resolved with software and firmware updates.
The Voyager Free 60+ UC wireless earbuds are now available in Carbon Black and White Sand colours. It comes with a 2-year warranty and is retailing at a recommended retail price of S$490|MYR1,759. There are some amazing deals available that can offer significant discounts too.
This is a sponsored post brought to you in association with Poly. The opinions expressed reflect our 2-week experience with the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC earbuds.