People use headphones while they’re at work, get used to the facts.
Now then, some of those people are call centre workers, some of them are air traffic controllers, some of them are telesales people and some of them have a job that inherently demands that they don a pair of ‘cans’ over their ears — we’re not really talking about any of them.
We’re looking at the kinds of businesspeople who would typically want to use headphones for Skype or other VoIP-based services — and we’re also talking about the kinds of workers who want to be able to ‘drown out’ the rest of the office in order to get on with their own tasks.
This is the market Sennheiser is targeting with its Sennheiser MB 360 UC Active Noise Canceling (ANC) headphones.
Coming in at £168 at the time of writing, the Sennheiser MB 360 is around £100 cheaper than its big brother/sister unit the Sennheiser MB 660.
Before we look at the unit itself, let’s consider what the company is saying about the way we work today and why this type of equipment might be de rigeur for a modern contemporary workplace.
The way we work
Sennheiser says that today, 70% of workspaces have transitioned to open plan, yet 63% of professionals claim loud colleagues are their greatest distraction.
“Our latest study shows that 29% of office workers use a headset when they need to concentrate”, said Theis Mork, vice president of product management for enterprise solutions at Sennheiser. The office space per person has declined over the past 20 years and open offices are on the rise, making it harder for us to concentrate without being interrupted by our co-workers. Sennheiser’s recent study shows that almost a third of office workers use a headset to concentrate without distraction.”
Sennheiser says the MB 360 UC Bluetooth headset itself is a double-sided headset with ANC that connects to a mobile device and is optimised for Unified Communication (hence the use of UC).
That UC element is the fact that users can use the same headset for entertainment and work-related audio application. They offer a talk time of up to 25 hours and have pretty nice soft ear pads.
The ANC itself works well, it comes on automatically as soon as you power up the device. Sennheiser has used the right headphone body unit to put the power button in place, next to that there’s a ‘function’ button and next to that there’s a volume button.
The only complaint here is that we assumed users would need to hold the power button down to engage the Bluetooth connection (after all, the blue Bluetooth power light is next to the power button), but you need to in fact hold the volume button in to get Bluetooth docking to happen.
The function button performs different functions depending on which app you are using. For example, when using Spotify, the function slider takes you back to the start of a track or onto your next one. When using an online radio service such as Absolute Radio (which has around 10 stations playing different genres of music), the function button takes you between stations.
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is smart, it constantly monitors the user’s background environment for noise using Sennheiser’s NoiseGard adaptive ANC technology to adjust the level of noise reduction in the headset.
There’s a variety of connection points on offer with this headset. We’ve already mentioned Bluetooth (which appears to ‘hold’ its connection well to a chosen device even if you turn the headphones on and off), but there’s also a Bluetooth USB dongle so that users can connect with PCs and laptops that may not have Bluetooth.
There’s also a 2.5mm (inserts into device) to 3.5mm (standard headphone jack) analogue cable, should users wish to go retro and cable themselves to their device.
There are two built-in microphones and the device works well on Skype and indeed when connected to a smartphone for calls.
The only real gripe here is that switching between devices can be a little troublesome when doing so using Bluetooth. Moving from iPad to a Windows PC was easy enough, but getting the headset to be recognised again by the iPad afterwards (even with the PC powered down to ensure the Bluetooth radio was off) wasn’t quite as seamless.
As always with Sennheiser (full disclosure, I’ve been a fan of this company since the 1980s when I first got a pair of the old yellow foam headphones that used to be produced), the sound quality is rich and lustrous. This is the kind of quality that makes you want to sit with Spotify and play some of your favourite tracks to see how different they sound when you can hear instruments and parts of music or voice that you’d not picked up on before.