Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC Headphones Review: Great Sound On-The-Go or in the Office

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $220
Plantronics Voyagers 8200 UC on a table top
Plantronics

When you think of Plantronics—a company best known for call center and aviation headsets—music may not be the first thing that comes to mind. These ultra comfy and great sounding headphones will have you rethinking that, though.

Here's What We Like

  • Great sound
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable
  • Can be used with 3.5mm cord rather than Bluetooth

And What We Don't

  • No way to know exactly how much battery life remains without connecting to another device
  • Could not install Hub utility on Kindle Fire
  • iOS version of Hub utility more limited than Windows version

Recently the company has branched out with some excellent sounding headphones and earphones. The BackBeat line of earphones and BackBeat Pro 2 over-the-ear headphones offer great sound, albeit at a premium price. The vendor’s latest over-the-ear headphones are the Voyager 8200 UC. These add to the product line rather than replacing Plantronics’ premium BackBeat Pro 2 headphones, the previous top of the line.

My Ears, Not Yours: A Headphone Review Primer

Before reading any audio review, whether it’s about headphones, speakers, or any other piece of audio equipment, keep in mind that everyone’s hearing is somewhat different. People tend to be more sensitive to certain frequencies, and not everyone enjoys the same kind of music. As a reviewer, I could use available measuring equipment and software to graph out the headphone’s frequency response. But a graph isn’t going to really give you any idea of what the headphones actually sound like or feel like after wearing them for more than a few hours. To be informative, any audio review has to be at least somewhat subjective.

Most reviewers have a list of tracks they use to test a set of earphones/headphones. Since my taste in music is probably different than yours, I’m not going to list the tracks I used, only state that I spent several hours a day over a period of two weeks playing through tracks in my Spotify playlist, which has a bit over 600 songs at present. These vary from Chicago and Texas Blues to 60s Garage Band rock. There’s even some Country in there.

If you’re interested in putting these or any other headphones through their paces, check out our guide to testing out headphones. Also useful if you want to create your own test suite, this site has a wide variety of audio test files. If you want something super quick and easy, Spotify even has a self-curated headphone test playlist you can take for a spin.

That being said, my preferences tend more towards bass than treble, but I also listen for a balanced response. After all, most audio equipment and applications have equalizers where you can tune the response to your liking. As they used to say in commercials, your mileage may vary.

A Step Up from My Trusty Sennheisers

I’ve had a lot of headphones over the years, and my favorites have shifted as I’ve had the opportunity to test new ones. Strangely enough, still one of my favorites is a pair of  Sennheiser HD Pro 280 phones that have to be almost two decades old. They’re worn to the point of being uncomfortable to wear for any amount of time, but still sound great.

Before testing the Voyager 8200 UCs, my go-to headphones were also Plantronics–the BackBeat Pro 2. These offer great sound, very good battery life, and are comfortable to wear for hours on end. The Voyager 8200 UC phones offer pretty much the same positive features, plus a few more that make them better for using in the office, while traveling, and while just listening to music or the TV.

I’m not going to list the data sheet for the Voyager 8200 UCs here. It really doesn’t give you much of a “taste” of how they sound or feel. As you can see in the photos, they come in black and cream and are large as are pretty much any other over-the-ears headphones need to be.

They have very comfortable memory foam padding on the earcups and headband, a synthetic leather cover on both, orange accents on the earcups and on a label attached to the headband, and big letters to indicate which earcup is left and right. That’s not really as silly as it seems since many headphones and earphones have tiny lettering to indicate proper orientation.

A metallic screen on both of the front edges of the earcups hide the microphones used by the ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), another reason to have the right earcups on the right ears, as well as pick up your voice when using the phones in an office environment to make or answer calls. Plantronics designed these headphones to be comfortable to use when listening to music, traveling, or working in the office. And they ship with a USB Bluetooth dongle as well as a 3.5mm cable that can be used to directly connect the headset to a music source.

Microphones are located on the front of both earcups Ted Needleman

Active Noise Cancellation is a feature both Plantronics headphones have in common, and they seem to work just a bit better on the Voyager. There’s a small slide switch on the edge of the left earphone. All the way down and the ANC is turned off. Slide it to the middle position and some cancellation kicks in, but loud background noises, like a doorbell, still can be heard. This is the setting I used most of the time in the office while working. Finally, slide the switch up to the top setting and more ANC kicks in. There seems to always be some loud noises that make it through even at this top setting, which is a good thing. You want to be able to hear if there’s a major noise. I wasn’t able to test the Voyagers in an airplane, but I would probably leave them on the middle setting so I could hear in-flight announcements.

Plantronics Voyage 8200 UC controls
The physical interface on the headphones is easy to use and well laid out Plantronics

Also on the left earcup are controls for volume using a volume wheel located on the periphery of the cup, and controls used when playing audio tracks to skip forward or backward. The volume wheel is also used to control the volume of the microphones located in the front of each earcup. And pressing the center of the cup lets you access voice control using Siri, Cortana, or Google Now (a strange choice because Google Now has been discontinued in favor of Google Assistant).

There are several additional slide switches on side of the right earcup as well as a micro USB jack on the bottom of the cup for charging the battery and a 3.5mm jack for using the headphones in plug-in mode.  Along the front edge of the earcup is the mesh covering one of the two microphones, a slide switch which mute the mics, and the power switch, which has three positions–off, on, and pair. Pairing the headphones with Bluetooth gives you a wireless range of almost 100 feet, so you can wander around a room or office and still stay connected. The 8200 UCs can also be paired via NFC (Near Field Communications). Rather than the wheel on the left earcup, the center of the right earcup is a switch. Tap it to make, answer, or end a call.

And for travel, the earcups swivel inward so that the headset is flat, and can fit into the soft travel case packed with the phones which also has a zipper compartment for the USB and 3.5mm audio cables that are included. This ability to fold into a flat pack makes it easy to include the 8200 UCs in your carry-on baggage.

Huba Huba: Software-Based Control

Plantronics touts their Hub software as a useful adjunct. I found that true for the most part. While the Android version refused to install on my Kindle Fire HD, which is where I usually listen to music, it did install fine on both Windows 10 and iOS. To get the WIndows 10 version working, I had to install the USB dongle that shipped with the headphones. Both versions let you adjust call and volume settings, and both give you the amount of connect time remaining on the battery charge.

The iOS version of the Hub software has limited utility Ted Needleman

The available options on the iOS version of the utility were very sparse compared to the Windows version. The “Find My Headset” worked perfectly, sending a loud tone to the headset that would definitely aid in finding the phones if you were within 5 to 10 feet of them. Directly underneath the label of the device connected (Plantronics Voyager 8200), are notifications of the connectivity status, in this case, Connected, and a display of the remaining talk/listening time. The Settings menu is where the most useful features lay, though whether or not you actually find them useful is a matter of opinion. I didn’t find any settings I would want to use.

There is one feature that you might want to install the utility to have. That’s the “How Do I” selection, which has excerpts from the Voyager’s user manual. That and the notification of remaining talk time on the utility’s opening screen are enough to justify the free utility, though the capabilities beyond that seem rather sparse.

The Windows version of the Hub software provides more choices than the mobile version

Great Sound, Great Features

Easy to operate controls and helpful utilities are nice, but the bottom line for any piece of audio equipment, and especially headphones is how they sound, both while listening and, when the headsets are meant to be worn to also make and receive phone calls, talking. I was able to use the Voice Control button to give commands to Siri, but was unable to get Cortana to recognize commands. Voice quality in phone mode is excellent, perhaps a legacy from Plantronics’ many years producing phones for the office and headsets for aviation.

Listening to music was likewise rewarding. One advantage to listening to the same tracks over and over with different headsets is that after a while you do tend to pick up subtle differences in the sound. One headset may have somewhat muddled bass or shrill treble. The Voyager 8200 UCs have almost exactly the same audio characteristics as the BackBeat Pro 2s that I’ve been using for several years, with one noticeable difference. The Voyager 8200s seem to have lower sound levels at the same settings on the device it’s plugged into. This wasn’t a problem—I simply used the volume wheel on the left earcup to raise the volume.

Other than that, the response is precisely what I’ve come to expect—smooth bass and crisp, but not shrill treble. Mid-range tones are clear, and on many tracks there’s a noticeable sense of presence. That is also reflected when I use the headset to listen to the television. Voices are much more discernible than when the TV is playing through speakers, and background noises, like phones ringing in the background, come through when wearing the headset but not when listening through the TV’s speakers. And the Voyager 8200s are comfortable enough to wear for hours. I haven’t gone on a trip with them, but It’s not unusual for me to wear them for three or four hours at a time. The Voyager 8200s have a sensor in the earcups that pauses music or audio playback when you take the headset off, which is nice feature if you’re interrupted while using them.

Plantronics claims up to a 24 hour talk time for the Voyager 8200s. I didn’t get quite that long, but when fully charged, the Hub software showed that I had 21 hours and 40 minutes of time remaining on the battery. When you turn the headphones on, you are greeted with Power High, Power Medium, Power Low, or a Recharge Headphones message. These messages are accompanied by the lights on the right earcup. When fully charged, five lights are lit. which go down to three lights for medium and a single light for low charge. When recharging, the reverse is true, the lights go from one light lit through two, up to five on a full charge. Recharging from a full discharged state took just about the three hours Plantronics states it should take.

Should You Buy Them?

While the list price of the Voyager 8200 UC headphones is $319, in many cases, you can get them for a bit over $200—the price we have here, $220, is the current price point on Amazon and a pretty consistent one. At that price, they represent a great buy. If you really prefer over-the-ears headphones to earbuds, the Plantronic Voyager 8200 UC headphones are really worth a look with a great combination of comfort, high-quality audio, and user-friendly features.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $220

Here’s What We Like

  • Great sound
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable
  • Can be used with 3.5mm cord rather than Bluetooth

And What We Don't

  • No way to know exactly how much battery life remains without connecting to another device
  • Could not install Hub utility on Kindle Fire
  • iOS version of Hub utility more limited than Windows version

Ted Needleman Ted Needleman
Ted Needleman has written over 4,000 software and hardware reviews over his decades as a writer and editor. In addition to his work for Review Geek, you can find him at PCMag, Digital Trends, and AccountingToday. Read Full Bio »

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