Review: Jabra Speak 710

There is a lot of competition in the small speaker phone range these days. Initially it was all about size and audio quality, but today we find that new features, extending use cases as well as aesthetics, is what driving popularity of these little gems.

The Jabra Speak 710 is no exception. The usual default expectations are that its light weight, portable and just works. Aesthetically the Jabra Speak 510 (the 710’s predecessor) has always been appealing. It would be challenging to improve on this, however Jabra have done well in adding a mixture of metal to the plastic housing improving its appeal. More importantly, I think (IMHO) that the metal covered speaker has reduced the likelihood of audio vibration\distortion you might expect with an all plastic unit.

The arrangement of function buttons and status\indicator LED’s in a circular pattern around the unit perimeter has always caught my eye.

Simply a beautiful design.

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Pros

My favorite features include:-

  • The combined metal\plastic finish, both beautiful and solid
  • The kick stand that tucks away very well (also metal improving robustness)
  • Dedicated Bluetooth Dongle slot below the unit (this was my biggest concern – I have lost a few of these little suckers in the past)
  • Its the only Touch-based control interface (no physical buttons) in this range and also boasts backlit buttons which are auto dimming when in use
  • Smart Button to activate my mobile phone voice assistant (Compatible with Siri, Cortana and Google Now)
  • A new link button allowing you to pair two units together via Bluetooth to create larger coverage and a much richer audio experience, and yes its stereo.
  • I like how the USB cable wraps around the unit, out of the way, neat and tidy. Hate looking for bits when getting setup
  • Connect via Bluetooth or USB (great when power is low on the unit)
  • Bluetooth will connect to two devices simultaneously (in my case, my iPhone and PC)
  • I like how the device announces that its connected (and connects automatically when I plug the dongle in to my PC – no guessing if its connected or not). That said, I’d like to see controls where this can be turned off
  • Ridiculous Bluetooth range, my test was a tad further than the Jabra stated 30 meters. Only started glitching at about 34 meters
  • Superior sound quality! Not only is it very noticeably better than the 510, but I found it to be better than both the Plantronics and Sennheiser equivalents (and that’s before pairing two together)
  • Good for listening to music, again two paired units took this to a whole new level
  • When listening to music and a call comes in, music is automatically paused. Also resumes automatically when the call completes
  • 12 person Con call by pairing two 710s or 6 with a single unit
  • Microphone quality is noticeably improved from the days of the 510 (arguably the best in this range of small form factor devices

Cons

  • The output base is slightly low when listening to music
  • Cost, at around NZ$518 its not cheap, that’s almost twice the price of the 510 at NZ$273, considering the improved quality its still well worth the purchase
  • No 3.5mm jack (for those days when Bluetooth just isn’t playing nice). This feature was present in the 510 but has been dropped
  • USB Cable is attached to device (same as the 510),this  increases the risk of cable damage with movement. Would love to see a detachable cable

In Conclusion

What got my attention was the ability to daisy chain the Jabra Speak 710’s. Typically device daisy chaining is by means of cables, although that’s considered more reliable, its untidy and makes the hardware look like a last minute slap together. The Jabra Speak 710 however has that elegant boardroom device look and feel. Dare I say, it looks expensive.

Overall, this is an outstanding device and I believe that its become a real contender to the “Spider”  conference phone ranges. A new baseline has been set, well done Jabra!

References

http://www.jabra.co.nz/Business/speakerphones/jabra-speak-series/jabra-speak-710

Posted in Jabra, Product Review, Speaker Phones | Tagged | Leave a comment

Product Review: Sennheiser MB 660 UC

Let me start by saying that as of this moment the Sennheiser MB 660 UC is (by far..) my new favorite headset. Let me explain..

MB 660 UC

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that this is predominantly a music headphone. The absence of a boom microphone is what concerned me as soon as I started unpacking this beauty. I was expecting the MB 660 UC to pickup all the surrounding office sounds as it attempts to find my voice. This was not the case. Not even close!

It was actually quite the opposite. Not only was the MB 660 UC able to find my voice clearly, BUT it was able to filter out all other office sounds so effectively that callers were unable to hear me typing away on my keyboard (I tend to strike the keyboard in a less elegant fashion than most). I have a fairly loud neighbor to my desk (hello Travis) and in my daily Skype for Business calls he is often heard over my voice, despite my best efforts.

That’s no longer the case..

A good headset in my opinion needs to be comfortable, must have great music quality and needs superb conversation audio too. A decent battery life is appreciated and of course if it looks cool and doesn’t fall apart after rigorous use then I am happy.

The MB 660 UC stands above the rest with the use of an adaptive ANC (Active Noise Controller), *SpeakFocus  and  Advanced Own-Voice-Detector. Collectively these innovative technologies are the reasons why this headset is a superbly awesome device. The use of these 3 innovative technologies contribute to the removal of ambient noise while focusing attention to the speaker. Since ambient noise can vary, an adaptive ANC is particularly effective in adjusting to the ever changing ambient noise. Its a lot more technical than that, but you get the idea. Also all ANC claims are not equal, I tend to trust my ears and not the brochures.

The Plantronics Voyager UC has been my go to device in the office because of being wireless and fairly good at ANC. I have also used the Jabra EVOLVE 80 at my home office, primarily because of it being a lot better when it comes to ANC, filters out my squawking cockatiel to some extent but mostly creates a quite space for me to work in.

Don’t get me wrong, BOTH these headsets are really good. However, what has been missing (IMHO) is a device that is a hybrid of these two products. The Sennheiser MB 660 UC does that well.

What I liked:-

  • Touch Pad Controls – really cool to interface to functionality via touch pad
  • very comfortable – despite wearing it all day
  • no boom, I tend to snack at my desk and the boom can get in the way. Pushing the boom up on other headsets works but I do often forget to bring it down again
  • NFC pairing
  • Audio cable with answer button (2.5mm and 3.5mm jack plugs) and in-flight adapter
  • Battery time is great at 30 hours
  • Battery run down? No problem, switch over to cable mode
  • The 3 “braille” like dots on the left hand side of the headset – get left and right correct in the dark. You don’t want to put this puppy on back to front, cause the boom will be projecting to the back of your head 😉

* SpeakFocus and Advanced Own-Voice-Detector are unique to Sennheiser

References

https://en-nz.sennheiser.com/wireless-headset-office-phone-mb-660-uc

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Free Skype for Business Monitoring in 10 minutes! – V2 Released

Over the past 18 months I have had spells of sleepless nights at my disposal. What better way to utilize this time than to ponder on how best to monitor my Skype for Business environments.

Although this concept isn’t new (I release my initial attempt at this about a year ago), V2 brings many hours of tweaking and polishing. The end result is a more stable, user friendly application that can be deployed in under 10 minutes. That’s including watching my how to video!

Why is it useful?

There are many different schools of thought around how best to monitor environments. Some folks are drawn to the physical aspects and tend to monitor processing, memory and disk. While this is useful information, its hardly sufficient on its own as an acceptable monitoring solution for Lync\Skype for Business.

On the other hand, keeping a close eye on services and event logs can be most useful as well. This can lead to lots of verbose information and, on its own, monitoring services and events don’t quite form a complete solution.

My thinking involves generating traffic by means of synthetic transactions. It also involves a proactive approach rather than being reactive.

For example:-

If you cant send an IM from user A to user B then its broken, regardless of it being a physical resource issue, a stopped service, certificate expiration or some other issue we have yet to uncover. The fact that the IM attempt is failing is sufficient to get my attention and subsequent action.

Another example :-

If your test user cant make a PSTN call to a number of your choosing then there is a problem. Regardless of the true source of that problem (which will likely require an engineer). Be it monitoring service issue, SIP\PSTN issue from the provider or an issue with the SBC. It doesn’t really matter..Why? because the issue has alerted me and I am now looking at it.

What is this package?

It consists of two primary modules:-

  1. Skype Monitoring Tool – This allows you to run a selection of synthetic transactions against any Skype Front End Pool on a frequency of your choosing
  2. Monitoring Report App – This part monitors the results of the Skype Monitoring Tool, generates an alert email when tests fail and can also send daily and\or weekly reports of the test trends

Monitoring Reports.gif

Functions

  • The results of each synthetic transaction are recorded in the Event Log of the PC where the tool is running.
  • The Event ID’s represent both success and failure of tests with separate ID’s depending on the result.
  • Event ID’s also contain a brief description of the test being performed, and in some cases a hint to resolution.
  • The tool also has a Schedule tab that will setup a scheduled task to run the synthetic transactions on a repetition interval of your choice.
  • Any test failures can generate an Alert Email so that you can proactively address the problem
  • Instead of trying to replace your existing monitoring tools, this tool generates Event Logs you can simply add to your monitored stack.

What’s been added in version 2?

  • UI improvements
  • Lots  of bug fixes
  • Added an option for weekly reports
  • Split out the reporting and alerting functions allowing reports and alerts to be sent to different email destinations
  • Added the ability to specify the time and day for sending reports
  • Added the ability to specify custom subject text for both reporting and alerting emails. This is useful when monitoring multiple Pools as you can add a pool description in the email subject text
  • Ability to send secure mail, perhaps one of the more painful flaws from the previous version

DOWNLOAD

How To VIDEO Here

DISCLAIMER

This tool is NOT a replacement for the commercially available tools such as Nectar, EventZero or  Prognosis. If you are after statistical data and history, triggered actions, dashboards, network performance, Session Border Controller monitoring or even QoS and network monitoring etc. then please do spend the cash and talk to these folks.

Posted in How To, Lync 2013 Monitoring, Lync 2013 Tools, Lync Monitoring, Monitoring Tools, Skype for Business Monitoring, Synthetic Transactions, Tools, UC Sorted Tools | Tagged , , | 23 Comments