When is a Bluetooth earpiece interesting? When it's made by a world-famous German audio engineering company, of course.
By James E. Gaskin
September 19, 2013
When is a Bluetooth earpiece interesting? When it’s made by a world-famous German audio engineering company, lauded for live performance and studio microphones, recording studio headphones, and studio monitors. When the most common complaint about unobtrusive Bluetooth earpieces is the sound quality (or lack of same), trying an earpiece (often erroneously called a headset) by a professional musical sound company seems appropriate. But is the $199.99 retail price appropriate? In some cases, yes.
The Sennheiser Presence comes in a nice protective case that holds the earpiece, USB Dongle (BTD 800 USB) for use with Universal Communications software on computers to make the Bluetooth connection, and a USB to odd mini-USB cable for charging that’s about five inches long. The car-charger plug doesn’t fit in the case since it will likely stay in your car. Extra earpiece speaker covers and a lighter ear hook also come as standard equipment.
Fit and finish is as good as any Mercedes includes heavy rubberized plastic and a metal piece that slides down to turn on the earpiece. Yes, we looked for the on-off switch and finally checked the Quick Guide for clues.
Pairing with an Android phone is a snap – hold down the “multitouch” button (the Sennheiser S on the earpiece) when turning the unit on, and scan from your phone. A neutral woman’s voice says “Power on. Phone one connected,” when turning the earpiece on after configuration.
The volume up and down buttons are the upper and lower portions of the earpiece on either side of a shiny black stripe that includes the Sennheiser S logo. You can switch the buttons to suit your needs, such as using it in the left ear rather than the right and still have “increase volume” on the top. Press both sides at once when not on a call, and that makes the assignments switch. Press both sides at once during a call, and you engage the mute. Tap the Sennheiser S to answer or hangup from a call. Press and hold one second to reject a call. Press and hold two seconds to accept a second call, or to place your current call on hold. All typical commands, and all work as expected.
Honestly, the best sound we found during out testing was with a $40 Emerson boom-mic headset, like you see people wearing in a call center. The boom puts the mic right in front of the mouth, and people we called thought we were speaking into a landline handset. Small, ubiquitous earpieces, like the Jabra Talk we tested as a comparison to the Sennheiser Presence, place mics on the cheek, not in front of the mouth. Callers all thought the two earpieces sounded muffled, although the Sennheiser performed better in windy conditions.
At least the Sennheiser Presence UC ML looks a little classier and rejects sounds slightly better than the other earpiece we tested. $199.99 retail isn’t out of line with other high-end earpieces, and the Sennheiser looks and performs as well as most and better than some. Those using laptop or computer based softphones will strongly gravitate to the Sennheiser for the BDD 800 USB dongle that turns computers into Bluetooth devices.