Sennheiser MB 660
The problem of noisy offices just won’t go away. Steelcase research shows that distractions cost workers 86 minutes every day and, according to the Leesman Index 2014, only 28% of workers are satisfied with acoustic conditions at work.
Larger organisations with deep pockets can address the problem by installing sound-masking/blocking solutions and by creating a greater diversity of work environments, including areas for collaboration, concentration, teamwork and relaxation. But what about smaller organisations that don’t have the resources to spend on an office redesign? What can they do to overcome the problem of noise and distractions?
One option might be to invest in noise-cancelling headphones like the new Sennheriser MB 660. This premium Bluetooth headset is so packed with technology that it is the only headset a knowledge worker will need, however varied and diverse their workload or the environments they choose to work in.
Perfect for collaboration via unified communications, for blocking out noise, for making calls from a noisy café or shared workspace or for playing music, the MB 660 combines the features of a business-grade UC headset and music/entertainment headphones in one device.
Through smart technology and clever product design, it satisfies three key demands of knowledge workers:
1 The ability to block out distractions for focus and concentration;
2 Business-grade communications with clear sound in all environments, reliable talk-time and compatibility with UC systems; and
3 Good quality audio for listening to music or movies.
An office chair for your head
The first thing to note about the MB 660 is its design, which, uniquely in Sennheiser’s contact centre & office (CC&O) range, has more in common with music headphones than office headsets. This and the use of soft black leather, brushed metals and generous padding on the headband and ear cups give an impression of luxury and comfort.
Closer inspection reveals clever design details, like the rotating ear cups that turn the headset on and off and allow the MB 660 to be folded for easy storage; the flat-sided ‘cans’ incorporating a touchpad for call, volume and music control; and switches offering a choice of noise cancellation settings and pre-set audio effect modes.
In this respect, the MB 660 is like a luxurious ergonomic chair – you first notice its great design and then the little buttons and levers that let you customise the seating experience to suit your personal preferences.
The MB 660’s most notable feature in this context is adaptive Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) – an industry first.
An established feature of many headsets, ANC is successful at blocking out background noise, but is not to everyone’s taste – it can be isolating and some find the sensation of complete silence claustrophobic. As one Sennheiser sound engineer put it to Technology Reseller, “people think they want silence when what they really want is comfort”.
The MB 660 improves wearer comfort by offering a choice of ANC modes: off; on; and adaptive ANC. ‘On’ provides exceptional noise cancellation though Sennheiser’s Hybrid ANC technology, which removes both high and low frequency noise.
For those who prefer a low level of background noise, Adaptive ANC, lets you specify the sound level at which ANC is activated. This is done by moving a slider along a bar in Sennheiser’s Captune app, which can also be used to customise music settings.
Another interesting feature of the MB 660, TalkThrough aids communication and stops headset wearers from unnecessarily raising their voices by opening a clear communication channel between the headset wearer and their surrounding environment. Instead of having to take off your headset when a colleague comes up to ask a question, just double-tap the touchpad to hear clearly what they are saying, then double-tap again to close down the communication channel.
TalkThrough is also useful when travelling, as it makes it possible to listen to announcements or communicate with cabin staff without removing one’s headset.
Other features that contribute to a more natural user experience include Room Experience, which creates the impression that the person you are communicating with is in the same room – this also reduces listener fatigue when using the headset for long periods; the SpeakFocus array of three digital microphones for filtering out surrounding noise; and Advanced Own Voice Detection, which detects when a person is speaking and reduces microphone sensitivity when they are not, so that the noise of their typing or paper-shuffling is not picked up. (The University of California, Irvine recently warned of the dangers of ‘typing and Skyping’ after researchers showed it was possible to record background typing noise and convert the sound into text.)
Despite its attractive consumer qualities, the MB 660 is at heart a business-grade UC headset. It works easily across multiple devices and platforms; it is supplied in two versions optimised for Microsoft and for other UC systems; it comes with a choice of connectivity – Bluetooth, NFC and USB, for charging and wired back-up when the battery runs low; and it can receive UC system updates and be managed by the IT department remotely.
The MB 660 costs £385 (ex VAT).