German-based Sennheiser, best known for its high-end consumer products, has been making a concerted drive into the commercial headset space. It has added a new asset to that strategy, with the introduction of the MB 660 Series. It not only adds active noise cancellation (ANC) to their commercial portfolio for the first time, but possesses an adaptive capability the company thinks will differentiate it in the market.
Sennheiser, which trails Plantronics and Jabra in the commercial space, has had to combat identification of its brand with the consumer market, but says that is now changing.
“Our brand recognition is definitely going up,” said Bill Whearty, Sennheiser’s Vice President, Sales and Marketing, CC&O – Americas. “On the professional side, while our microphones were very well known, our headphones were still identified with consumer. We still get people walking up to our booth at shows and say they didn’t know we make commercial headsets, but we get less every year, and have really made strides in the last year.”
Sennheiser has been making ANC headsets on the consumer side for years, but never brought the technology over to the commercial side until now.
“We could have moved the technology to commercial years ago, but it took us a long time to release it there, because we wanted to optimize it,” Whearty said. We believe that we have one that with adaptive noise cancelling technology.”
Adaptive noise cancelling provides a choice of two ANC settings. One is ANC fully on. The other uses Sennheiser’s NoiseGard adaptive ANC, technology, which constantly monitors the background environment for ambient noises and adapts the level of noise reduction in the headset.
“Too much noise cancelling can be like being in space,” Whearty said. “Competitor products don’t have the ability to adjust the amount of noise.”
The MB 660 series, like other products of this type, is designed for the modern office, where the decline of the cubicle and increase in open space creates a lot of additional noise. Whearty thinks that Sennheiser’s new products may be more popular with younger office workers, however.
“A trend that I’m increasingly hearing is that companies are seeking a product like this for their millennial workers,” he said. “For years, the trend in commercial headsets has been smaller and lighter, smaller and lighter. But in the consumer market, headsets have been getting bigger, and millennials are comfortable with that. Companies want to be able to offer them to millennials in the office environment. Road warriors still want smaller and lighter, but this is aimed at younger workers brought up on larger headphones. It’s mobile, so that they can take it and use it on a plane.”
The MB 660 is certified for Microsoft Skype for Business and optimized for all major UC and softphone brands. Its fully integrated, three digital microphone array works seamlessly with Sennheiser’s suite of advanced technologies – SpeakFocus, Advanced Own-Voice-Detector and WindSafe – to deliver superior sound and speech intelligibility, even in noisy environments. It also offers a choice of sound effect modes – Club, Movie and Speech – to optimize for music, movies, or talking.
Pricing is being finalized but will be in the range of competitor products, which are in the $USD 400-500 range.
“This will list in the $450 US range, so it is a premium product, and not something that will go into a 500 seat contact centre because the cost would be too high,” Whearty said. We released the consumer version of this a couple months ago, and that was at $USD 399. The commercial version has a better mic, with Windsafe technology, and Skype certification.”
Sennheiser’s commercial business is 100 per cent channel, and the MB 660 is available to partners now.
“We are excited about this product,” Whearty said. “It has been a long time coming.”