Cisco Headset 500 Series Review: Something for Every User
Cisco’s 2018 headsets offer six differentiated telephony options at a competitive price point
When you think of the best headsets for collaboration, Cisco probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind. However, the company has made deep in-roads into business headsets over the last couple of years. The Cisco Headset 500 Series was among its first releases in this segment, available since March 2018. They were envisioned as an accompanying device for its highly popular IP phones.
Cisco sells millions of IP phones every year, but the telephony experience is limited by the quality of headset that you use with it. This becomes even more complex when you transition from a traditional, cubicle-based office to a more modern, open-plan layout. Headsets inevitably let noise creep in, hampering the collaboration experience. Here’s where solutions like the Cisco Headset 500 Series come in. It offers a bevy of features to make open-space collaboration easier, and that too at a compelling cost component.
Let’s quickly review the features of the Cisco Headset 500 Series to understand what makes this a good choice for you.
Inside the Cisco Headset 500 Series
Right off the bat, it should be noted that the Cisco Headset 500 Series is compatible only with Cisco Ip phones and soft clients. While there is DECT 6.0 wireless technology available, it only helps Cisco phones detect when a headset is in the proximity. In other words, the Cisco Headset 500 Series is for those already in the Cisco ecosystem. Here are some of its key features:
- Basic features – The Cisco Headset 500 Series is available in three categories: the entry-level 521, and 522, the more advanced 531 and 532, and the sophisticated 561 and 562. Obviously, there are some features common to all of these devices – for example, Cisco has been careful to include noise isolation and premium audio across the board
The mic captures wide bandwidth sound, there is an impressive degree of acoustic sensitivity, and balanced noise reduction delivers a crisp, natural-sounding sound. The Cisco Headset 500 Series even performs audio shaping to finetune the inbound audio.
- Features for 521 and 522 – As mentioned, these are the two entry-level models, with the 521 offering a single earpiece and the 522 giving you a dual earpiece with padded headbands. Both models come with the standard 3.5 mm jack, and in-line USB adapter. The adapter is particularly useful for call control, such as answering calls, modulating volumes, going on mute, etc.
- Features for 531 and 532 – Apart from the basic and entry-level features we listed, the Cisco Headset 531 and 532 come with high-cycle quick disconnect. This means that you can plugin and unplug headsets between shifts, without a complex booting process. The RJ9 cabling option enables this additional feature
- Features for 561 and 562 (with standard base) – The most advanced variants of the Cisco Headset 500 Series give you some level of wireless flexibility, thanks to the in-package base station. You can choose between a standard or a multibase station – which we are going to look at a little later
With the standard base, you get up to 300 feet roaming, powered by DECT technology. There is on-ear control (no adapter needed) as well as a dedicated music mode at 48-kHz. A nifty feature we liked here is the 561/562’s auto-answering capabilities. Where the headset is undocked, calls will be automatically answered, and placing the headset on the dock or base will end the call.
- Features for 561 and 562 (with multibase station) – The multibase offers several extra features, apart from the ones already there in the standard station. Its biggest USP is multi-device connectivity – you can connect the headsets to several IP phones at once and there are buttons on the station to answer calls. We were impressed by the availability of Bluetooth, letting you connect mobile phones as well.
Why the Cisco Headset 500 Series Makes a Difference
The obvious differentiator in this series is its sheer range – you could go for a bare-bones, wired headset with a single earpiece at as low as $90. Or you could opt for an advanced multibase station Bluetooth headset that connects with devices outside the Cisco ecosystem. For large teams with diverse telephony needs, switching to the Cisco Headset 500 Series makes perfect sense.
What We Think
Given that these are early days for Cisco headsets, the 500 Series is pretty close to the intended mark. It gives you plenty of options for every employee category, the sound quality is definitely above average, and the design (particularly the 522, 532, and 562 with padded headsets) makes comfort a priority. In short, the Cisco Headset 500 Series is a great option for business telephony in the mid-tier segment.