Review: Sennheiser MB Pro 2 UC ML

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About three months ago, my wife who works at a law firm, calls me up asking about bluetooth headsets. One of the partners' favorite headsets just died and he was looking for a recommendation on a replacement. Admittedly, this is something I don't often review. I've looked at and reviewed many bluetooth earpieces but not a full-fledged bluetooth headset. Recently, Sennheiser reached out to me to check out their MB Pro 2 UC ML, a premium bluetooth headset for a very specific market. Not just the legal eagle my wife was inquiring for, but anyone with the cash, who spends a great deal of time on their phone or in web meetings (or web-based conference calls) and needs the flexibility of being on calls via smartphone, or via their laptop and an app like Skype or Microsoft's Lynk.

Anyone who has worked in the music or television industry should be familiar with the name Sennheiser. If you have to listen to something or record something, they have a solution that is tried and true. Microphones, headphones, they cover the spectrum and have taken that spectrum and placed it within the MB Pro 2 UC ML. The "MB" stands for "Mobile Business" and the UC is their "unified communications" platform and partner program, while the "ML" signifies that it is optimized for Microsoft Lync. Sennheiser has taken the time to ensure that their headsets that are bluetooth dongle equipped, those that carry the UC branding, work with business communications solutions from IBM, Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Polycom, Skype and more! For you movers and shakers, that's an important distinction as not all headsets work across multiple voice-over-IP solutions. Additionally, the ML means that this particular model is officially certified to work with Skype for Business.

What else do you get with the MB Pro 2 besides an abundance of connectivity? You get a refined headset that is very comfortable to wear on those long conference calls. That comfort is due in part to the leatherette ear pads and a soft, spongy material at two points of contact on the headband. Adding to the comfortable fit is the arms the earpieces are attached to and how they rotate slightly, giving you a more custom fit. The rotating boom has a removable wind cover in case you find yourself in the car wheeling and dealing and it swivels 180* so that you can wear the headset with the boom on the right or left side of your face. Oh, and that refinement I was talking about? You can remap the volume buttons so that volume up/down match your boom move to right or left side wear. On the same earcup as the boom, you'll find the multi-function button which handles the usual functions, call send/end, power on/off, voice dialing, etc. But if pushing buttons is far too pedestrian for you, you can simply place the headset on the stand to end a call, or remove it from the stand to answer one. Naturally! The bottom of that earcup is where you'll find the volume rocker which also handles mute functionality. Sennheiser makes two versions of this headset, the MB Pro 1 and this, the MB Pro 2. The "1" is a single earpiece design and the "2" has two earpieces which also allows you to listen to music through the headset as it supports those audio streaming bluetooth profiles. The MB Pro 2 also comes with a nice weighted stand which supports fast charging and recharges your headset to 7.5 hours of talk time in 40 minutes, or a full 15 hours talk time in 2.5 hours.

Also in the box for the UC models is a bluetooth dongle which supports several bluetooth audio profiles including narrowband and wideband A2DP audio profiles. The dongle also provides extended coverage so that the normal 10 meter (30ft) range for bluetooth expands to 25 meters (82ft). If you're someone who likes to talk and walk, or pace the floor, this is definitely a big plus.

So, how's the MB Pro 2 "experience." Well, to put it plainly, this premium device with a premium price tag is a premium experience. I've had all manner of headsets that beep and boop and talk to me to give me status updates on battery life and connectivity, but this is one of the most complete and well-rounded experiences I've had on a bluetooth device. Often the devices I've used have had a couple of voice status updates, like "Power on" but then beeped or chirped for the other notifications, or gave me some sound for powering on, then gave me voice notifications for battery state, but not the full range of device states. The MB Pro 2 will give you an approximation of how much battery life you have left, being a multipoint device it will tell you which device you're currently connected to (phone 1, 2 or the dongle), tell you when you're in pairing mode, and a few other voice prompts. There are also LED notifications for the various device states and statuses if you prefer to look at your device, or don't have it on your head to hear the voice prompts.

Most people are used to having only one earpiece on while speaking to people on the phone, but with two earpieces, you're having your conversations in "stereo" which can be kind of weird for some until you acclimate. The MB Pro 2 has a unique sound setting called "Room Experience" which is supposed to make the caller on the other end feel like they're right there with you in the same room. While I can't say that I felt like callers were standing next to me, the sound quality was impressive and oddly "natural." Coupled with the HD Voice calling that I already get from my service with T-Mobile, the "Room Experience" enhancement adds a spatial quality to calls which does give them a presence which feels like you're having a conversation with someone in the same room. It doesn't sound stilted or artificial as some sound enhancement effects can.

One of the use cases I can see being advantageous is for those who find themselves in a co-working space. Having the two earpieces helps give you some level of noise cancelation and allows you to focus more on the call on the line. Add to that the support for music and when you're not on a call, you can stream a podcast, music playlist or whatever keeps you going through your day. Of course, when a call comes in, the media you were playing will pause and give preference to the incoming call then resume when you hang up. And while we're on the subject of playing media, you'll have to temper your expectations. Though the music I played through the headphones was pretty well rounded, these aren't the Urbanites or HD 29's. What you get when you listen to music is a somewhat "weak" projection with regard to volume, but at the lower volume, the sound reproduction is still fairly well rounded with the highs, mids and lows well pronounced. Now, when I say "weak" that's in comparison to other, dedicated music headphones. In songs with heavy bass, you may experience the mids and lows mushing into each other just a bit but this is a "telecommunications" headset and for what it is, the sound reproduction is actually more than sufficient.

My current favorite earpiece for its sound quality and overall refinement is Plantronics' Voyager Legend UC and I have to say that the MB Pro 2 is definitely a cut above in a few areas though it isn't really a completely fair comparison. One is a single-ear device while the other is binaural. Also, my current Voyager isn't so current. It's about two-years old and the MB Pro 2 is newer. That said, the only feature I think this headset is missing is caller ID announce and, frivolous I know, the ability to change voices. That said, I don't think those are features most people will miss, given how I think most buyers will be using this device. If you're using it with your computer, or for conference calls, or maybe you spend much of your day using this connected to your office phone, caller ID announce isn't quite an issue. Ultimately though, what you get is a very well thought out, very well refined headset that should make your countless hours spent closing deals and developing new business relationships just a bit easier to handle. Or, at the very least, all that hype and hot air will sound better.

Disclosure: Sennheiser sent me a demo unit of the MB Pro 2 UC ML for the purpose of the review.