When looking for a new headset, and you want it to help remove unwanted background noise, you tend to put a lot of focus on those headset features that help to accomplish this.
You’re looking for things like:
- Active noise cancellation
- Noise cancelling microphone
- Ultra noise cancelling microphone
- Digital Signal Processing
- And more . . .
One such feature that’s found on select headsets by Poly, formerly known as Plantronics, is the microphone feature Poly refers to as “Acoustic Fence” technology. So what is Acoustic Fence technology anyway?
Here’s what Poly has listed on their website pertaining to Acoustic Fence:
“Acoustic Fence is designed to minimize the impact of nearby noises (e.g. people talking in the next room or hallway) on Polycom-powered video and audio calls."
Essentially, Acoustic Fence uses multiple mics (minimum of 2) to create a virtual “fence” between the noise source and the meeting participants. Once enabled, sounds outside of the fence are either blocked entirely or reduced.
Acoustic Fence includes two different elements that often work in tandem:
Smart Gating – a function that closes (gates) the microphones when sound from only outside the fence area is detected
Spectral Subtraction – a function that attempts to reduce (or even eliminate) sounds that originate from outside the fence area
Sounds complicated don’t you think? Well, at least for non-Audio Engineers like me it does. With that in mind, I wanted to put the Poly Blackwire 8225 to the test and see how well that Acoustic Fence technology performs.
I chose the Blackwire 8225 because in the Poly datasheet, it states that the 8225 has Acoustic Fence microphone technology. I thought it would be interesting to compare the audio qualities of that headset to a different Poly headset model that’s considered to be an entry level model, the Blackwire 3225.
The Blackwire 3225 has a noise cancelling microphone, but it doesn’t have Acoustic Fence technology. By headset standards, the 3225 is an inexpensive, entry level model.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking that the Blackwire 8225 that has Acoustic Fence technology is going to seriously outperform the 3225.You might be right, but then again. . . Stick around, and I’ll let you know how the tests went.
Before I do, however, I wanted to let you know that I recorded a video of this very subject. A lot of people prefer to watch video content more than reading it. If you’re one of those people, then for sure check out my video.
In it, you can not only see the products I’m testing, but you’ll be able to hear them, and how they both sound. I’ll drop my video below for convenience.
In my tests, I did these three things:
- I connected both headsets up the same way, and used the same settings for volume etc. and then just talked. This was to give you an idea how both headsets sound without introducing any distracting noise.
- I played some coffee shop noise to replicate being in a Starbucks coffee shop for example using your laptop, talking on a Softphone.
- I cranked up a blender in my immediate background to see how well both headsets performed to remove that loud, annoying blender sound. Yes, a work environment won’t have a blender humming in the background, or at least it shouldn’t. I chose the blender because it’s really noisy, and it challenges a headset's ability to remove that sound.
Ok, with that as the backdrop, here’s how the Blackwire 8225 with Acoustic Fence technology compared to an entry level Blackwire 3225 with a standard noise cancelling microphone.
Test #1 - How well does it pick up my voice?
In this test, the Blackwire 8225 sounded richer and louder. Overall, it just had a more desirable sound when speaking. When you compare this sound to the sound you get from the Blackwire 3225, it’s easy to hear the sound improvement on the 8225.
Test #1 results goes to the Blackwire 8225.
Test #2 - How well does the headset do to remove coffee shop noise?
Much to my surprise, the Blackwire 3225 did a better job, in my opinion, to remove the coffee shop noise. When I listened back on this a few times, even closing my eyes, I heard more of the background noise with the 8225, than I did with the Blackwire 3225. Given that the Blackwire 8225 comes with the Acoustic Fence feature, I was taken back a bit by these results.
Test #2 results goes to the Blackwire 3225, entry level headset.
Test #3 - How well does the headset do to remove the sounds of a blender in the background?
I turned the blender on high and kept it there while talking. If the headset is doing its job properly, you’ll hear my voice and not the sound of the blender humming in the background. I also paused talking to hear how much of the background noise was heard without the presence of an active voice.
Once again, to my further surprise, the entry level, standard noise cancelling microphone Blackwire 3225 did a better job to remove the blender sound. Listening several times it was clear that you heard more of the blender sound through the Blackwire 8225.
Test #3 results goes to the Blackwire 3225 entry level headset.
Unless there’s a serious flaw in my testing methodology, it would appear that the Acoustic Fence technology noted in the Blackwire 8225 isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. This is evidenced by some simple sound tests where an inexpensive headset model outperformed the more expensive more fully featured headset.
Is the Blackwire 8225 worth the money? Only you can answer that question. If the focus of a purchase is removing background noise, I personally would give it a pass in favor of selecting a different headset model that’s more cost effective, that in the end, will do every bit as good as the 8225, or as we’ve noted here, maybe even better.
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