Wednesday, 05 September 2018 21:01

Review: Sennheiser SDW 5016 3-in-1 DECT business headphone


German audio company Sennheiser is well known for its quality headsets. The latest business offering is the SDW 5016 3-in-1 DECT system which provides device-agnostic all-day comfort for the busy professional.

Sennheiser is no stranger to audio. It’s a rare airport where you won’t find Sennheiser noise-cancelling headsets on sale.

The SDW 5016 is fundamentally a headset, with a docking station that charges the headset and lets you plug in your desk phone. It includes a USB Bluetooth adapter you can use in your non-Bluetooth computer to pair the headset with it also.

The headset offers a conventional business unit look with a light over-the-head band, and a single earphone and microphone on one side, leaving your other ear free. This means you can keep the headset on for lengthy periods, poised to jump on a call, while still fully participating in conversations around you. In fact, you can adjust the headset to fit either ear, or to be an ear-hook instead of a headband, and also to fit around your neck instead, giving versatility and comfort across the day.

By “3-in-1” Sennheiser refers to the headset’s support for conventional DECT-compliant desk phones, as well as softphones on your desktop or laptop, and for mobile phones or tablets.

This gives you flexibility in working across many different devices throughout the day, as well as lasting through your organisation’s evolution from conventional PABX systems through to VoIP platforms, moving from desk phones to softphones and remote working.

Now, there’s no magic here, with Bluetooth the order of the day. You could use your usual Bluetooth earbuds to make and receive softphone or mobile phone calls but if your office is anything like mine people will come and talk to you incessantly, not noticing the subtle clues of your mouth moving, words coming out of it, and the small buds in your ear. What’s needed really is a flashing light, almost broadcasting “on air” like your own personal radio station. Thankfully, the SDW 5016 does this very thing with a red ‘busy’ light – and it worked! My many visitors would come by my office, take a look, and keep moving. Thank you, Sennheiser!

The device brings forth natural, rich sounds and crisp, clear speech. The boom microphone picks up your voice easily, with a second microphone detecting external noises and cancelling them out.

The SDW 5016 is optimised for unified communications and is certified compatible with Skype for Business, Unify, Cisco, Avaya, Polycom and Mitel. It is also DECT security certified with 128-bit encryption over-the-air. Systems administrators can lock down Bluetooth pairing, conferencing, and call merging if required in secure environments.

Sennheiser says you can walk up to 180 metres from the base station and keep talking. This varies based on line-of-sight but in a typical office you can reasonably expect to get 55 metres without disruption. Then, talk for up to 10 hours with narrowband audio or up to six hours with super wideband audio, and simply dock the headset to charge up to 50% within 30 minutes.

In iTWire’s testing we found it truly flexible – in how to wear it, in the concurrent devices I could connect it to, and how free it was to walk about, working hands-free, while answering calls from a range of sources. The audio was high quality, and even in noisy locations both the caller and receiver talked freely and clearly. It’s secure and works effortlessly with all popular VoIP options including Microsoft Teams and Office 365 calling.

As the bulk of the smarts are in the base station it’s not a super-portable option — you can’t use it while driving, for example — but you could realistically take it to remote offices. The base station includes a USB-A port for charging your smartphone, letting you get away with still just one power socket.

For corporate users, the long lifetime and the voice quality are highly compelling. It’s also worth noting up to four headsets can be paired with the one base station giving you a great option for conference calls or training in a call centre, for example.

The Sennheiser SDW 5016 has a recommended retail price of $599 but can be found online for under $500.


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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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