The Poly brand is known, if at all, for headsets. Not the cool VR headsets, but phone headsets for the workplace.
With the Voyager Free 60 product line, there are also in-ear headphones. The top model is the Free 60+ UC ( Approx. 315 euros online). I tested whether they are only business or whether they can also party.
“Thumbs up from the IT department”
At first impression, there is a bourgeois alarm. The manufacturer’s website defines the In-ears as “the best work partner” for “efficient meetings, focused work, and relaxed free time.”
The anti-killer argument, at least for someone who doesn’t have a suit workplace: “Your IT department will be happy too since it’s certified to work with the latest meeting platforms” and “Thumbs up from the IT department. ” My willingness to pay 315 euros (!) for in-ears to make my IT department happy is limited.
Large charging case with added value
Once you have overcome this first “business first” shock, the second comes the charging case. Compared to other current in-ears, it is very large. After all, it’s smaller than that of the Bragi The Dash. However, they came out in 2015 and were the first commercial true wireless in-ear headphones.
The reason for the large case is the built-in touchscreen. It displays the current status and allows you to control some functions. A bit disappointing is that the touchscreen is just a square in the Middle of the charging case and doesn’t even reach the edges vertically. The feeling is reminiscent of early smartwatches, where the displays were set in wide housings.
The charging case is a bit too easy to open. In a backpack or large bag, you should put it in a small side pocket to prevent it from opening and the headphones from falling out.
Contact-friendly via dongle and cable
After all, the size of the case is used sensibly. Inside is a USB-A Bluetooth dongle. It is already paired with the in-ears. The dongle, in this case, is a great idea. So you can always use the wireless headphones, even on PCs, Macs, or work computers that don’t have Bluetooth – or on which the “satisfied” IT department has blocked Bluetooth.
If even the USB ports are blocked, or there are none, the Free 60+ UC can still be used wirelessly. A USB-C to 3.5mm jack cable is included in the scope of delivery. This allows you to plug the charging case into a standard 3.5mm jack. This then serves as a wireless transmitter to the headphones.
This not only works on the PC but also on the plane, with the Nintendo Switch, the game controllers from Xbox One/Series, PS4 and PS5, etc. There is no space for the cable in or on the case: So you have to pack it consciously if you want to use the Free 60+ UC with potentially Bluetooth and USB-A-less devices.
Bluetooth with two sources at the same time
The in-ears can be connected to 2 Bluetooth sources simultaneously, one of which can also be the dongle. Switching between a notebook or Windows PC with a dongle and a smartphone works automatically. If you are playing content on the PC and the phone rings, it automatically switches to the mobile phone.
It doesn’t run quite as smoothly when you play music on your smartphone, for example, via Spotify, and open a video on your PC. Here the video pauses automatically after about 2 seconds, and there is no sound. PC playback is only possible if you pause Spotify on your smartphone. Too bad it doesn’t work fully automatically.
Comfort ok, design meh.
The in-ears themselves look a bit like Airpods deformed in the heat. You insert them straight and turn them forward. The microphone is then pointed toward the mouth, which improves the transmission, but aesthetically it looks a bit like someone bought fake Airpods and didn’t know how to wear them properly.
By the way: The instructions correctly show that the microphone should be aligned in an imaginary line to the mouth. In the official advertising images that can be seen on the website, however, the in-ears are worn less turned forward. The microphone here is more oriented towards the tip of the chin or even below it. Works worse but looks better in photos.
Angle of the Free 60+ UC
Turning it forward is not only intended for the microphone but also increases the hold in the ear. If you wear the in-ears like in the advertising pictures, they sit looser in the ear. This worsens the active noise cancellation (ANC) and the sound because only turning it forward makes it “tight.”
If you don’t value ANC and good sound (then why spend 315 euros on in-ears? Oh yes, to make the IT department happy), you can wear them easily. That’s more convenient, then. Correctly rotated to the front, I noticeably feel the Free 60+ UC in my ears. It’s not painful; I wouldn’t want to spend a long-haul flight like this.
Three sizes of silicone plugs are included for adjustment. The small ones are more comfortable for me than the normal-sized ones, although I usually wear “medium” for in-ears. However, the small ones seal the ear canal less tightly, which leads to a loss of performance in ANC and sound.
Operation at the ear
The in-ears have a well-positioned button. This pauses/starts playback and is used for picking up and hanging up. Press and hold to open Siri or Google Assistant. There is no assignment for repeated pressing (e.g., pressing twice for the next song).
A touch sensor on the top can be felt through the other material. This is primarily used to change the volume. However, the sensor does not always react, and the wiping movement usually ends with the user unintentionally touching the ear.
Operation on the charging case display
If you want to jump to the next song or back, you must use your smartphone – or the charging case. In addition to volume, forwards, and backward, ANC and transparency can also be switched on – i.e., if you want external noise to be passed through. Otherwise, you can still see the remaining battery life as a bar (unfortunately, not as an estimated remaining life) and the currently connected devices.
The display reacts sluggishly to inputs, but they are usually recognized correctly. Besides that, it’s a missed opportunity. There are no widgets or plugins. I don’t see the current song on the display. You can’t make any sound profile settings, either.
The only added value is getting to the ANC and Transparency settings quicker than opening the Poly Lens companion app on your phone and navigating through the submenus. However, you have to have the case ready to hand. Because it is relatively thick, it may not fit comfortably in every pocket.
Controlling the display makes a little more sense if you use the case as a wireless transmitter. Here the case is probably closer to the hand than the smartphone, and you can control the volume independently of the output volume of the connected device. If you use the in-ears with a PC or notebook, operation via the case makes the least sense since, in most cases, you have your hand on the mouse or touchpad anyway.
Features and battery life
Measured against the price, the remaining features are rather sparse. A wearing detection feature pauses playback when you take the headphones out of your ear. This works, but only with a 2-second delay. There is no speaking, so the song is automatically paused and switched to transparency mode. There is also no equalizer, only three selectable sound profiles. Also missing: setting profiles, such as “Work,” “On the road,” or “Home,” as well as a low-latency mode for games and support for the LDAC codec.
According to the manufacturer, the battery lasts 5.5 hours with mixed use with telephony/voice chats and 8 hours with pure playback with ANC. Based on my experience, 4.5 hours of mixed-use and 6 to 6.5 hours of just playback is realistic. The charging case provides energy for two more full charges. Under everyday conditions, that would be an additional 9 hours for mixed-use and about 13 hours for pure playback.
The charging case is charged via a USB-C connection. Wireless charging is possible with Qi wireless-compatible devices.
Surprisingly good sound
Although the in-ears are aimed very much at business customers, you can party with them properly. The sound is powerful, with a prominent bass without overpowering song details.
However, this only applies if you use sufficiently large silicone earplugs and the in-ears are rotated to the right angle. Otherwise, there is insufficient pressure behind it, and the sound is noticeably weaker and, at best, average. If everything is right, there is a fat sound that does not lose quality even at higher volumes.
Three sound profiles instead of a real equalizer
The default sound profile, “Bass,” works very well for most music genres and action-packed games and films. You can select the “Treble” profile in the app for audiobooks, TED talks, or quieter films. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do any good for most songs, even if you deliberately want to reinforce the vocals. The highs often sound too sharp, which is uncomfortable at higher volumes.
The third selectable sound profile is “Middle. “ This is most likely an attempt at a neutral sound profile. But there is a lack of clarity here. This does not come close to the reference sound offered by similarly priced headphones from other manufacturers. “Middle” actually sounds bland without offering any advantages.
Good voice transmission
For telephony, voice, and video chats, you can leave “lows”; it doesn’t have a negative effect. Your voice is transmitted loud and clear.
Side and background noises are well suppressed. The wind can also be heard very little when you are out and about. Sometimes the transmitted voice seems too far away if you don’t consciously speak loudly and clearly.
Active noise cancellation is only moderately effective
As surprisingly good as the sound is, the ANC is surprisingly sobering. Whether you set it to “Adaptive” or “Standard, “it’s average. As with cheaper in-ears, almost only low frequencies are filtered, such as train and aircraft noise.
That doesn’t help much in everyday office life. Employee voices and telephone calls are only slightly suppressed acoustically. The hammering of colleagues on the keyboard, who seem to be furiously typing their articles or have an open invoice with the keyboard, is only slightly dampened. The headphones from Sony and other manufacturers can do this much better.
The transparency mode serves its purpose, but it sounds very unnatural. Here you have the choice to focus on voices. This makes voices more audible than in regular mode, but they also sound unnatural. That’s why I prefer the in-ears out of my ears when talking to people face-to-face – it’s also more polite.
Should you buy the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC? No. Should you let your employer buy them for you? Yes! Poly (formerly Plantronics, since 2022 a subsidiary of HP) is traditionally aimed at business customers, If they are generous, as an employee, you can count yourself lucky to get the Free 60+ UC as a work tool.
However, the high price is not justified from the end customer’s point of view. The display in the case feels too much like a first attempt – like something that needs at least another generation to make sense. The moderate ANC contrasts with the very good sound. And for the high connectivity via Bluetooth, dongle, or 3.5mm jack, you have to do without some standard features in this price segment. For 80 to 100 euros less, the Free 60+ UC would be a nice overall package, but for 315 euros, it lacks sophistication.