VXi is a leading manufacturer of headsets for professional applications. While they are not especially well-known in consumer circles, their products can be found in offices and call centers around the world. They have been very helpful, cooperating with us in our effort to evaluate USB headsets for use by interpreters.
The VXi Envoy Office is one of their newest models. If you examine our list of headsets recommended for interpreters you’ll find a couple of the company’s older and more costly models, which have long been favorites. Offered for just $40 USD, the Envoy Office is one of their most affordable headsets.
The challenge in offering a very affordable headset is to deliver the required audio performance, while maintaining robust construction and durability. To be a good value, it must deliver the performance and be affordable, without suffering shoddy construction, leading to it becoming unreliable.
Weighing in at 4.5 ounces, the Envoy Office is a relatively light, supra-aural headset…meaning that the earpieces rest on-the-ears. The plastic headband provides enough pressure to keep the headset in place. Soft foam cushions ensure that it’s comfortable.
The foam items (ear cushions and wind screen) are replaceable, which hints that the headset can be “refreshed” over time if required.
While principally designed for voice applications, the 36mm drivers are rated for 20 Hz – 20 KHz. The headset provides stereo audio playback adequate for appreciating better music-on-hold, or listening to a little music between calls.
The microphone is boom mounted (yeah!) with a bi-directional noise-cancelling design rated to pass 100 Hz – 10 KHz. VXi claims that 83% of ambient noise is suppressed. This is difficult to measure outside of a studio or laboratory. It implies that very little of the ambient noise of the users workspace (fan, computer, air conditioner, etc.) will be conveyed to those listening at the far-end.
The boom arm is adjustable through nearly 300 degrees of arc. This allows the headset to be worn with the microphone boom on the left or right, depending upon the users preference. The boom rotation is relatively stiff, with 24 detents acting to secure it. Once in the desired position the boom stays securely in place.
The boom is also flexible. It can be bent to adjust the distance between the mouth and microphone. This accommodates various head shapes and sizes, ensuring that the microphone can be positioned out of the breath stream. This is important since no-one wants to hear the Darth Vader effect.
A USB-connected headset, the Envoy Office has a 6 foot long cord with inline controls about half-way along the wire. The wire itself is reasonably stout without being stiff. It gives the impression that it won’t be easily damaged.
The inline controls (pictured right) include volume up/down, microphone mute and hook-state. A red LED indicates when the microphone is muted.
When connected to a USB-capable desk phone or an enterprise class soft phone (think Cisco or Microsoft) a green LED lights to indicate off-hook status when a call is in progress. The call button answers or hangs-up the current call.
The buttons functions are indicated by a symbol molded into each button. On my Envoy Office the symbols on the volume buttons were obvious enough, but the symbols on the mute and hook state buttons were difficult to see.
Since this review is primarily in service of interpreters use ZipDX, we evaluated the Envoy Office using the ZipDX ZipLine 3.0 web phone accessed from the Chrome web browser. We used the headset over a period of several months, with both Windows and Mac systems.
In the world of telecom, “Double-talk” is the term used to describe when someone is both listening to sound from the far-end and speaking at the same time. We prefer USB headsets for their simplicity of use, but there are some that don’t reliably deliver high-quality sound, in both directions, at the same time. Thus this is the first thing that we evaluate when trying a new USB headset.
Happily, the VXi Envoy Office passes our double-talk test. With a recording playing into the earpieces it will consistently pass high-quality, wideband audio from the microphone. This ensures that an interpreter using the Envoy Office will be heard clearly, even as they are hearing what’s been said on the floor.
More generally, the headset is comfortable to wear, even for extended periods. It sounds good and delivers good quality results to the distant audience.
Curious about our testing process? Here’s a detailed description of how we test for double-talk problems with USB audio devices.
The following observations were made on my desktop computer running Windows 10. When connected the Envoy Office is automatically recognized by the computer. It does not require a device driver to be installed.
The various properties for the listening experience can be accessed in the Sound tool by selecting the headset on the “Playback” tab. Then click on Properties.
The primary playback setting is the volume control. Since that’s more conveniently available elsewhere there’s little reason to go digging for it in the Sound settings.
The settings impacting microphone behavior are more relevant to an interpreter using the headset. These are accessed by selecting the Recording tab, selecting Headset Microphone from the list, then clicking on Properties.
There are two settings available that bear examination:
On the “Custom” tab (above left) you find a single tick box for the ACG, aka the “Automatic Gain Control,”
On the “Levels” tab (above right) there is a slider that controls the microphone volume.
In many cases AGC can be a convenience, but for interpreters using ZipDX it can also become a problem. It will turn up the microphone volume during periods when you’re not speaking.
When the microphone level is too high it can create echo if the microphone picks up some of the floor sounds that are heard in the earpieces. The person wearing the headset won’t hear the echo, but everyone else on the call hears it!
For this reason, we recommend that you disable AGC and adjust the microphone level manually using the slider on the Levels tab. This is something that you should only need to do once as you get ready for a call.
The very fact that the AGC can be disabled is a feature. It makes the headset more adaptable to different use cases.
Models & Availability
The Envoy Office comes in both single and double-ear version. For interpreters, we highly recommend headsets with two earpieces.
As we have ZipDX customers all around the globe, we strive to recommend products that are broadly available. That said, professional products like the VXI Envoy Office are not likely to be found in local retail stores.
VXi products are available through a global network of specialty resellers. We purchased our sample VXi Envoy Office from Amazon for $40 USD.
It’s very common for an interpreter just beginning to use ZipDX to seek an affordable headset.
Unfortunately, most of the models found in stores are in some way inappropriate. Some simply sound bad. Others have many features for gamers, making them unduly costly and complicated.
The most common, low-cost USB headset found in stores is the Logitech H390. It’s priced about the same as the VXi Envoy Office. While it performs adequately out-of-the-box, the H390 has proven very prone to failure. We’ve had numerous reports of the microphone failing. It would initially deliver crackly sound, then eventually no sound at all.
Clearly, this sort of failure is catastrophic for an interpreter. Yet the Logitech H390 remains very common, based largely upon its widespread availability and attractive price. This reality has motivated our search for a more reliable, low-cost USB headset, like the Envoy Office.
In the Envoy Office VXi have managed to offer a good, basic, USB-attached headset at an attractively low price. It’s both durable and reliable. It manages to be functional and affordable, without feeling cheap.
VXi’s Envoy Office meets the requirements of an interpreter using ZipDX multilingual. It’s equally well-suited to anyone who needs an affordable headset for use with computer based services, whether for conference calls, Blab, Hangouts, Skype or gaming.
- Generally good audio audio performance
- Noise reducing microphone design
- Not flashy/fancy
- Not commonly found in local stores