With their announcement ahead of ISE in January 2023, Poly enhances their audio device product line with the introduction of the Voyager Free 60 enterprise grade earbuds. The Voyager Free 60s are true wireless earbuds and several models are available: Free 60, Free 60 UC, Free 60+ UC, as well as a Microsoft Teams specific model of the 60+ UC. This is an evaluation of the Free 60+ UC earbuds which were supplied to UC Test Lab free of charge by Poly.
Product Name - Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC
Battery life - 5.5 hours talk time, 8 hours listening time (ANC on)
Noise cancellation - Adaptive and Standard, plus Transparency mode
Microphones - 3 microphones per earbud
Connectivity - Bluetooth v5.3
IP rating - IP54 splash and dust resistant
Charging - USB-C to A; Qi wireless certified
Price - $329.95
Weight - 5.8 g
Color - Carbon Black and White Sand
Design and Hardware
Everything needed is shipped with the earbuds. Included in the packaging along with the earbuds are the charging case, Bluetooth dongle (either USB-C or USB-A depending on your purchase), a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a USB-C to 3.5mm audio cable and three sizes of ear tips, with the medium tips pre-installed. Also included is a quickstart guide and a card containing a QR code for quick access to the Poly Lens control app.
Image Source: Poly
Each earbud has a physical button and a swipe sensor for control. Swipe controls can be customized however each earbud will have the same functionality, meaning swiping on the left bud will always perform the same function as swiping on the right, no matter what that function may be. The swipe function can also be disabled. The button is not customizable and is set to answer and end calls, pause music, Bluetooth pairing and activation of Siri or Google Assistant depending on length of press and the application running at the time of press.
The charging case for the Free 60+ UC serves a bigger purpose than just a means to charge and transport the earbuds, although it does provide two additional charges for them. There are several features that should be table stakes for premium charging cases in the future. First, the case has a touch screen that displays battery life as well as provides access to several settings so you don’t need to pull your phone out and open the Lens app every time you want to make adjustments. ANC modes, transparency modes, and connected device source can be changed and new Bluetooth devices can be connected. In addition, music controls for play, pause, skip and volume are available. The case is Qi wireless charging certified and there is a USB-C port for wired charging. This USB-C port is also the connector for one of the more ingenious features of the charging case.
Supplied with the earbuds is a USB-C to 3.5mm cable. Using this cable with a device that has a 3.5mm audio jack creates a bridge between the earbuds and the device with the case serving as a Bluetooth receiver. This is especially useful for air travelers who want to listen to on-board entertainment through the earbuds, but should work with any legacy device with a 3.5mm audio jack.
Image Source: UCTestLab
In our testing, we connected the case to a laptop via its 3.5mm jack and experienced high quality audio. There are, however, some things to understand while connecting the case to a device in this fashion. First, we found volume controls are independent between the case and the device. You may have to turn the volume up on both of them to get the audio level to a desired level. Secondly, the analog audio output is listen only, with no microphone capabilities. Lastly, only the 60+ UC model has the 3.5mm connection capability.
The case also has an interior space to hold the Bluetooth dongle. While a minor feature, this shouldn’t be overlooked for travelers.
Bryan’s take: The charging case is clearly front and center of the user experience and I appreciate the features available. Being able to use the case as an intermediary between the earbuds and a legacy device that has only a 3.5mm connector for audio is a “game changer” to me. The only drawback to the case is its size. If you’re used to tucking away your iPod Pro’s case in your pocket, switching to the Free 60+ UC model might disappoint. However, with all the features the case brings, I personally don’t mind the extra size.
Voyager Free 60 and Apple Airpod Pro first gen cases.
Image Source: UCTestLab
With the earbuds, I like that the swipe and button functionality is the same. It’s a level of simplicity that I like and don’t have to remember what earbud performs what function. I’m sure there are those who would like differing settings, but I appreciate that they are the same.
Audio and ANC
The earbuds have several audio features to ensure excellent call quality. Each earbud has a three-mic array that triangulates on your voice while simultaneously minimizing surrounding noise. There are three active noise canceling (ANC) settings: adaptive, standard and off. The adaptive mode adjusts itself based on earbud fit and movement for on-the-go usage, while standard mode is optimized for office usage. There are also three transparency modes: environment, speech and off. The environment mode provides transparency around the user while speech mode concentrates the transparency in front of the user. Speech mode is excellent for face to face conversations while wearing the earbuds and minimizing noises behind and beside the user.
Bryan’s take: Poly is known in the industry for exceptional audio technology so my expectation was pretty high going into testing the earbuds. Overall the Free 60s perform very well for music listening, general audio and for calling. Remote participants noticed a slight suppression of background noises in calls with no perceived voice degradation. I recommend that these should be used in tandem with a meeting service’s noise suppression for best results. While listening to music, there is full range frequency response with no distortion, indicating a high build quality. On a personal level, I discovered these earbuds didn’t need to be crammed into my ears to achieve a good level of bass response. I can’t say that about many earbuds I’ve tested.
For video calls, the earbuds were tested using Google Meet and Zoom. Incoming and outgoing audio is exceptionally high. The only anomaly I discovered was Transparency Mode being disabled in the Lens Desktop App during Zoom calls and its setting is unavailable as an option on the case. It also appeared that the Transparency Mode automatically changed during my Zoom tests switching to Speech mode. I could tell by the change in the environmental noise when starting a Zoom call. Not a deal breaker, since I prefer Speech mode, but may be off putting to some. While testing in Zoom, I went through all of Zoom’s audio settings, including Music Mode to gauge voice quality changes. Voice quality was high with every setting and the only difference noticed was the amount of ambient noise that was being canceled based on the level of Zoom’s noise suppression. In both Zoom and Meet the mute notification in the client is displayed when muting the microphone via the case. It’s nice to have hardware correctly talking to software in this manner.
Users should test the various combinations of ANC and transparency to find out what works best for them. In my experience, I found that Standard ANC and Speech Transparency provided the best all around performance with hearing my own voice while in meetings. For music listening, I preferred Standard ANC and no Transparency.
Control and Battery
The earbuds are managed via the Poly Lens app, either desktop or mobile device version. They are also enterprise manageable through the cloud via Poly’s Lens service. I’m only touching on the Lens app, mainly because I rarely used it in testing thanks to most of the settings I needed to adjust being available on the case. It’s worth noting however, that the Lens Desktop App does not recognize the earbuds when connected via the 3.5mm connector. But you have the case, so why worry?
I didn’t perform a rundown test for battery life verification, but they are listed as having five and a half hours of talk time or eight hours of listening time with ANC on. The Qi wireless certified case provides an additional two charges with a fast charging capability that gives the user up to 72 minutes of talk time with just a 15 minute charge. If you want to technically break it down, one could get about 33 hours of total consecutive talk time from the earbuds, if you’re willing to try it. Each earbud can be used independent of the other for up to 5.5 hours each, and the case provides two extra charges which gives six total times of 5.5 hours when using one earbud at a time.
As much as I like the earbuds and their audio quality, the charging case is the real superstar making them much more valuable than any other set of earbuds I’ve tested. Poly hit a clear home run with the case. That’s not to say the earbuds themselves are a slouch. They are anything but that, performing up to whatever task I put them through. The Voyager Free 60+ UC earbuds were tested under various conditions using several devices and proved itself more than capable switching between the devices with little to no issues using the case. I did notice that at times, the device listed on the case changed from the computer name to BT700 and sometimes had BT700 listed twice, based on my workflow described below.
There is one use case I became particularly fond of while testing. Having tested numerous devices from Poly has left me with spare BT700 Bluetooth dongles. While testing the earbuds, I connected the supplied BT700 to a desktop PC and a spare to a laptop, while also maintaining a connection to my iPhone. While the earbuds only have active connections to two devices at a time, it remembers up to eight total devices. Switching connections back and forth between devices is as seamless as I’ve ever noticed with a Bluetooth device with the exception that sometimes the device was listed as my computer’s name and sometimes it was listed as BT700. The switching is quick enough though that it is only a minor inconvenience.
Should you buy them?
I segment products that I review into four categories to determine who the product is most suited for.
Who - the necessary experience level required from the user, novice through expert
When - the amount of time expected to use the product from rarely through often
Where - where the product will be used, dedicated home office, mobile, multiple devices and locations
Why - specific use cases
Who? The Free 60’s are appropriate for all experience levels. They are easy to pair and use with mobile devices and laptops as well as transitioning between multiple devices. While they are easy to use and beginner friendly, expert users should find enough settings and features to dial in the best possible performance.
When? I would recommend that if someone is considering these earbuds, they should be more than just a casual or infrequent user. This is due to the price point and at $329.95, if they aren’t used often it may not justify spending that much on earbuds.
Where? The “where” does not matter with the Free 60. They are appropriate for any and all work (and play) locations. The only slight exception may be to not use them for heavy sweat workouts as they are IP54 rated. These are an excellent choice for mobile, in-office and home office use. The addition of the 3.5mm audio capability earns them extra bonus points for legacy devices and airplane usage.
Why? If you are a frequent flyer and traveling light, you should get these. Period. However, I may not recommend them if a user works in an Apple ecosystem exclusively, but once you add a Windows opening system into the mix, the included Bluetooth dongle allows them to play well with all devices.
The only thing I would have liked included with the earbuds is a travel pouch to keep the cables readily available. Other than that, there is nothing missing and these have become my daily audio device based on the audio quality, ease of use and excellent connectivity.
This evaluation was generated based on a week-long, hands-on performance analysis by UC Test Lab. The Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC earbuds were tested using the following devices: Windows 10-based desktop, Windows 11-based laptop, iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro (M1). Poly supplied the test lab with a pre-GA set of earbuds in consumer packaging for free for the purpose of testing. This is not a paid evaluation.