Clear sound supports clear communication. This sentence is true whether you are meeting with geographically dispersed teammates for a competitive gaming session, or on the phone with customers. Dropped sound, pops, echoes and distortion all get in the way of your ability to communicate quickly, clearly and efficiently.
A study from 2015 showed that in the US and Europe, 66% of companies used smartphones for work, and 46% used tablets. Demand for cordless headsets was significant. And thanks to COVID, more of us are now working remotely than ever before.
If you are using Bluetooth® headsets and speakers, the cause of the above issues may be related to the density of Bluetooth® devices in your workspace. Other electronics and radio signals, such as WiFi can also create interference.
But these problems can all be mitigated by following a few Bluetooth® best practices. So what are these best practices, and how can you get the best performance from your Bluetooth® audio devices?
The Bluetooth Basics
Bluetooth technology is a global radio transmission standard which supports the application of a wide range of wireless electronic devices. The technology connects devices over a distance of up to 100 meters (line of sight), or typically up to 25m / 82ft in a normal office environment depending on the Bluetooth® class, device connectivity and environment.
Bluetooth was introduced to the market by Ericsson in 1994 to overcome the challenges of connecting devices with diverse types of technology and communication protocols. (Smartphone users should recognise this particular pain from having to charge your smartphone, but not having the right cable to do so.)
Since its introduction, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has collected more than 20,000 member companies, including EPOS a premium brand developed upon the successful joint venture between audio specialist Sennheiser and the world-leading heading technology group Demant; and the Bluetooth standard has become a popular method for connecting devices.
Why Bluetooth Headsets are so popular
Wireless Bluetooth audio devices provide users with the freedom to move around within the Bluetooth range. When employees are able to move about their workspaces unencumbered by cords or wires, they can more resourcefully address calls, and have more freedom to collaborate and work as a team. When working remotely, it allows a user to jump up to grab a coffee or snack, or to walk around while on a call.
Bluetooth is a standardised wireless specification, which assures a high-level of compatibility with other devices. This is especially useful as it means an upgrade to your smartphone or tablet doesn’t also require the expense of upgrading and purchasing new headsets or Bluetooth devices.
Bluetooth devices are reliable, universal and provide extremely low interference while consuming little energy. EPOS have adopted the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio standard, which is a new architecture for supporting Bluetooth audio applications. This standard supports new cases, longer battery life, and increased bandwidth. The LE Audio standard will exist alongside the current Bluetooth 5 and 5.1 standards, which means all of your EPOS devices will keep working well into the future as LE Audio gradually gains wider use.
Implementing Bluetooth technology is relatively inexpensive, and setup is automatic and user-friendly. There’s no lengthy installation processes, troubleshooting, or reading long and dense manuals before you get started.
Some Bluetooth devices can store multiple devices in its pairing list, and can connect up to seven devices at the same time. EPOS produce Bluetooth devices that can store 8 devices in the pairing list, and connect to two devices simultaneously.
Tips for Avoiding Interference
Bluetooth headsets and speakers can experience interference from other devices operation on the same open 2.4GHz frequency, such as printers, TV sets, and WiFi routers. By removing such devices (when possible) or switching your WiFi Router to the 5GHz frequency, you can help to mitigate interference.
It is important to note, however, that not all WiFi devices can use the 5GHz frequency (especially older devices) so it’s best to check before disabling your 2.4GHz WiFi.
WiFi frequency interference is a common issue with Bluetooth, resulting in clicks and pops on calls. This issue can also be managed by using a dedicated base station, or a dongle attached to the phone, computer, or other device. This creates a “closed circuit” which ensures consistent audio quality.
Try to limit the distance between your Bluetooth Audio device and the source it is connected to. Longer distances means the transmit power must be higher, which will create more interference to other Bluetooth connections and devices.
Staying nearer to the source device will also reduce signal loss, and interference from other devices.
EPOS Bluetooth devices automatically manage technical parameters such as operational range settings. The free-to-use EPOS manager allows you to analyse devices across locations, and provides insights on how to work smarter.
Turn off Bluetooth on your mobile phone or other devices when it’s not actively needed. If leaving your headset in the office or workspace, be sure to turn it off before you leave.
Don’t let Dual Connectivity get in your way: Dual connectivity refers to connecting your Bluetooth audio device to multiple sources (such as your phone and laptop) at the same time. While helpful, this needs to be balanced sop that a call is never lost, and the channels are not polluted.
Why Bluetooth Density Matters
Bluetooth density refers to how many nearby devices can be active at the same time without interfering with each other’s connections or degrading audio quality. The more live Bluetooth devices in any given area, the higher the density, and the higher the chance of radio interference.
Such interference results in audio distortions that have a detrimental effect on call quality and the resulting customer experience. Setting limits on how many Bluetooth audio devices should be used in a particular area will help you achieve the best performance and sound quality.
Setting Bluetooth Device Density Guidelines
If you have multiple headsets and speakers operating in the same space, the distance between them, and how many are in use will affect the sound quality. So, you will need to establish some best practices for distance between users to mitigate interference.
Determining how many devices can work effectively in your space is best done on a case-by-case basis. You may find in-depth information on density tests out there, but the truth is that your workspace should be approached with your specific criteria in mind.
To achieve the strongest, and most stable connectivity possible, you can utilise multiple wireless frequencies. EPOS offers a mesh solution combining Bluetooth and Digital European Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) which are the two main wireless protocols used to connect wireless audio devices.
DECT headsets can support much higher user densities compared to Bluetooth. DECT devices are also more resilient to interference from WiFi and connected electronics.
Both wireless standards offer a secure, reliable way to connect telecommunications devices with each other. EPOS thereby gives you the power to choose between the two, based on your specific situation.
I would like to thank EPOS for their technical assistance when writing this article. Providing you with excellent sound clarity even in high density environments is EPOS’ stated priority. If you would like to learn more about optimising Bluetooth performance for your workspace, EPOS are there to help.
I’d highly recommend downloading the full EPOS White Paper available here.