The Sennheiser Presence has a lot to live up to. When you find out an audio device is made by Sennheiser; there's an immediate uptick in the expected quality and presumed brilliance. The price tag also inflates instantly, and the Presence Bluetooth headset is no different in that respect: it has a price tag well north of three figures. With that in mind, it already has a lot of work to do to prove it's worthiness as one of the best Bluetooth headsets available.
Sennheiser Presence review: Design
The Sennheiser Presence is a nice-looking device. It’s black and silver and generally unobtrusive. The black ear hoop feels solid and comfortable, while the main unit is sleek matte black. From there, the silver mic slides out, and this then turns the headset on. The body features volume controls, a call button and a micro USB port, which is a restrained, limited affair, but also all that's needed for easy interaction with the headset.
However, while the design is pretty chic, the Sennheiser Presence is not as comfortable as many of its competitors - something like the Jabra Stealth is king here. At 15 grams, it is a heavy-ish in-ear Bluetooth headset, and the adjustable ear hook and four ear tip sizes provided did little to help the device firmly and consistently stay put (which is a shame).
Ear hooks are generally a winner when it comes to the fitting of Bluetooth headsets, but the positioning of the Presence's one, combined with the design of the ear hook itself and the weight of the device all contributed to a really awkward fit. It’s still wearable, of course, but compared to similar headsets the Presence is distinctly lacking in comfort. The Presence can come with a charging cable, car charger, carrying case and USB dongle, but the Basic version does not have the latter two accessories.
Sennheiser Presence review: Features
First up when considering the features that a Bluetooth headset should excel at, it's frustrating to declare that the Presence's volume range is a bit low - not unbearably, or so low it doesn't function well, but enough to make a notable difference. And even cranked up to maximum, it only put out 70 decibels, which isn't ideal. When that's combined with the generally less-than-snug fit, yet more sound escapes. This could pose a problem if you need to use your headset outside or in a noisy environment, but if you intend to use it primarily in a quiet working environment or on a car commute, it'll work fine.
Elsewhere, the Presence uses a three-microphone system to filter noise out of your calls, including environmental sounds like wind or traffic. This is largely effective and again shows the quality from which the headset is imbued with.
Sennheiser Presence review: Performance
Though quiet, the Presence’s sound quality is very good - this is where Sennheiser's audio pedigree shines through. The range of audio is excellent, and the clarity and crispness are second to none. It's a genuine joy to hear everything so clearly. The on-board controls and buttons are easy to interact with and use, too, ensuring you can nimbly accept or decline calls and adjust the volume. One feature that goes about its work unnoticed is the Advanced Own-Voice Detection Technology. This is an onboard detector that will learn your voice and subsequently optimize the intelligibility of your speech intelligibility as well as reduce background and environmental noise for the listener. This makes phone calls that little bit clearer and crisper for the listener, and gives the user comfort knowing that the device is doing all it can to project the voice clearly - a neat trick inside such a compact Bluetooth headset. Noise cancelling is better on the Plantronics Voyager 5200, but this solution works well for the Presence.
Lastly, the Presence has an excellent battery life for a Bluetooth headset, more so than most others we've tested. Simply put, one charge can last for 10 hours of talk time or two weeks on standby and it takes about an hour and a half to charge the Presence. This is a brilliant boon for a bluetooth headset and one great big tick for the Presence; a very big selling point indeed.
Should you buy the Sennheiser Presence?
Overall, the Sennheiser Presence is a fine Bluetooth headset. Its slightly troubling fit, low volume range and high price are all potential stumbling blocks but it makes up for these issues with excellent battery life, good audio quality and conveniently included accessories. If you can make it fit for your ear, then you're in for a treat. Its audio quality is so good it drags up the score, but do be warned about the comfort and fit.