How to Choose the Right Bluetooth Headset
Do You Still Need a Bluetooth Headset?
The era of the traditional Bluetooth headset is coming to a close. If you look at Amazon or any other major retailer, you see that the single-ear headsets of 10 years ago have largely evolved into stereo Bluetooth headphones, almost all of which include microphones for you to make calls with. While there are still mono headsets on sale, many of them are either low-quality, no-name products, or several years old.
That means many people will want to head over to our list of the Best Wireless Headphones and the Best True Wireless Earbuds. Most have microphones and call control buttons, and we detail call quality in each review. But you don’t want to wear headphones while driving, for instance, and that’s not the only case where a traditional single-ear Bluetooth headset comes in handy.
Picking the right headset might seem simple, but it actually comes with a challenge that’s unique to all headphones, and, well, anything that needs to be placed in your ear: It’s tough (and not completely sanitary) to try products out before plunking down the cash for them. But a major component of a headset’s success depends on how it fits and feels—and that varies widely from person to person, or even from ear to ear. Other important factors include sound quality, design, style, battery life, and extra features. We’ve come up with the main points you should consider when shopping for a Bluetooth headset:
Bluetooth Headsets vs. Bluetooth Headphones
Stereo headsets aren’t just for listening to music. They also make calls, often quite well. So if you’re thinking about a pair of wireless headphones to rock out to, you may not need a separate mono Bluetooth headset.
That said, stereo headsets are usually bigger and heavier than mono headsets, and while an over-the-ear pair of headphones may be great at listening to calls, the outbound noise cancellation abilities of their microphones may not be up to heavy street noise.
Bluetooth Headset Call Quality and Noise Cancellation
Call quality is an issue in both directions; one headset might sound full and crisp in the earpiece, but then transmit a thin, computerized-sounding version of your voice to the person you’re talking to. Make sure that good (or at least acceptable) call quality is mentioned in the review any any headset you plant to buy.
The Best Bluetooth Headset Deals This Week*
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
How well you can be heard when you’re in a speeding car with the windows down, or in your office on a VoIP call, can quickly separate the good performers from the bad. Headsets with two or three mics usually perform the best, as there’s at least one mic dedicated to detecting ambient noise, which the headset can then cancel out using adaptive digital signal processing algorithms.
You definitely pay a premium for advanced noise cancellation, but depending on what you need your headset for, it might be worth it. We test noise-cancelling performance in every one of our reviews. For more on noise cancellation and how it works, head over to our roundup of the best noise-cancelling headphones.
Bluetooth Headset Battery Life, Comfort, and Range
A guiding principle with mono headsets: If you don’t want to charge, go large. Bigger headsets mean more room for big batteries.
Comfort is a very personal choice. The best in-ear headsets have a range of fit styles—for instance, several different sizes of eartips, plus an option for an over-the-ear hook in case headsets always fall out of your ear. If you absolutely can’t bear to put something in your ear, go for an over-the-ear stereo headphone pair.
Most Bluetooth headsets offer about 30 feet of good range before they start popping badly or devolving into digital artifacts. Larger headsets, with larger antennas, can have a bit more range/
How Much Should You Spend on a Bluetooth Headset?
The sweet spot for a mono Bluetooth headset is $99 list, and you can often find those models discounted to $70 or $80 if you shop around. A good stereo headset generally runs between $100 to $200. You can still find a decent headset for under $50, and sometimes you can find a really good one at that price since headsets tend to stay available in retail channels for a long time after they’re discontinued. Typically you’ll have to buy something a little bit clunkier, with noise cancellation that isn’t up to par with the leaders, but then again, you aren’t paying a premium for it.
Jabra Evolve2 65
Pros: Excellent mic clarity
Powerful bass depth and clear treble for music
Compatible with Microsoft Teams app, with dedicated onboard controls
Cons: Can be annoying to properly dock headset for charging
Audio playback between simultaneously paired computers and phones can get complicated
Bottom Line: The Jabra Evolve2 65 Bluetooth headset gets the important things right, like a comfortable fit and good mic clarity, and really knocks it out of the park with excellent stereo audio performance.
Pros: Excellent mic clarity with solid intelligibility even in loud situations.
Can be controlled by voice using app.
App could be more useful.
Bottom Line: The BlueParrott B550-XT Bluetooth headset delivers excellent voice intelligibility in loud environments, making it perfect for noisy jobs that require clear wireless communication.
Pros: Wideband audio allows for strong voice clarity.
Effective noise-canceling mic.
Cons: Cumbersome customization and firmware update process.
App doesn’t always recognize paired earpiece.
Bottom Line: The single-ear BlueParrott C300-XT Bluetooth headset delivers strong clarity and environmental noise reduction for making calls from especially loud workplaces.
Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC
Pros: Excellent audio performance with deep bass and crisp highs.
Strong mic clarity, with HD Voice mode for enhanced intelligibility.
Adjustable boom mic.
Solid battery life.
Mic clarity in standard Bluetooth mode (not HD Voice) is just average.
Bottom Line: The pricey Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC Bluetooth headset offers high-level voice clarity and powerful audio performance in a comfortable, easy-to-use design.
Plantronics Voyager 5200
Pros: Long battery life.
Won’t fall off your ear.
Built-in voice commands.
Solid noise cancellation.
Cons: Ear hook takes some finesse to fit perfectly over glasses.
Not quite as comfortable as previous Voyagers.
Bottom Line: The Plantronics Voyager 5200 headset continues to set the standard for Bluetooth voice quality, but this model is a little less comfortable than previous generations.
Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
Pros: Very comfortable.
Long battery life.
Excellent voice quality.
Balanced sound signature for music.
Cons: Bluetooth only.
No wired option.
Bottom Line: The Plantronics Voyager Focus UC Bluetooth headset combines quality music playback with fantastic voice quality and unrivaled comfort.
Sennheiser Presence UC ML
Pros: Solid mic clarity with excellent background noise cancellation.
Can connect with up to eight devices at once.
Included dongle for computer connection.
Cons: Strong wind can overpower the mic.
Bottom Line: The versatile Sennheiser Presence UC ML Bluetooth headset delivers a useful mix of mic clarity in loud environments and multipoint connectivity in the office.
Pros: Clear earpiece tone.
Aggressive noise cancellation.
Cons: Tinny transmission quality.
Difficult to fit in small ears.
No physical volume buttons.
Bottom Line: The Jabra Steel is a Bluetooth headset designed for outdoor workers, or anyone who needs aggressive noise cancellation.
Logitech Zone Wireless
Pros: Above-average noise cancellation.
Includes USB receiver for computer-based audio.
Cons: Audio and mic intelligibility aren’t as crisp as they could be.
Noise cancellation can affect audio playback.
Bottom Line: Logitech’s Zone Wireless Bluetooth headset delivers solid mic intelligibility in loud environments, along with some decent noise cancellation and audio performance.
VXi BlueParrott S450-XT
Pros: Long battery life.
Wired and wireless options.
Excellent outbound noise cancellation.
Cons: Bass-heavy at the expense of midrange.
Bluetooth quality isn’t great if connected phone isn’t out in the open.
Bottom Line: The VXi BlueParrott S450-XT Bluetooth headset delivers decent stereo music performance with excellent outbound sound quality for over a day’s worth of use.
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