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The Beginner’s Guide to Buying the Right Bluetooth Headset

Mihir Patkar 06-10-2017

The dirty little secret to buying the perfect Bluetooth headset is that there is no “perfect” headset. Like most electronics, it’s a case of different strokes for different folks, but the salesperson probably won’t tell you that.


The trick to picking up the right Bluetooth headset (or Bluetooth speaker The 4 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers Looking for the best portable Bluetooth speakers? We have you covered with options for every budget and need. Read More ) for your needs is to first understand your needs (perhaps your phone’s headphone jack has broken How to Remove a Broken Headphone Plug From a Phone or Tablet Holding a broken headphone connector? Earphone plug stuck in your iPad or phone? Here's how to remove a broken headphone jack. Read More !) It’s more difficult than it sounds because your first reaction is probably, “I’m an average user with average needs.” A simple spreadsheet is actually all you need to figure this out. Before you buy the Bluetooth headset, analyze your daily phone call pattern for a week.

At the end of every day, go through your call log and write down when you took or placed the calls, the amount of time you spent talking on your phone, where you were, and what you were doing. By the end of the week, you will see a pattern emerge, such as finding out that you spend most of your time talking on the phone at your desk in the office or pacing around.

It should end up looking something like this:


With this data in hand, ask yourself these four simple questions to find out the right Bluetooth headset you should purchase.


Where Will I Be Using It?

In your chart, the “Place” column lets you figure out the environment you are most likely to use your headset. Given the routine of our lives, chances are, you’re in a few places more often than others. So examine that column to see where your calls take place most often. Then, add up the total amount of time spent talking in your top three places.

If most of your conversational time is spent outdoors (commute, jogging, etc.), then you need a Bluetooth headset with active noise cancellation. Noise-canceling headsets use two or more microphones. One mic picks up your voice and another eliminates background noise.


You can also look at headsets with bone conduction technology. Bone conduction technology claims to eliminate background noise by eliminating microphones altogether. Instead, they pick up your voice from the vibrations in your skull as you talk.


What Will I Usually Do With It?

Bluetooth headsets come in all shapes and sizes. The “Activity” column indicates what you are most likely doing when talking on the phone. And that can help you figure out which the right fit for you.

If you are often moving around, then look for an in-ear headset with an ear hook or something with silicone rubber tips. These manage to stay on your ear more securely than others. In fact, you can even wear some of them while jogging.

If you are mostly immobile while talking, then you can afford to look at models with just an ear hook or those that place a premium on style alone.

If you usually aren’t wearing it and need to quickly slip it on and off, then a simple pop-in in-ear headset will probably work best.


How Long Will I Talk On It?


As a general rule, battery life and size are directly proportional in Bluetooth headsets: the bigger the device, the longer it lasts. Of course, the bulkier models don’t look as good. However, people often overestimate how much they actually talk on the phone in a day and buy larger headsets than they need.

This is where the “Duration” column of your chart comes into play. For each day, just add up the amount of time you talk. Once you have that figure, buying a Bluetooth headset is a whole lot easier.

Will I Listen To Music?

Most Bluetooth headsets are worn on one ear. But if you care about listening to music with it, you need a headset that fits over both ears and has “A2DP” (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) to transmit audio in stereo sound. Also, make sure your phone supports this too — most modern smartphones do.


Associating this with the earlier rules holds true. The bigger and heavier the device, the longer its battery life. And in-ear, hook-style stereo headsets will stay on firmer than a headband or behind-the-neck headsets with a supra-aural or circumaural design.

Also, make sure your headset has music playback keys.


Four Things To Keep In Mind

  1. Most Bluetooth headsets have approximately the same range, so make that the last factor in your decision.
  2. If possible, look for a headset with a standard micro USB port. This will allow you to use your phone or tablet’s charger for the headset so you won’t have to carry an extra cable around with you. Even if your phone doesn’t use a micro USB cable (like the iPhone), chances are that you will easily find one around.
  3. Figure out whether the Bluetooth headset will need to connect with one or multiple devices. If it’s the latter, then choose a headset with multipoint connectivity to hook up the headphones to two devices simultaneously.
  4. Some Bluetooth headsets offer voice control, letting you place calls or answer them by issuing a voice command. It’s a nice gimmick to have and gives you a truly hands-free experience. If you are someone whose hands are always busy or messy, such as a chef or an artist, then these can make a lot of sense.

Models To Consider

Most Sensible Purchase: Plantronics Voyager Legend

Plantronics Voyager Legend Wireless Bluetooth Headset - Compatible with iPhone, Android, and Other Leading Smartphones - Black- Frustration Free Packaging Plantronics Voyager Legend Wireless Bluetooth Headset - Compatible with iPhone, Android, and Other Leading Smartphones - Black- Frustration Free Packaging Buy Now On Amazon $99.99

  • Supports voice commands
  • Noise-cancelling microphone
  • Water resistant
  • 8 hours of battery life

Who Is It For: People who need to talk for several hours The 7 Best Bluetooth Headsets With Good Battery Life Looking for a Bluetooth headset with good battery life? Here are some of the longest lasting Bluetooth headsets on the market. Read More with clear audio two ways, but don’t want to spend a crazy sum.

What Makes It Special: The Plantronics Voyager Legend has a sensible price, offers most of the features that more expensive headsets have, and does the job without any fuss.

It’s quite old now, but don’t let that put you off. It has fantastic audio quality and the noise-canceling boom microphone is among the best in the business. In fact, only the company’s own Voyager 5200 stands up to it.

Because it has been around for so long, it’s easy to find Voyager Legend fans. I personally know fanatical headset users who ended up buying the Legend again when their first one finally died.

What’s Wrong With It: The only complaint I have with the Legend is that it’s Bluetooth 3.0, which is a little more battery hogging than the new Bluetooth 4.0 (with the Low Energy extension). Try it out for a while, and if you find that you like it, consider investing in the Voyager Legend travel case to add more battery life.

Best Modern Headset: Plantronics Voyager Edge

Plantronics Voyager Edge Wireless Bluetooth Headset with Charging Case - Carbon Black Plantronics Voyager Edge Wireless Bluetooth Headset with Charging Case - Carbon Black Buy Now On Amazon $108.11

  • Supports voice commands
  • Noise-cancelling microphone
  • 6 hours of battery life

Who Is It For: People who don’t want the old Voyager Legend, and want a charging case too.

What Makes It Special: The Plantronics Voyager Edge is the modern version of the Voyager Legend, with Bluetooth 4.0 and all the bells and whistles. Naturally, it excels at its main job of taking phone calls.

My favorite feature of the Voyager Edge is the “Find My Headset” feature, where you use the Plantronics app on your phone to make the Edge beep. You’ll never wonder where your headset is again. Better than a Bluetooth Tile tracker 7 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Tile Tracker These are great reasons to have one (or a few), and I use my Tile to find my keys regularly. Using it frequently made me think: what else can I use these awesome trackers for? Read More

What’s Wrong With It: That case becomes really important with the Voyager Edge as it barely lasts the claimed six hours of continuous calls. And that’s a big deal if you typically have than six hours of calls in a day, which you must have calculated with the chart mentioned at the top of this article.

The Best (But Expensive): Sennheiser Presence UC / Basic

Sennheiser Presence UC (504576) - Dual Connectivity, Single-Sided Bluetooth Headset for Mobile Device & Softphone/PC Connection, with Carrying Case and USB Dongle, Major UC Platform Compatible (Black) Sennheiser Presence UC (504576) - Dual Connectivity, Single-Sided Bluetooth Headset for Mobile Device & Softphone/PC Connection, with Carrying Case and USB Dongle, Major UC Platform Compatible (Black) Buy Now On Amazon $199.99

  • Supports voice commands
  • Noise-cancelling microphone
  • Water-resistant
  • 11 hours of battery life

Who Is It For: If you want the absolute best headset on the market today, get the Sennheiser Presence.

What Makes It Special: The question should be what doesn’t make the Sennheiser Presence special. It has the best audio quality, the best microphone, an incredible fit and a range of fit options, and the longest battery life. It’s simply outstanding.

The Presence also comes with a USB connector to attach to your computer, so you can also take Skype and other VOIP phone calls Cut the Cord With 4 VoIP Phone Plans That Are Cheaper Than Skype Cost-cutting is all the rage at the moment. In this article, we show you how four VoIP cheap alternatives could help slash your telecommunications bill. Read More . It switches seamlessly and smartly between Bluetooth and computer, so you’ll have a great experience.

What’s Wrong With It: The only real problem with the Sennheiser Presence is its price tag, especially when you consider the alternatives. In other words, it’s not twice as good as the Voyager Legend, even though it costs twice as much.

Cheapest That’s Good Enough: Plantronics Explorer 50

Plantronics Explorer 50 Bluetooth Headset - Retail Packaging - Black - 202340-21 Plantronics Explorer 50 Bluetooth Headset - Retail Packaging - Black - 202340-21 Buy Now On Amazon $29.99

  • Does not support voice commands
  • No noise-cancelling microphone
  • 11 hours of battery life

Who Is It For: For first-time headset buyers or anyone who needs the cheapest one that gets the job done.

What Makes It Special: Getting a big brand like Plantronics for a cheap price is a good deal in itself. But getting the Explorer 50, the successor to the mega-popular M50, is extraordinary.

The Plantronics M50 was the Nokia 3310 of headsets. It took anything you threw at it, it always worked perfectly, and everyone loved it. The Explorer 50 is like the Nokia 3315: a successor that is almost as good.

You won’t get any extra features like connecting to two devices simultaneously, noise cancellation, water resistance, or whatever. The M50 answers calls well, and it’s comfortable to wear for hours on end. What more do you want for such a low price?

What’s Wrong With It: For a basic headset with a low price tag, it feels unfair to criticize this gadget. But it too has Bluetooth 3.0 and not Bluetooth 4.0, so it’ll drain more battery from your phone than more modern headsets.

Rugged, Outdoors, and Sports: Jabra Steel

Jabra Steel Ruggedized Bluetooth Headset (US Version) - Black Jabra Steel Ruggedized Bluetooth Headset (US Version) - Black Buy Now On Amazon $64.95

  • Support voice commands and Google Now / Siri
  • Noise-cancelling microphone
  • Water resistance, dust resistance, drop resistance
  • 6 hours of battery life

Who Is It For: Those who work at construction sites and other such rough environments, or those who are into outdoor activity or sports.

What Makes It Special: The Jabra Steel is a headset to handle extreme conditions that normal office workers won’t face. If you need to talk on the phone where there’s wind, dust, rain, and other environmental factors, the Steel was made for you.

The rubber-coated gizmo is tested to military specifications for drops, as well as dust and water resistance What Makes a Device Waterproof or Water-Resistant? A lot of devices are marketed as waterproof, but that can be severely misleading. Most are actually water-resistant. What's the difference? Here's everything you need to know about it. Read More . Jabra Steel features extra-large buttons so you can use it with your gloves on.

What’s Wrong With It: In making it rugged, Jabra forgot some of the basics. The battery life leaves you wanting for more, and once it drops, so does the volume with it. Make sure you charge it fully before you head out on the job.

Smallest and Stylish: Moto Hint+

  • Support voice commands and Google Now / Siri
  • Noise-cancelling microphone
  • Water resistance, dust resistance, drop resistance
  • 4 hours of battery life (additional 8 hours with case)

Who Is It For: Those who want the Apple AirPods equivalent of single-ear Bluetooth headsets.

What Makes It Special: The stylish Apple AirPods Apple AirPods Review Everything you need to know about the Apple AirPods. Read More have made everyone crave discreet earphones. But did you know Motorola already had something like that for a Bluetooth headset? Meet the Moto Hint+.

The tiny earbud sits in your canal snugly. As soon as you put it in, it switches on. And it will automatically switch off when you take it out. It’s remarkable how perfectly this works.

The Hint+ has no physical buttons and works entirely through voice commands. It’s all about looking good and being compact, and it does those two parts perfectly. But there are some trade-offs in the process.

What’s Wrong With It: While it looks great, the Moto Hint+ fails to provide good audio quality. It also doesn’t have great battery life, so you’ll often need to pop it back into the provided charging case. It’s not what an on-the-go professional is looking for, but could be all right for a desk worker.

For Bluetooth and Gaming Headphones…

If you’re looking for Bluetooth headphones or earphones, check out our guide on the best affordable AirPods alternatives 5 Cheap AirPods Alternatives: Affordable True Wireless Earbuds Apple's AirPods are popular but expensive. Need cheap AirPods alternatives? Here are the best affordable true wireless headphones. Read More . We’ve also looked at the best wireless gaming headsets The 10 Best Wireless Gaming Headsets in 2019 With so many options out there, how do you find the best gaming headset for you? Here's what you need to know. Read More .

Related topics: Bluetooth, Buying Tips, Computer Peripherals, Microphones.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. surya kumar
    July 26, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Bluetooth headsets will keep you free as there are no wires hanging all around when you use it to for calling. Earlier these headsets were used only by those driving or travelling, but now it has become the important calling tool for everybody starting from students, professionals, to housewives.

    These headsets look simple but still there are certain points that may always make Bluetooth headset even more efficient.

  2. Sumit
    June 14, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Mihir, Can you suggest Bluetooth headset in India (with Good Microphone) for outdoor use? My budget is Rs3500.

  3. Seth Berger
    March 27, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Does anyone have suggestions for people wearing glasses, that aren't in ear (buds)?

    Thank you

    • Everazephyr
      August 16, 2016 at 2:42 am

      Seth, I am looking for the same thing, and this popped up at the top of the search. I guess that means there isn't one yet.

      Would someone please create a bluetooth headset that mounts on the temples of eyeglasses? Thank you!

  4. Robert J.
    January 7, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Hilarious. When I click on the Amazon link for the Denon AH-W150, I see a price tag of $99.99. This article is just a bit off on that...

    • Mihir Patkar
      January 7, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Sorry about that, the article is a bit dated at this point and the Denon AH-W150 was at the stated price when it was originally published. I hope one of the other options works for you :) If not, let me know and I'll dig around for alternatives

  5. jeff nevil
    February 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I have used some of the headsets that you have mentioned in your post. From my experience the Plantronics Headsets are the best. Especially, if you got to take any calls in a really noisy office environment, it blocks the noise out really well.

    They are on the higher end of the price spectrum - but as the saying goes - you get what you paid for!

  6. Rick
    September 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

    Hands down, my favorites is the LG Tone HBS-700. Very comfortable (it's easy to forget you are even wearing them), sound great, and I can listen to music for 11-12 hours non-stop. They also work fine for calls, though I rarely talk long enough on the phone to bother with using them for that, preferring instead to usually keep them paired with my iPod Touch. They can be found quite a bit cheaper than on LG's website - as little as $45 - $50 from Wal-Mart or Amazon.

  7. Chris H
    September 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Wearing glasses can also affect your ability to wear over the ear devices. I currently have the Sony MW-600 bluetooth headset. I like how I can use any style of regular headset or earpiece with it, can connect to two devices and listen to radio with it. The controls take some getting used to but it works well.
    I used to have the LG Tone around the neck headset and really liked them a lot but my daughter broke them. Went with the Sony his time because I could swap out the earpiece if it broke or, if I wanted, to plug into my cars auxiliary plug.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

      Chris, I don't wear glasses but that was a concern for me with earhook pieces too. So I asked a few people I know who do wear glasses and use hands-free. All of them had the same thing to say: Very uncomfortable initially, but you get used to it after a couple of months. Has that been your experience too?

      The MW-600 looks really cool, mainly because of the ability to swap earphones. You could pretty much change from an in-ear to an over-the-ear too, I presume?

    • Chris H
      September 23, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Yes, I am enjoying the MW-600 due to it's flexibility. And I can see who is calling and answer without taking out phone. It can be a little tough to find a convenient place to clip but so far not a huge issue outside of basic tshirts.

  8. bben
    September 20, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I have tried several types - the best I have found by far is the Motorola flip type - you can power it on by flipping the speaker open, and off by closing it - No need to hassle with various buttons. It may take a few seconds to connect so this may be best for people who don't want to look like a geek walking around with a ear bug always plugged in. I have gone through several. and the sound has always been good, the battery life good, the volume and other controls are intuitive and they are surprisingly durable. The reason I have replaced them - lost one, ran over one, stepped on one - so I am now on my 4th.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 21, 2013 at 5:16 am

      I assume you mean the Motorola Elite Flip? I agree, good headphones. But imo, the Jawbone Era and the Plantronics Voyager Legend have it beat :) Try them out the next time you're in the market for a pair.