The Aliph Jawbone Era (*Est. $60) and the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC (*Est. $115) are considered next-gen units because they offer unique and innovative technology and features, and, in one case, cutting-edge design. All these attributes add up to excellent sound quality and listening experiences. Leading-edge technology doesn't always mean a high price tag, however.
The Jawbone Era's most innovative technology also makes it fun and functional. Its motion-sensing software and built-in accelerometer combine to recognize when the headset is intentionally shaken or tapped, and to associate commands -- such as answer or end the call -- with these actions. This means a call can be answered just by double-tapping the headset while wearing it or double-shaking it when it's not being worn. Users can add functionality by downloading apps into the headset's computer chip from the Aliph MyTalk website. A new option is to have the headset read out each caller's name in a pleasant human-sounding voice.
In general, there's not much difference between the sound quality of the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC and the Aliph Jawbone Era, although the latter does have the edge in noise suppression. Reviewers agree that the Voyager Pro UC's sound quality is up to the high standard of its highly reviewed predecessor, the Voyager Pro Plus. While incoming voices are crisp and natural, outgoing voices sometimes sound a little muddy. The Pro UC's noise suppression system is also excellent, drastically reducing wind and background noise without static or hiss.
However, these headsets couldn't be further apart in appearance. The Voyager Pro UC is bulky and large, and makes no secret of its identity as a Bluetooth headset. It continues with the Plantronics "retro-marketer" design that has become a signature style of the Voyager Pro series. In contrast, reviewers say the Jawbone Era has moved beyond stylish to avant-garde, calling it "the best-designed and potentially the most flexible Bluetooth headset on the market." Even though the Era is extremely small, users can select models with different surfaces, such as a quilted appearance or the look of cashmere wool. Consequently, some users say the Jawbone Era is "like a piece of jewelry."