How to Buy a Bluetooth Headset

Updated April 30, 2014

What the best Bluetooth headsets have

  • Sound quality is key. Being able to hear and be heard on your headset, and for your voice to sound natural and clear, is essential in choosing the right Bluetooth headset for your phone.
  • Comfort is just as important as sound quality. The size, shape and weight of the headset all affect how comfortable it is and how long you can wear it without "ear fatigue."
  • Controls should be simple to use. If commands or controls aren't easy to remember and use, many features on a headset become useless.
  • Check a store's return policy. When you've considered all the different factors involved in your headset purchase, make sure you have the option of returning one that doesn't meet your needs; some manufacturers offer a 60-day money-back guarantee.
  • More expensive isn't necessarily better. Most Bluetooth headsets cost around $80 and have similar basic features. Some well-reviewed older models with fewer features are available for even less.
  • Convenient charging. Some Bluetooth headsets use non-standard USB charging cables, so you'll need to carry these with you, especially if the headset has a relatively short battery life.
  • Selection of earbuds. Look for headsets with an assortment of earbuds in different sizes.

Know before you go

  • Do you make phone calls in noisy environments? Sound quality and noise suppression go hand in hand, so choose a Bluetooth headset that will filter outside noise if you make a lot of phone calls from noisy places such as the airport or downtown.
  • Do you want to listen to music in stereo on your headset? A technology called Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) lets you stream audio from a cellphone, smartphone or music player to a stereo Bluetooth headset. However, make sure your phone has this capability -- most new ones do -- before you select a Bluetooth stereo headset.
  • Do you want to look stylish when using your headset? Some of the best-reviewed models provide comfort at the expense of appearance. If you want to stay in line with fashion, look for headsets like those from Jawbone that are more like jewelry and offer a choice of finishes.

What's to come

There's been a slowdown in technological advancements in the Bluetooth headset category of wearables technology. The 2014 version of the Aliph Jawbone Era is the most significant new casual-use headset, while the Plantronics Voyager Legend addresses the professional market. Offsetting this is the surge in interest in the smartwatches market, an alternate way to remotely answer your phone as well as monitor your text messages. Read more in our smartwatch report.

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