What every best Bluetooth headset has

  • 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. Consider factors such as sound quality, comfort, controls and more when buying a Bluetooth headset, and make sure you have the option of returning one that doesn't meet your needs.
  • More expensive isn't necessarily better. Most Bluetooth headsets cost less than $75 and have similar basic features. Some well-reviewed older models with fewer features are available for even less.

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.
  • 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 cell phone, 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 Aliph that are more like jewelry and offer a choice of finishes.

What's to Come

In the past, we identified some cutting-edge technology available in high-end headsets that could trickle down to lower-priced models. That hasn't happened this year. A year ago the Aliph Jawbone Era was the high-tech headset to watch, and the same is true today. The Era is still the only Bluetooth headset to offer "motion control" using shaking and tapping to answer calls and perform other functions. It's also the only model to offer the latest version of a military-grade noise- and wind-canceling technology, originally developed for use in military tanks.

Along the same lines, the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC offers Smart Sensor technology that can detect whether the headset is being worn. This offers a "seamless and intuitive user experience," according to the Plantronics website, allowing the user to automatically answer calls by placing the headset on the ear. Perhaps more Bluetooth headsets will include these features in 2013.

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