What the best Bluetooth headset has
- Clear sound quality. Above all else, a Bluetooth headset must help you carry on a conversation. Both your voice and the voice you're listening to should come through loud and clear, without the robotic quality many cheaper headsets produce. Ideally, the headset should also filter out ambient noise, such as wind or other conversations.
- A comfortable fit. Comfort is just as important as sound quality. The size, shape and weight of the headset all affect how long you can wear it without "ear fatigue." It's also important for the earpiece to fit securely and comfortably, particularly if it's the in-ear type. Since it's not usually possible to try the earpiece on for fit, look for a headset with an assortment of earbuds in different sizes.
- Good battery life. The best headsets let you make and take calls throughout the day without having to recharge. Some headsets come with charging cases that allow you to recharge them on the go, extending the time between charges.
- Ease of use. If commands or controls aren't easy to use, many features on a headset become useless. Buttons should be placed where they're easy to find with one hand, but hard to hit by accident. Voice commands, if available, should be easy to remember, and the headset should interpret them accurately.
- Convenient charging. Some Bluetooth headsets charge with a basic micro-USB cable, while others use non-standard proprietary cables. Non-standard cables are less convenient because you need to carry them with you, especially if the headset has a relatively short battery life. The length of the cable is also important, since it determines where you can set the headset while charging.
Know before you go
Do you make phone calls in noisy environments? If you make all your calls from the privacy of your office, noise suppression isn't that important. But if you make a lot of phone calls from downtown streets or the airport, being able to filter out background noise is key. Note that headsets that do well in other settings often have trouble handling wind noise in a moving car, so if you make a lot of calls from your car with the windows down, look for a headset that can stand up to a lot of air movement.
Do you want to listen to music 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, before looking for a headset with this capability, make sure your phone also has it (most new ones do).
Do you care about looking stylish? Some of the best-reviewed models provide comfort at the expense of appearance. If you have an image to maintain, look for smaller headsets with sleek finishes that look like a fashion accessory, rather than a lumpy growth on the side of your head
Do you need to stray far from your phone? Headsets vary widely in how far they let you stray from your phone before your voice starts to break up. Some models keep you tied within 15 feet of the handset, while others let you roam 50 feet or more.
Buying tactics and strategies
No matter how carefully you check out a Bluetooth headset in the store, you can never be sure just how it's going to feel after a whole day of making calls and listening to music. So before you buy, check the store's return policy to make sure you have the option of returning a headset that doesn't meet your needs. Some manufacturers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on items purchased through their websites.