The Best Bluetooth Headset

You know those jerks that walk around with little satellites coming out of their ears, feeling all superior? Well, you could be one of them! And why not be be the most superior one, with the most superior headset?

In here, chief:

As dorky as these things are, true hands-free access to your phone is incredibly convenient and can literally be a lifesaver. We grabbed the best Bluetooth headsets out there, and gave them three, real-world tests: calling from a quiet room to a landline in a quiet room; calling from a noisy corner in NYC to a quiet landline; and listening to music in a quiet room. I weighted voice quality (both on the giving and receiving end) higher than anything else, followed by usability, comfort, and finally, dorkiness. None of these are what I would call bad headsets—they're all a huge jump from what was available just a couple years ago—but some definitely out-shined others.

5th Place (tie): Plantronics Voyager Pro HD

The Best Bluetooth Headset

Does HD stand for High Distortion? Wowser. I heard more static on this headset than any other. So did the person I was talking to—more crackles and pops than a bowl of Rice Krispies. (No snaps THANK GOD.) Voices were also extremely fuzzy. Sound-canceling worked fairly well when I was on the street, and my caller said he couldn't hear the traffic in the background, but he still said I sounded muffled.

On the design side the Voyager feels pretty solid, despite its many moving parts. The bulk of the hardware is behind your ear, which makes the thing pretty comfortable, but this keeps the earbud a little ways out of your ear hole, which makes it harder to hear. Ergonomics aside, this thing looks like a hearing aid from the 1980's. Seriously, it's dork-factor 10. Buttons are fairly well defined, but aren't intuitively placed. The volume buttons are on top of your ear, for example. It has a smart sensor that can tell when you're wearing it or not, so you can set it to answer a call as soon as you put it on and it has an Android app for measuring your battery levels and whatnot, but really the voice quality just hamstrings this one. $100

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Plantronics Voyager Pro HD

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $100
• Gizrank: 2.5

5th Place (tie): Motorola CommandOne

The Best Bluetooth Headset

Moto couldn't keep up with the pack, either. Voice quality was sub-par on both on my end and the caller's, with more static and flatter sound than most of the others. On my end the caller's voice sounded muddy and quiet, and on the caller's end—surprise!—I was quiet and muddy; individual words were hard to pick out. And that's before we threw external noise into the equation. The CommandOne had the worst noise canceling of all the headsets we tested.

From a design point of view, the buttons are not well defined, which made them both hard to find and also led to accidental presses. The plastic over-ear-holder thingy was incredibly uncomfortable and unnecessary. Removing it and using a better fitting ear piece (which is thankfully included) helped, and this guys is light enough that it held alright (though it might fall off if you went sprinting towards your airport gate with it). $130

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Motorola CommandOne

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $130
• Gizrank: 2.5

4th Place: Jabra Supreme

The Best Bluetooth Headset

This the only headset we tested that doesn't go in your ear—it's just speaker that sits on your ear. This has some advantages and disadvantages. It was easily the most comfortable of the headsets I tested, and the large speaker gave it the best fidelity in my music test. The downside is that when you're in a noisy area it doesn't block as much sound so it's much harder to hear your caller. The mic on it is pretty good and sound canceling worked extremely well, but callers said my voice was a bit tinny. You can also connect it with two Bluetooth devices at once, which could be handy for power users (POWER USERS!), and it folds up very nicely.

Where this guy falls down is on the receiving end. Callers sounded muffled to me. Not staticy, but muffled and quieter than usual. It was almost impossible to hear anything while walking down the street, even at full volume. It supposedly has Active Noise Canceling, but it didn't do anything for me. Also, the buttons are very small and tough to locate with your thumbs. $100

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Jabra Supreme

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $100
• Gizrank: 3.0

3rd Place: Jawbone Era

The Best Bluetooth Headset

The Jawbone Era was the odds-on favorite to win going into this extreme contest—based on word of mouth and other reviews I'd seen. And it did pretty well! It's certainly the most stylish of the headsets, but it's pretty subtle. It has a bunch of ear-attachment options, which is nice. It has some neat features you won't find anywhere else too—like a built-in accelerometer, so you can just give it a couple shakes to take a call or ignore before putting it in your ear. You can also answer or ignore by double-tapping the device itself, which is a great idea (no more searching for tiny buttons), but it it was way too sensitive, and so I ended up hanging up on people when adjusting it in my ear.

Call quality isn't bad, but it definitely wasn't the best of the pack. My voice sounded a little snowy and quieter to people I talked with, though noise canceling was quite good. On my end, callers were nice and loud (which was great in outdoor use) but they were somewhat staticky. Volume control on this thing is maddeningly bad. You hold down a button as the volume crescendos and decrescendos, but unless someone is constantly talking it's impossible to tell where you are. Really annoying. $130

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Jawbone Era

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $130
• Gizrank: 3.5

2nd Place BlueAnt Q2

The Best Bluetooth Headset

The BlueAnt Q2 is one of the only devices here that doesn't advertise "HD Voice", which is funny, because it handily beats virtually all of them in audio quality. Voices were loud and very clear on both ends, and I only heard the smallest amount of static when I maxed out the volume. Noise canceling was good enough that my caller couldn't hear some very loud traffic in the background but could hear me perfectly. It's almost as slick-looking as the Jawbone Era (some might even find it classier) with its understated, curved rectangular shape. The wire ear-holder thing was uncomfortable, but you can pull it out and the headset still fits nice and snug. The Q2 has some nice features built in, including caller announce, answer by voice, support for reading texts out loud to you and other goodies. This is simply an excellent device. $100

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BlueAnt Q2

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $100
• Gizrank: 4.0

BESTMODO! Samsung HM7000

The Best Bluetooth Headset

Not gonna lie: I did NOT see this coming. There's much less hype around the HM7000 than the others (it doesn't even have a cool, memorable name!). That didn't stop it from blowing everyone else out of the water on audio quality. People I called said I sounded like I was talking closer to the mic, and that I sounded the loudest and clearest yet, even with traffic roaring away behind me. '

On my end, callers' voices were incredibly clear, as was music. My one gripe on audio is that I wish I could turn the volume up a bit more, but it should be good enough for most situations. It has a very light, low-profile design, with an extremely thin mic extending out of it. It's the most slender model we tested, and it looks great. Just kidding! It's a Bluetooth headset; given that handicap, though, it's pretty good. It's comfortable to wear and buttons are easy to find and press. It has some tasty text-to-speech and speech-to-text options, an Android app, and a slick carrying case that charges the headset up to three times without having to be plugged in. The only other gripe (aside from the volume) is that it's a bit hard to tell when it's on or off (a dedicated switch would have been better), but other than that this is easily the best Bluetooth headset I've ever tested.$100

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Samsung HM7000

• Noise Canceling: Yes
• Easy Pairing: Yes
• Charging: Micro USB port and charging case
• Bluetooth Version: 3.0
• Price: $100
• Gizrank: 4.5