If you’re always on your phone, you should get yourself a proper Bluetooth headset. After all, life is so much easier when you can make and receive calls hands-free. The market for Bluetooth headsets is pretty saturated though, so it can be hard to parse out the good from the bad. Fortunately, we did all of the hard work for you.
To find the best of the best, we put nine different Bluetooth headsets through the wringer. After hours of testing, the Plantronics Voyager 5200 (available at Amazon for $83.50) ended up nabbing our top spot, as it offers great sound and comfort. If the Voyager isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of other options.
These are the best Bluetooth headsets ranked, in order:
- Plantronics Voyager 5200
- Blueparrot C400-XT
- Sennheiser Presence UC
- Jabra Talk 35
- Jabra Talk 30
- Jabra Talk 45
- Jabra Talk 25
- Sony MBH 22
- Plantronics V3200
The Plantronics Voyager 5200 has all the bells and whistles you could want. The wide array of buttons really lets you really customize your phone experience. In addition to mute and volume, you’ve also got an assistant button. You might think that having all those buttons would be standard on most Bluetooth headsets, but that’s not the case.
Speaking of cases, our review unit came with one that’s exceptionally versatile (and sold separately). It charges your headset and doubles as a stand, which allows you to charge the headset on your desk while keeping it accessible for incoming calls. It also comes with a USB Bluetooth dongle for computers that don’t already have Bluetooth.
This headset produces great sound. While most headsets focus on the midrange frequencies for optimal voice transmission, this headset pushes those boundaries into the lower and higher frequencies. Music sounds good and podcasts have a slightly fuller sound.
The earpiece supports NFC (near-field communication) pairing, which is really cool. Rather than having to pair the headset via Bluetooth, you can simply hold the earpiece up to your NFC-enabled phone and it’ll pair automatically.
My only nitpick is with the ear hook earpiece, as it’s not for everyone. During testing, we usually opted for the in-ear style over the ear hook whenever possible.
If you’re looking for amazing sound quality, the Sennheiser is the one to spring for. It produces an even range of sound across all frequencies for both the wearer and caller and podcasts sound great. The headset also maintains a great connection even when the phone is inside a pocket.
The carrying case holds a micro-USB cable and a Bluetooth dongle, which is perfect for your home PC. Not only does the case feel sturdy, but it’s also the perfect place to store your headset when it’s not in use. While there’s a lot we like, we need to talk about the shortcomings.
The on/off slider mechanism is finicky, as we kept accidentally turning the headset off. The button placement is weird, too. The volume controls are located on the back of the device and the buttons themselves are stiff and difficult to press.
Like the other headsets in this roundup, the Sennheiser comes with an app for your mobile device. However, we had trouble connecting the headset to the app.
How We Tested
For testing, we looked at everything from comfort to connection strength and sound quality. We used the headsets in a number of different environments. We used them while driving with an open window and walking around on a busy train platform and in an office.
We paired the headsets with a Lenovo Carbon X1 laptop and a BlackBerry KEY2 Red Edition. The headsets were always worn on the right ear. In the car, the phone was in a holster on the dashboard. Whenever we walked around, the phone was in the right front pants pocket upside down.
Adam Doud has been a technology writer and tester for seven years and is passionate about phones and the accessories that go with them. When he’s not testing products for Reviewed, he’s hosting the Android Authority or the DGiT Daily podcast. As a podcaster, Adam is eager to test anything that brings sound to your ears.
What’s the Difference Between Bluetooth Headsets and Bluetooth Headphones?
Let us begin by making clear the difference between Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth headphones. Bluetooth headsets are typically for one ear only and are designed primarily for communication with an emphasis on microphone technology as well as sound quality. In short, headsets are designed for speaking as well as listening. Bluetooth headset speakers and microphones also focus mostly on the midrange of frequencies where the human voice lives. The music won’t sound as crisp. Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, cover the entire range of frequencies and often do include a microphone. The microphone will have a noticeable drop in quality compared to headsets focused on communication.
What Does “In-Ear” Mean?
Most of the Bluetooth headsets we tested (with one exception) would fall into the category of “in-ear,” meaning the headphones go inside the ear instead of over. The headsets included earbuds of varying sizes to achieve the best fit and a hook to hook over your earlobe.
Can You Use a Bluetooth Headset for Music?
When you listen to music on a Bluetooth headset, you won’t hear as much bass and you’ll lose a lot in high tones. They’re mostly used for communication. You can certainly listen to music on a Bluetooth headset, but it won’t sound as good as a Bluetooth speaker.
Other Bluetooth Headsets We Tested
The BlueParrot C400-XT is the most comfortable headset we tested. Not only is it really comfy, its sounds just as good at the Plantronics Voyager 5200. So, why didn’t it end up as our top pick? It’s comically large, that’s why. It looks like one of those headsets you’d see at a fast-food restaurant.
The fit of the headset is a little odd, as the ear pad is smaller than most on-ear headphones. The pad rests inside the circumference of the earlobe (almost in the ear canal but not quite), so it often feels like it’s not in deep enough. We found that we kept trying to adjust it.
If you’re working in an office environment where no one else will see you, then this is a solid buy. It’s as good as our top pick in this category.
The Jabra 35 maintained a rock-solid connection during our walking and driving tests. It didn’t cut out or distort during phone calls and podcasts, either. It’s also very quiet on both ends of the phone call. While we didn’t have any trouble understanding our caller, the other end reported some distortion.
Out of the four Jabra headsets we tested, the 35 was the only one that couldn’t connect to the Jabra Assist app. The model number just isn’t listed as a supported product. Despite this shortcoming, this is the best Jabra headset we tested.
The Jabra Talk 30 is the only headset to have the “right” kind of power switch. It includes a third position for Bluetooth pairing, making it really easy to pair. The only other button is one that controls the assistant.
Call quality is good, though our callers reported a tinny sound. The connection also breaks up a bit while driving, occasionally resulting in a static-filled connection approximately. The lack of volume control on the earpiece is another annoyance. When you’re driving or walking down the street, you don’t want to have to pull out your phone to adjust the volume every time.
The Jabra Talk 45 comes with NFC pairing, which is a nice little bonus. During our driving test, the earpiece maintained a steady connection, cutting out rarely. Between the small profile and good noise cancelation, it’s a pretty good headset. That said, it’s not a perfect product.
This headset requires both an ear hook and an ear tip. Without the hook, the headset just doesn’t feel secure. With the hook, the earpiece gets uncomfortable after only sixty minutes of wear. Unfortunately, the discomfort lingers long after you take it off.
The Jabra focuses on a higher range of frequencies, which makes everything sound tinny, high pitched, and hollow. During testing, our callers claimed we sounded loud and clear. On our end, we heard some speaker distortion even when the volume was set to 60%. Speaking of which, there are no volume controls on the earpiece.
The Jabra Talk 25 is a very small headset, so it’s lightweight and portable. However, that’s the only thing we like about it. Sound quality isn’t great, as our test callers reported a foggy and slightly distorted sound. The assistant button is also a little stiff, meaning you have to push down hard. As for comfort, it starts to get uncomfortable after seventy-five minutes of wear. It’s not the worst headset in the world, but it’s certainly not the best.
This Sony headset does a few things the rest do not. The button you use to answer calls also controls your phone’s media player. This allows you to freely navigate your playlist. It also charges via USB Type-C while the others rely on MicroUSB. That’s one less cable you have to pack.
As for the sound quality, it’s just OK. The headset sounds hollow with no bass to speak of and higher tones get lost. Our test caller said our voice sounded like we were talking through a tin can. It also had trouble maintaining a connection, as it cut out a lot while driving.
The user interface in the headset relies on a series of beeps and tones instead of words to describe what’s going on. It’s like having a conversation with a droid in a galaxy far, far away. Trying to interpret the electronic sounds is distracting and off-putting.
The Plantronics Voyager 3200 headset comes with a charging carrying case that feels strong and durable. The cool thing about this case is that it has a compartment for the earpiece on the exterior. The case even has a loop at the top if you want to secure it to a backpack. The loop is too small for something like a briefcase, though. The case also comes with a Bluetooth dongle for your computer.
As for the sound, it’s quite hollow even in the midrange frequencies. Our test callers report that the voice coming through sounds detached, cold, and robotic. I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather not sound like a robot. This is a mediocre offering from Plantronics with some flaws out of the gate.