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Play it by ear

Play it by ear
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First Published: Tue, Mar 02 2010. 08 29 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Mar 02 2010. 08 30 PM IST
If you thought they only make phones with Bluetooth compatibility these days, think again. There is an equally big glut in the number of Bluetooth headsets and they come in varying prices, features, styles and performance range. The obvious advantages of wireless connectivity don’t need to be explained to anyone who’s had to fumble around with a ringing phone while working on a laptop. Being tethered to a phone is a pain acutely felt by business users with larger phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), which are useful for sending emails but are a bother to hold up for longer calls.
A good Bluetooth headset, without doubt, is an investment with numerous benefits, including increased mobility and the ability to wirelessly make and receive phone calls. Since the primary function of Bluetooth headsets is making phone calls, sound quality and reception are the two things you must pay careful attention to (and pay extra for). Additionally, comfort and fitting are important considerations, given the amount of time the headsets could be plugged into your ears.
You would also do well to check the compatibility of your phone with the headset. The process of connecting a phone with a headset is called pairing. While pairing the headsets in our review with our test model, a BlackBerry Pearl, was relatively simple, it’s advisable to check which version of Bluetooth your headset supports, especially if it’s more than a couple of years old. Most new phones are backward-compatible, and should allow you to enjoy advanced features such as the A2DP support on the Jabra Stone. Although there are a large number of economy models in the market, paying extra usually gets you longer battery life, enhanced performance and better styling. Let’s look at some of the best Bluetooth headsets that you can currently plug in.
Aliph Jawbone 2
Price online: Rs6,999
The Jawbone has been around for a couple of years in different avatars. Its original, eye-catching design meant that it became one of the best-selling premium Bluetooth headsets around the world, but issues with its bulk and over-the-ear design plagued users.
Those have been put to rest with this new improved version, which also boasts of the dramatically-named NoiseAssassin technology. It is supposed to kill any ambient noise that might interfere with your phone calls.
Its noise-cancelling technology provides top-range performance in a host of conditions, including the busy outdoors. The device pairs up easily with a Blackberry Pearl, and the call quality and reception are impeccable. A minor complaint is the absence of a dedicated volume changer.
The device has a talk time of 4 hours. Although it is the second most expensive headset on this list, the Jawbone is a stunner.
Nokia BH-902
Price: Rs4,800
Unlike its predecessors, Nokia’s BH-902 is an altogether more sober creature, but manages to stand out because of its Oled screen, which displays caller ID and a list of recent calls.
Pairing with the test BlackBerry took a while, in spite of the instructions being displayed on the screen. Not all features, such as messaging support, will work unless you have a compatible Nokia phone. That aside, the sound quality is okay, although the volume tends to fade from time to time.
The phone’s thin, loopy ear-hook fit well. The headset’s 8-hour talk time is impressive, but there isn’t too much else to get enthusiastic about.
The Oled screen is probably the only thing separating this headset from lower-end Nokia devices, and it isn’t worth paying almost twice the money. Sleek but unexceptional, Nokia’s headset performs well but rarely shines.
Plantronics Discovery 925
Price: Rs5,999
Plantronics’ current line-up includes some top-notch headsets but few are better than the hairpin-shaped Discovery 925. Sleek and chromy, the gel ear tips of the 925 make for a comfortable fit.
Paired easily with a Blackberry Pearl, the Discovery’s sound and call quality are impressive. The headset comes equipped with AudioIQ Technology, which works to block out background noise. The sound quality does not remain as high outdoors, especially in windy conditions and traffic, something which has been remedied by Plantronics in the Discovery 975. It has multipoint technology, which lets you connect it simultaneously to two headsets. The Discovery 925 comes with a handy leather charging case, which adds extra battery life to its regular talk time of 5 hours. Sleek and packed with features, it is probably the best all-round Bluetooth headset currently available in the Indian market.
Jabra Stone
Price: Rs9,990
The recently-launched Jabra Stone is one of the most distinctively designed headsets ever, combining the headset unit to a charger to form a smooth, pebble-like shape. Bluetooth headsets can look notoriously geeky, but the Stone oozes elegant sophistication.
The volume is worked by a touch sensor, and two small LEDs indicate battery status and Bluetooth connectivity. The headset only fits into the right ear, but feels quite secure. The call quality is pretty good on the whole. The Stone does not perform very well in noisy environments—but for most situations, volume and clarity seemed optimal. The talk time of 2 hours is too little, but it gets enhanced by 6 hours when connected to the charger. The Stone costs a bomb, but its impressive features and styling mean that this is a quality product that matches high style quotient with performance.
Samsung WEP700
Price: Rs2,195
Samsung’s range of Bluetooth headsets has hitherto been impressive only for size and affordability. There hasn’t really been a standout headset, and the WEP700 remains predictably plain. It is, however, a solid and compact option which packs in a couple of higher-end functions, such as noise and echo cancellation.
Pairing with a Blackberry is easy and the sound quality is actually quite good. The WEP700 has two internal microphones which help in reducing background noise, and apart from the occasional static outdoors, there is an impressive consistency to the call quality. The design of the handset, while unexceptional, makes for a stable fit.
Add to this the 6-hour battery life and you have a solid, no-nonsense and very affordable headset.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Mar 02 2010. 08 29 PM IST