All ears

All ears
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First Published: Wed, Aug 22 2007. 12 45 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Aug 22 2007. 12 45 AM IST
Welcome to a world without wires. And while you seek ways to cut cords from your life, there’s no reason why you should have your cellphone cradled on your shoulders all the time. All you need is a Bluetooth-enabled phone and a compatible wireless headset. From style to sound quality and comfort, these headsets have gone through massive design changes over the years. The options are only increasing by the day. They offer good sound quality and boast innovative features.
What is it?
Bluetooth wireless technology makes way for an exchange of information between electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers and the like by making use of the 2.4GHz frequency—a secure, globally unlicensed short-range radio frequency that is globally compatible. The communications range of the Bluetooth technology is between 25ft and 30ft and the signal can even go through walls.
Buying guide
Mono or stereo
Bluetooth headsets are of two types: mono and stereo. A mono headset allows only one channel of sound and is always an over-the-ear design (single ear pin).
A stereo headset, as the name suggests, allows stereophonic sound reproduction and, thus, better quality output (two ear pin piece).
Some stereo headsets don’t allow a switch between the call and your music—you need to use a cable to make the switch. Usually, for stereo listening, Bluetooth devices must support the Bluetooth Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). Devices that do not support the A2DP profile must use an adapter or a cable.
Battery life
When you are buying a headset, ensure that the battery life in terms of talktime and standby time is good. Usually, Bluetooth headsets claim to have anywhere between three and nine hours of talktime and 120-240 hours of standby time. Bluetooth headsets offering anywhere between three to four hours of talk aren’t good. Also, ask if the headset has a lithium type battery (best). The battery contributes to most of the weight of the device.
The time the headset takes to charge completely is also important. Two hours of charging time is good.
Compatibility
Ensure that your phone is compatible with the Bluetooth headset. If you are buying online, read the compatibility list/guide carefully.
Features
As always, the more money you spend on a Bluetooth device, the more the features you get. Still, you should look out for some features, such as voice tags, last number redial, transfer call to phone or from phone, three-way calling, the number of phones to which it may link, call answer/end, call reject and mute, etc. Some mid-range and high-end Bluetooth headset models also offer noise cancellation and echo cancellation features.
Audio quality
Check the audio quality of the headset. Is it crystal clear enough for your liking? Also, check the claimed range of the Bluetooth headset. It usually varies from 10m-30m.
Let’s look at some popular Bluetooth headsets available:
Nokia BH-200
Price: Approx. Rs2,000
Equipped with a comfortable ear-hook and convenient control buttons, the BH-200 is a great performer and very easy to use.
It comes equipped with Individual button control: power on/off, answer/end, volume up/down and mute. It also has accessible features, which include voice dialling activation, redial, reject, and audio transfer. With up to five and a half hours of talktime and up to 150 hours standby, the headset is an economical purchase.
Aliph Jawbone
Price: Rs3,000-5,000 on Amazon
A relatively new commercial Bluetooth headset manufacturer, Aliph was founded in 1999 by Alex Asseily and Hosain Rahman, two young engineering entrepreneurs who met as Stanford undergraduates. Both believed that voice would be the dominant interface for mobile devices and creating a noise-free environment was critical for delivering a much improved mobile communication experience.
These headsets come equipped with noise-shield technology, long battery life (read talktime) and double click redial function.
But there’s a flip side: If you are a thin person, you may have problems with the Jawbone. There is a small sensor that you need to make sure is touching your face.
It is a bit of a problem, especially when you are trying to put it on when driving. People can’t hear you unless the sensor is in contact with your jaw/cheek. So, it’s slightly irritating to fit the earpiece properly so that the sensor touches your face. But, under normal circumstances it works well.
Jabra BT250v
Price: Approx. Rs3,000
The distinctive glossy black styling of the Jabra BT250v, combined with its vibrating alert feature, makes it a unique headset. The BT250v reduces sound distortions while the unidirectional microphone amplifies your voice and reduces background noise. Jabra’s patented MiniGel channels sound directly into your ear, providing excellent sound quality. You can use your phone up to 10m away and operate features such as call waiting and last number redial, adjust the headset volume, use voice dialling, and answer and end calls by touching a single button.
The controls are simple. There is one multi-function button that turns the unit on or off and activates commands to your phone. There is also a volume control and LED to indicate the status of the BT250V. And what’s more—the headset is an amplified one. So, you are bound to have a clear conversation even in a discotheque. The BT250V has a maximum talktime of up to seven hours and a standby time of up to 200 hours.
Nokia BH-700
Price: Approx. Rs3,400
The lightweight elegance of the Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-700 complements its simplicity and convenience perfectly. It comes with an optional ear loop and a strap to hold the headset when not in use. You can fully control calls with answer/end, volume control/mute, voice dialling activation, redial, reject, audio transfer control options.
The piece delivers up to six hours of talktime and up to 160 hours of standby and comes in two colour variants: black and white.
Jabra BT500v
Price: Approx. Rs3,500
It is the next generation of the best-selling Bluetooth headset and has built on the strength of this success to produce a headset that is comfortable and cutting edge.
The ergonomic design fits comfortably behind your ear and the headset is significantly slimmer than its predecessors. Also included are the regular flashy features and a one-touch pairing button, which makes pairing this device with your cellphone a breeze. This headset comes with 12 hours of talktime and almost 300 hours of standby time.
Plantronics Voyager 510
Price: Rs4,000
An over-the-ear design, this lightweight headset features the exclusive Multi-point Technology, which seamlessly transforms into a powerful communication solution for up to two Bluetooth devices. Noise-cancelling microphone for clearer conversations and wind-noise reduction for optimal sound clarity make this headset a good selection for executives.
Motorola S9
Price: Approx. Rs5,000
Stylish, comfortable and engineered with cutting-edge Bluetooth wireless technology, the Motorola S9 helps provide wireless access to music and voice calls.
Compatible with Bluetooth-enabled stereo music phones, the Motorola S9 is perfect for delivering favourite tunes and connecting you to calls wirelessly with lightweight design. The headset also showcases easy controls, so that you can play your music or answer a call by simply pressing the buttons on the headphones.
The headset is also water and sweat-resistant and has long playtime—up to six hours of play from a single charge.
Plantronics Pulsar 590A
Price: Rs10,400
This stereo headset boasts high-fidelity sound, with up to 12 hours of talktime and up to 10 hours audio listening time. Add to these very comfortable ergonomics and good looks.
One can seamlessly switch between music and a call—wirelessly—provided the Bluetooth device supports the A2DP. Devices that do not support the A2DP profile must use the Plantronics universal adapter, which comes along with the headset.
Bluetooth: Up, close and personal
Bluetooth vs Wi-Fi
It uses the same frequency range as a Wi-Fi (the 2.45GHz band). But the similarities stop here. Bluetooth covers only one-fifth the total range of Wi-Fi. The latter requires more expensive hardware to be set up and can, therefore, easily reach greater distances. Additionally, a Bluetooth lets two devices communicate with each other, whereas Wi-Fi establishes a wireless network in which many devices can work simultaneously.
Radiation effect
You should always use some type of headset with your cellphone. This vastly reduces the amount of radiation that you’re pumping out of the phone and into your brain. Some scientists believe this radiation could be harmful, although studies till now have been inconclusive.
Range
In theory, all Bluetooth devices are designed to have a range of about 33ft. However, this range can vary. If there is a direct unobstructed view between your headset and your phone, you’ll probably get this range and even more. But if your phone is not on the same side as your headset, and if it is in another room with a wall in between, the range drops considerably.
Calibration
You can ‘calibrate’ the range of your phone and headset so that you know how far away from the phone you can go and still have a reliable connection with the headset. You can do this calibration by simply testing the phone/headset combination in various common places—for example, by leaving the phone on your desk at work and seeing how far you can go while still keeping the connection going.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Aug 22 2007. 12 45 AM IST