All About Bluetooth Stereo Headsets
First things first, let’s address some basic questions. What exactly is a Bluetooth wireless stereo headset? Why might you want one? Is there any difference between a Bluetooth headset and Bluetooth headphones or are they pretty much the same thing? What devices do these headsets work with? What are some of the popular makes & models? Etc, etc.
- What is a Bluetooth Stereo Headset?
Basically, it is a wireless headset that combines a pair of high-fidelity stereo headphones with a microphone, and which connects to either an audio device (e.g. a hi-fi or MP3 player) or a Smartphone (e.g. an iPhone) via Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth itself is a wireless protocol that enables data to be exchanged over short distances between two or more devices.
So that’s the techie stuff out of the way then. What’s the point of them?
- Why Might You Want One?
Think about it. If you’re a music lover who has ever listened to music on a personal stereo or via a pair of headphones, you will know that there are many instances where you want to shut out the world and listen to your favorite tracks. But sometimes having a wire coming out of your ears connecting your head to another device somewhere on your body or elsewhere in the room is not particularly convenient. My wife for example likes to listen to music while she’s vacuum cleaning, but the wire always gets in her way. With Bluetooth headphones, her problem magically disappears!
- So is there Any Difference between a Bluetooth Headset and Bluetooth Headphones?
In theory, yes. But in practice, no. Let me explain. In theory, a pair of Bluetooth stereo headphones would not have a microphone, so you would be able to listen to music but you wouldn’t be able to make calls on your Smartphone. In practice, nobody makes such devices. Pretty much every manufacturer includes a microphone on the device so you can use it as a headset, not just as headphones.
- What Devices do Bluetooth Stereo Headsets Work With?
At the risk of stating the obvious, Bluetooth headsets work with any audio device or Smartphone that is Bluetooth-enabled! These days, most modern Smartphone and MP3 players are enabled for the Bluetooth protocol.
Ah yes I hear you ask, but what if your audio unit (your home hi-fi or TV for example) is not Bluetooth enabled? Not to worry, you can buy a small Bluetooth transmission device that connects to the audio output (e.g. the headphone minijack socket) of your player, converts the signal and transmits it to your headset via the Bluetooth protocol! Clever, eh?
- Popular Makes and Models
At the time of writing (autumn 2009), some of the more popular models out there include the Motorola S9, Samsung SBH500, Motorola HT820, Blueant X5 and Jaybird JB200. But if you want the last word (and you’ve got the cash to spend!) many would argue that the best bluetooth stereo headset currently on the market is the Nokia BH-905 Noise Cancelling Headset. Luxury and technology combined! If you are looking for the smallest bluetooth headset, check out some of the models from Motorola, they are small but perfectly formed!
- Buying a Bluetooth Stereo Headset
If you are thinking of buying a Bluetooth stereo headset, then there are a number of factors that you will probably want to take into consideration before spending your money.
Specifically, three things that you should think about are comfort (for example, how well does the headset fit over your ears? Will it make you sweat if you work out while wearing it? Etc.); features (such as the battery life and the sound quality); and how compatible it is with existing devices that you may own.
- Headset Comfort
Let’s take a look at the comfort of the headset first. Like heads and ears, bluetooth stereo headsets come in all shapes and sizes, some of them more comfortable than others. You can get headsets that are similar to traditional headphones in that they sit over your ears with the band going across the top of your head. And you can get earbud type headphones that go inside your ears, sometimes with a band going around the top of your ear to hold them in place.
Many people buy a bluetooth stereo headset for listening to music while they are working out, because they want to avoid the wires that can get in the way with wired headphones. But if the headset is heavy and made of unsuitable material, then it can make you sweat, which can be quite unpleasant. So think about the comfort aspect of any headset you are planning to buy. You want to make sure you choose the right pair of headphones to fit your head (and your ears) that suit the purpose for which you intend to use them.
- Headset Features
Another area to take into consideration is the feature set on offer. Unlike standard headphones, Bluetooth stereo headsets require power, and therefore batteries, in order to work. So you will probably want to take a look at how long those batteries last between charges, especially if you plan on using the headset for extended periods of time.
Sound quality is also something that is very important, particularly if you are an audiophile. There is no reason why you should have to sacrifice sound quality for the additional features that a Bluetooth headset gives you over traditional wired headphones. But as we all know, quality comes at a price. And the higher quality you want, the more you are likely to have to pay.
At the very top end of the market is noise canceling headphones, which can give you pristine audio quality while canceling out all external noise. Although expensive, these are definitely worth considering if you spend a lot of time on trains or aeroplanes for example.
The final thing you will need to think about when buying a bluetooth stereo headset is the compatibility aspect. Bluetooth headphones should work with any bluetooth compatible audio device, whether that device is a cellphone, an MP3 player, a computer or a hi-fi system fitted with the appropriate bluetooth transmitter. But should does not mean will. So make sure you investigate the compatibility specifications thoroughly, to ensure that whichever headset you choose will work with the various devices you plan on using it with.
Once you have taken all these factors into consideration, the experience of actually buying a bluetooth stereo headset will be made much easier because you will have significantly reduced your choices down to the best few. And you can always check out some bluetooth headset reviews if you are still unsure.
One thing we haven’t mentioned is of course price. You can find cheap Bluetooth headsets, expensive headsets and everything in between. This is a big subject, so we will cover headset prices in a separate post.
Katie Smith is the enthusiastic woman. She loves writing about technology and lifestyle on Reviewmoon.