Here in the Geek Girlfriends Lab, we have tried many Bluetooth phone headsets. I subject them all to the same rigorous test: How do they hold up to a conversation with my mother. Nobody is happier to hear my voice, but if I don’t sound perfectly clear then she derails the conversation into an interrogation about my well-being. So she is the benchmark I measure every headset by, and few pass this test.
I call her from my truck (a loud vehicle), driving on the freeway (a loud environment), with the windows open (so loud that I can’t easily converse with someone in the passenger seat). There are many wireless headsets that can handle basic communication, filtering out freeway noise while still piping our voices in with reasonable clarity. But headsets that don’t sound great cause her to pelt me with worried questions, and we usually end up discussing the headset. When a headset fails my lab test, our freeway chats end in one of two ways:
“Honey, are you sure you aren’t getting a cold?! You sound stuffy.”
Or, “Oh, just put me back on speaker phone. You don’t sound like yourself talking to me through that thing and it’s giving me the creeps.”
Following my usual testing procedure, I donned the Plantronics Voyager 5200 ($117), stepped on the gas, merged into full-speed Bay Area traffic, opened my windows, and hit the call button. I chatted with my mom for about five minutes before she finally asked, “Where are you, honey?”
“On the freeway, mom.”
“No, really? Are you doing another one of those headset tests on me right now?”
“Wow, that’s hard to believe, because you sound good. I can’t tell you are in the car at all. Well anyway, your sister and I had so much fun last week…”
And that was it. We were back to talking about friends and family. And the Plantronics Voyager 5200 made it to this review. No lengthy discussions about how well we could or could not hear each other, just a casual conversation with mom at 65 miles an hour, the wind howling through my truck cab.
In addition to fantastic noise cancellation and unparalleled voice clarity on the road or in the office, the Voyager 5200 is comfortable to wear, has excellent battery life (5 hours of talk time per charge), was easy to set up, and maintains a very reliable connection to my phone. It’s got some great controls including hands-free voice commands that let you “Answer,” or “Ignore” incoming calls, and it has intuitive volume buttons. And when you take it off your ear, it magically knows and switches the sound back through your phone. There is also an incredible charging case accessory ($33) for this headset. When you drop the headset into this case, the case charges up the headset and keeps everything tidy in your bag, pocket, or glove box. When the case finally runs low (which takes multiple charging cycles), you can quickly charge everything back up via USB in your car or at your desk.
I’m thinking of getting one for my mother.