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  1. #1
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    Which Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset do you use?
    We finally accepted AT&T's aggressive hints (hideous customer service making it clear that they do NOT want our $175-per-month account), and bought new cell phones with service from T-Mobile that includes voice-over-WiFi (no wireless minutes are used if you start your call while in range of a wireless hot-spot, including our own home WiFi as well as most Starbucks). For now, T-Mobile offers only two very limited phones that can use this service, so we bought crappy little Nokia 6086 phones for now; we only signed one-year contracts, and expect to buy better phones when they become available.

    Now it's time for us to buy wireless (Bluetooth) headsets, and I'm having trouble finding legitimate and meaningful reviews of Bluetooth headsets. I've been to all the usual places (PCmag, cnet, Amazon, and of course a wide range of Google searches), and generally the reviews are mostly upbeat and don't compare the products directly.

    My main concern, based on past experience with wired headsets, is (background) "noise cancellation," and I'm surprised to discover that there is no "measurement" of this feature for headsets -- in other words, phones either "have it" or they don't, but I can find no objective review comparing the actual noise-cancellation performance of differerent headsets.

    I'm also very concerned about comfort, and again there is no objective discussion of this -- for example, I'd expect a reviewer to mention not just that a headset was comfortable (for the reviewer's ears, which are never even pictured), but how adjustable it is, or how well it may work for people who wear eyeglasses (like my wife and I). I'm also concerned about the risk that a $150 headset might break or be lost if it falls out of my ear while I'm not using it. And I notice that there seem to be different charging options for different headsets - at least one doesn't have an AC charger option, and at least one requires a special "cradle."

    Of course, after visiting a half-dozen stores, where products can only be seen either inside sealed packages, inside a display case, or strapped tightly to a display board, but never picked up and evaluated in any meaningful way, I've concluded that this is one product category where purchasing at retail provides NO benefit over online. (Amazon's pricing for all of these products is impressively far below the pricing in any retail store I've visited, for Motorola and Plantronics headsets, and there are some legitimate online merchants with even lower prices. Of course, there are many questionable merchants offering even lower prices, but many of those appear to be selling counterfeits or perhaps won't deliver anything at all).

    At this point, we're looking at the Motorola H700, the Plantronics Discovery 655, Aliph Jawbone, and a couple of Gennum headsets (nXZEN and nX6600, which appear to be very limited availability).

    Price is not a big issue, but we don't want to pay $250 for a headset that performs just like a $50 headset (or worse). (I expect that I'll buy one, and then if it performs well, we'll buy another of the same model.)

    Has anyone here had experience with noise-cancelling headsets, and if so, what has your experience been? What should we buy?
    Last edited by markwelch; September 4th, 2007 at 09:44 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    We use the Aliph Jawbone, and are very happy with it.

    I'm a little hard of hearing, and the volume is loud enough that I have no problem hearing. It's supposed to be adjustable, but I can tell very little difference from the lowest to the highest.

    The noise canceling seems to work very well, although I have nothing to compare it to. My previous headset (Motorola H670, I think?) didn't have it. There are some impressive videos on YouTube (just search for "jawbone" or "aliph jawbone") showing them in use next to vacuum cleaners, around weedeaters, with radios playing, etc. I find that it does a very good job in most situations. Wind blowing on it and other voices in the background seem to be the hardest things to cancel.

    It's fairly comfortable now, but took a bit of work to get there. It was a little tight on my ear at first and the top back part of my ear would get sore after an hour or two of wearing it. I found that it can be bent to fit, kind of like most glasses (although I'm not sure how much it's meant to be bent). I shaped it more to fit my ear, and now it's good. My ear still gets a little sore with extended wear, but it's not bad. Keep in mind that if it's too loose, the noise cancellation might not work right. There's a piece that I think is supposed to stay pressed against your cheek/jaw.

    I found mine on eBay for about $80 or $90 shipped. Make sure you get the full package, as there's a guy selling just the earpiece (with no charger). It uses a proprietary charger which costs $30 shipped from Aliph.
    Michael Coley
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  3. #3
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    I'm a little hard of hearing, and the volume is loud enough that I have no problem hearing.
    And here I thought you were just ignoring me!! LOL
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  4. #4
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Actually, I was.
    Michael Coley
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  5. #5
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    Michael, thanks for your feedback on the Aliph Jawbone, which was also recommended by several other folks. However, given the price difference,I went ahead and ordered a Motorola H700 ($45 from Amazon), and after two days of use (including talking while driving and talking in my office with a fan blowing a few feet away) it is working quite well, so far.

    My wife no longer seems to want a Bluetooth headset (in part because of one of the iPhone's weird "features," which allows music and podcasts to play through the Bluetooth headset, but only while also playing through the phone itself, creating a weird echo effect with the Bluetooth audio trailing the phone audio by a fraction of a second; it works fine for telephone calls). I've also heard stories from several folks who've lost expensive headsets, and if that's going to happen I'd prefer to lose $45 instead of $100.

    The great performance of our headset is in sharp contrast to the phones and service that T-Mobile fraudulently sold us.

    We had many dropped calls during the 9-10 days that we used the T-Mobile phones and service, until we finally disabled the WiFi option entirely; then we had fewer dropped calls (contrary to T-Mobile's claims, we are in a poor-service zone), but of course we lost the benefit (free WiFi calling) that had led us to choose the service in the first place.

    Eventually, T-Mobile's second-tier support staff acknowledged that contrary to the representations made by T-Mobile's promotional materials and sales staff, the T-Mobile WiFi implementation is proprietary and won't work reliably with 99% of wireless routers; it will only work reliably with routers designed to T-Mobile's proprietary specification.

    We returned the phones and cancelled the service; we've reluctantly returned to AT&T service, and bought two iPhones (one of which died within 48 hours, but after some hassle we managed to get it replaced at an Apple Store).

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