A windy street. A crowded restaurant. We use cell phones in all sorts of noisy environments, but now you don't have to scream to make yourself heard. The latest Bluetooth headsets don't just let you go hands-free; by deploying two microphones to separate your speech from ambient sounds, they also free your calls of background racket. Here's how they differ in terms of performance, comfort, and ease of use.
The cream of the crop is the second-generation Aliph Jawbone ($129.99). With its gently curved design, it's the most stylish Bluetooth headset around. More important, it delivers landline-like call clarity, as well as the loudest volume.
The black-and-silver Plantronics Voyager 835 ($119.95) is perhaps the least stylish headset here, but it offers the most comfortable rubber eartip and easy-access volume controls. It worked effectively on a blustery afternoon, but volume was a bit low on both ends of the calls.
Here's an idea that's long overdue. The Jabra BT530 ($99.99) has an on/off switch that helps save battery life between calls. During one test, I sounded choppy and muffled to the other caller, but other calls were loud and clear. The stiff, uncomfortable plastic earloop is a drawback.
The Motorola Motopure H15 ($129.99) has a nice feature: It connects automatically to your phone when you flip open the mike and turns off when you flip it closed. As I stood behind a bus, the other caller heard some fuzziness, but we could still carry on a conversation.
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