Bluetooth headphones are all about convenience. Getting rid of the wires means you won’t get tangled up with long hair, bag straps or exercise equipment at the gym. Their remote control means you don’t have to get your player or phone out when it’s inconvenient. But there are limitations.
To control most all media players over Bluetooth you need a battery-draining adapter – and you have to keep charging your Bluetooth headphones, too. And the control you get is only changing the volume, pausing or skipping through the tracks in the current playlist. You can’t pick a particular track or browse through the library – but as you need to see the screen on your player to do that it’s no particular hardship to use the player controls. There’s usually a delay when you skip tracks too, and sometimes the controls are just too fiddly; the Nokia BH-501s don’t offer remote control for a media player at all. But even if you end up controlling the tracks from your media player rather than the buttons on the headphones, getting rid of the wires is very liberating.
They sound as good as wired headphones but the convenience of Bluetooth makes the Etymotic ETY8s more expensive.
You don’t have to sacrifice audio quality but you will pay more for it than with wired headphones. Although many Bluetooth headphones give you average audio, the Etymotic ETY8s and the Plantronics Pulsar 509As are as good as wired headphones. The ETY8s have an unusual design but remain unmatched for sound quality. For a much lower price, the BluPhones offer a good compromise between sound quality, portability and basic phone features.
Audio quality for phone calls varies and not all Bluetooth headphones offer headset functionality as well as streaming audio. Of those that do, few match the noise cancellation and call quality of top-of-the-range headsets like the Aliph Jawbone and some are only suitable for the occasional call rather than regular use. The Jabra BT8010 is in a familiar headset format, with an OLED screen and address book that make the phone features easy to use. But the Plantronics Pulsars have the widest range of phone functions, making them the best all-round Bluetooth headphones.
The Plantronics Pulsar 590As are larger than most other Bluetooth headphones, but they’re also the best combination for audio quality and phone control.