Bluetooth Headphones: Music Sans Tangles


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.

Etymotic ETY8

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.

Plantronics Pulsar 590As

The Plantronics Pulsar 590As are larger than most other Bluetooth headphones, but they’re also the best combination for audio quality and phone control.

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  • Anonymous
    Although the quality of the sound, range and simplicity of the 590a speak for them self, there is one area that all reviews will never tap into and that is usually the durability and the overall quality of the product. The huge minus for this product is the very cheap plastic that they have used. I have had this pair for slightly over a year and the only thing keeping it together is the epoxy mixture, lots of patience and forgiveness. So if you love sound and don't mind applying epoxy every couple of months, or if you want to give someone a gift that will eventually upset them, then this is a BARGAIN!!!
  • sbusch
    I've taken a middle ground - I use a BlueStreamer 2 device, which lets you hook up your wired headset to the device. It then can communicate with your Bluetooth phone/player. While I do have "wires" connected to the BlueStreamer, I'm not connected to my phone (or my Samsung P2). I feel comfortable in saying that using my Jays Q-Jays headset and the BlueStreamer 2 exceeds the audio quality of any of the devices mentioned. Big time (I also have the S9).
  • TrueDis
    Can't you guys put up some of your own photos highlighting the pros/cons of each set rather than just using stock photos? I want to see those tiny buttons on the Motorola S9s!
  • eros_deus
    I'm real curious about the Plantronics Pulsar 590As and how they compare with the Motorola s805 (which seem to have all the same features and have been around for years). I have been thinking about getting the s805 because i saw some good reviews.. and now I?d like to know which is better.
  • joe1234
    You failed to review the Sony BT50 (link below). It has a better sound quality than the Plantronics, which I also own. The Sony is also better because, being over the ears, it muffles the outside noise better than all but one you reviewed. It has a lower distance range than the Plantroics, though. I've gone thru several bluetooth headphones and the two I just mentioned are the best.
  • Anonymous
    I've got the Plantronics 590 without the analogue adaptor - alot cheaper, Eventhough I don't get the plug in desktop charger. I bought them to be as comfortable as possible to wear all day at work. They are, especially compared to over the hook over-the-ear types. I was blown away with the sound quality. Having had 4 other sets of bluetooth earpieces I didn't expect it to be anywhere near as good.

    I do have 2 issues - when listening to music from my notebook I'm sure that occasionally songs slow down for a few seconds - just enough to be noticable. Then again I have had issues with my notebook bluetooth adaptor so might be unrelated to the 590s. The other issue is that headband is not comformatable around the neck when you dont have a collared shirt - ie when not using them. That's because they have sharp edges on the adjustbable area of the headband.
  • robojocks
    i had problems with Bluetooth headphones of Plantronics 590A where i would get interference. The bluetooth audio connector didnt seem to transmitt at any range other then 2m infront of the pc. I fixed it by extending output audio jack with a 3.5mm audio cable so that bluetooth transmitter thing sat ontop of the pc. Now the sound is very clear.