The Best Bluetooth Headset
The most natural voice reproduction and the most effective noise cancellation make the Plantronics Voyager Legend the best Bluetooth headset.
On a typical midday afternoon, I sat on the blustery and cacophonous corner of West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan to torture test the five top-performing in-ear Bluetooth headsets. These included the Bose Series 2, the Jabra Motion, the Jawbone Era, the Motorola Sliver II and the Plantronics Voyager Legend.
After multiple noisy and windy conversations on each at 34th and Eighth, a clear winner emerged: the Plantronics Voyager Legend. And it wasn't close.
The best Bluetooth headset
Plantronics' Legend offered the most natural voice reproduction at both ends of the conversation and provided the most effective noise canceling for muting both nearby conversations and wind noise.
Even though the Legend is not the most compact of the five top Bluetooth headsets we tested — it's actually the second most ponderous, after the Jabra Motion — its more generous physicality also made it one of most securely fitting and easiest to control, and it provided the second best battery performance.
Finally, not only is the Plantronics the best of the Bluetooth bunch, it's also $30 less expensive than its nearest competitor.
What other pros have to say
We're not alone in our aural, ergonomic and economic assessment of the Legend. In his "excellent" review at at CNET, Bruce Bennett notes the Legend's aural circuitry provided "excellent call quality whether I was chatting from bustling New York streets, within crowded restaurants, or inside my raucous CNET offices. People on the other end couldn't tell I was chatting from a mobile connection either." Bennett concluded that the Legend's "superb call audio quality and comfortable fit make it an excellent buy."
While Jamie Lendino at PC Magazine disagreed with our wind-reducing conclusions (he choose Jawbone's Era as the best wind-resister), he also noted the Legend "sounds excellent and is comfortable to wear" and is "one of the best on the market today."
P.K. Costa at the San Francisco Examiner extolled the Legend "whether you're a traveler, telecommuter, soccer mom, journalist, world-renowned chef or top dog of your own whatever — this hands-free device is worth its salt — and will become legendary."
In our own view, though, it's all about the sound.
Before we get to the Legend's aural qualities, let me clarify that none of these single-ear headsets is the best Bluetooth conversation solution. If you want to use Bluetooth to conduct your conversations and you want to be sure you can hear clearly with plenty of volume and be heard clearly with plenty of volume, your best choice is the LG Tone+ HBS730 stereo earphones, which we have previously extolled.
But it's easy to understand how folks who simply want to chat wouldn't want to wear LG's comparatively ergonomically-challenged necklace.
So how does the Legend measure up to its single-ear ilk? In our own cityscape and other everyday testing with a smartphone as well as a Panasonic Bluetooth-enabled landline phone during home office conversations and interviews, voices sounded smoother and more natural at both ends of the conversation with the Legend. It suffered little of the digital noise (subtle artifacts that make a voice sound tinny, artificial and digitized) evident on the other Bluetooth headsets reviewed here, especially the cheaper models.
Unlike PC Magazine's Lendino, we found the Legend didn't reduce but eliminated low-level wind. None of the units, however, could cut through heavy gusts.
Our second-place choice for sound quality was the Jabra Motion. But the amplification that improves the Jabra's sound also boosted the volume of conversations and other background noise within three feet.
The Legend may be larger than most of the other Bluetooth headsets in this roundup, but its girth is all in the service of enhanced functionality. Rather than simply slipping into the ear as the Bose and Motorola headsets do, the Legend's rear module must be guided over and behind your ear. Even though the Legend's rear module pretty much disappears from view as you're facing people, the three-inch-long boom mic cuts unattractively across your check. While having the mic closer to your mouth than its competitors contributes to its sound quality, you'll look a little geeky.
The Legend's added weight doesn't detract. The Legend weighs 18 grams, nearly twice as much as the Jawbone's 10.2 grams (the lightest of our test group) but not much heavier than the Jabra's 17.5 grams, the Motorola's 14 grams or the Bose's 12 grams. Even though it's heavier, the Legend never felt heavy, even after a few hours of wear.
Once donned, the Legend's behind-the-ear design provides the surest fit of any headset we've played with, both in this shoot-out as well as other reviews. Its weight gave me the confidence that the Legend would stay put regardless of how violently I shook my head.
The Legend's relative larger presence also makes it easier to control. Other headset makers are forced to confusingly condense controls on their compact devices, making volume and switchhook switches difficult to find by feel and therefore to operate.
Instead of flat volume toggles, the Legend's miniature up-and-down joystick on the top rear of the ear module is simple to locate and manipulate. The switchhook key (what you tap to initiate, answer and end calls) is located conveniently on top of the boom swivel. There's also a separate, easy-to-locate mute key, not available on most other headsets, located on the rear of the boom. This mute key also pauses streaming audio playback.
As with all Bluetooth headsets, the Legend is easy to adjust for either left or right ear use.
Battery life and extras
The Legend, along with the Jabra Motion and the Jawbone Era, adds some nice functionality boosts. First among these is a motion sensor – these headsets know when they're picked up and placed on your ear, automatically switching on. I found that Legend and Era both reacted more consistently than the ungainly Jabra, which I could never get to fit snugly or comfortably.
If your Bluetooth chatting needs are more home office-centric and require multiple simultaneous connections, the Legend and the Jabra Motion also come in UC (Unified Communication) versions. Both include a separate USB dongle that allows direct, dual headset use while connected to a PC as well as a smartphone.
The Legend logs the second-longest overall battery life of the five headsets we played with — 7 hours of talk time and 11 days of standby, versus 4.5 hours of talk and 4.2 days of standby for the Bose, 5 hours of talk and 12 days of standby for the Motorola, 5.5 hours and 10 days of standby for the Jawbone, and 7 hours of talk and 15 days of standby for the larger Jabra.
But the Legend lacks a standard micro-USB charging jack. Instead, the Legend comes with a special magnetic USB charging attachment. For travel, this means you have to remember to pack the special Plantronics cable along with the standard micro-USB cable for your smartphone, tablet or other gadgets.
For $6.95 (on plantronics.com), you can buy a second charging cable to keep in your travel kit, giving you one less item to pack.
With the charging cable problem resolved, the Plantronics Voyager Legend leads the single-ear Bluetooth class.
Plantronics Voyager Legend
Compatible with Samung 4G
The last Plantronics I had would not work with Voice Hands Free (Answer/Ignore) function. Do you know if this is compatible?
Does it work with "speak" text message on iPhone?
Unless the new OS has solved this problem, some bluetooth headsets do not work with the “speak” text message feature on iPhones.
On iPhones, you can highlight a text message and choose speak. Siri then reads the message. With most headsets, the message is not heard in the headset but only from the phone’s speaker so there is no privacy. Only bluetooth headset I have found so far that allows you to hear the message in the headset and not the speaker is Sound ID 5 or 6.
Thanks for the input, Lilian.
While I’m using a Smartphone, it’s not an iPhone. I’m less concerned with texts than in answering/making calls while I’m driving. I’ll check out Sound ID 5 and 6, too.
Plantronics M165 also works
Have found that Plantronics M165 Bluetooth also works with speak text
The handsfree answering function works surprisingly well. Like I said I love this thing. It doesn’t leave my side.
Thanks, Gavin. Glad it’s working so well for you. It’s definitely tops on my list.
You Missed the Best One!
I wish you had the chance to test the Sennheiser Presence! Its noise-cancelling technologies and mic placements made it the clear favorite in our testing. My thoughts on the Presence here: http://www.avcommsolutions.com/blog_entry.asp?ID=1354
simplicity and unified approach required
I refuse to carry extra accessories on me to charge my daily use electronics, one cable have to do it for all.
I don’t understand why manufacturers in general must always come up with some sort of a spoiler to poison consumer’s pleasure and enjoyment over a product.
It doesn't work with me, now in search of alternative...
I had Samsung HM1700, which was very small and light, easy on my ear, but the sounds on “THE OTHER END” was horrible often enough, I decided to find a better BT headset. That’s how I landed to Voyager Legend, and I was excited to use it with my Motorola Droid Ultra.
But how it sits over & behind my ear is so uncomfortable, especially I have kind of small ears (which I didn’t realized until I started wearing this), and the eartip, even the small one is too big. I contacted Plantronics to see if they have something for me, but this is what they said…
Unfortunately we don’t carry a smaller eartips than those that come with the headset.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
… and makes the matter worse, I have been having some difficulties often when I make calls that the receivers can’t hear what i’m saying… and It’s with multiple receivers, I ended up switching to headset speaker… :(
So I decided to research extensively to find BETTER BT headset… which is not easy thing to do…
I have been looking into the following BT headsets:
* Motorola Boom or Whisper
* Plantronics Voyager Edge, Discovery 975, M50 or M55
* Jabra Classic, TALK, EASYGO, EXTREME2 or SUPREME
My criteria for the decision making is:
- Call quality: especially the receiving end which they can hear you clearly without distortion and more natural voice.
- Wear/Fit comfortably, preferably over the ear with hook with nice fit eartip.
- Connect with Multiple BT devices (at least 2)
Does anyone have any recommendation?
It's really good!
I just wanted to stop by and say that I absolutely agree with you, the Plantronics Voyager Legend is amazing. Easy to use, comfortable and great sound quality.
Used for over a month
I don’t use them as the ones I’ve used in the past work great at first but tend to degrade in quality over time.
How about a test using them for about a month?
I've been using it for years
Lloyd—Thanks for your comment. I’ve been using the Voyager Legend on-and-off since it came out, and have suffered no degradation in aural quality.
Legend Vs Edge
Hi, i am confused between the Voyager Legend and Edge.can anyone share their experience on which of this devices have a better noise cancellation and ergonomics ?
I couldn't agree more.
I’ve done some researches on the product too, and found out that it really is a great choice as you mentioned. What assures me of the product quality is that it’s got over 2,500 reviews and the average rating is 4.
Yes for Plantronics
I have been using the Voyager Legend now for a while and have noticed a huge difference over previous Motorola and Samsung headsets. While the design wasn’t as small or compact, the quality was far superior with the Legend.
One of the best....
I’ve done my own research of wireless headsets for talking and Plantronics Voyager Legend are by my opinion one of the best on the market right now. If you buy them yourself you won’t be disappointed.
Giving a thumbs up for Plantronics. Nice headset - clear sound, nice battery life… Design as a bit controversial though, but tastes differ.
Still going strong
Bought this headset 6 months ago and I am still using it. Works perfectly. It’s definitely A+ when it comes to quality.
Voyager Edge stopped working after a month
Yoyager Edge worked well for a month. All sensors worked beautifully and people at other end could hear clearly. And then suddenly, people reported that I was soundint too tinny and far-off, or could not hear me at all. Did some tests and found out that there was some mic / nc issues. Plan to send it back for repairs / replacement.
Plantroncs voyager legend - not robust
I have been using the voyager legend for over 2 yrs and I have had 4-5 pieces so far. I had issues wit 3 of them including the latest. One just totally stopped working. Another piece had issues with voice - intermittently the voice gets lost. The latest one is now having challenges in terms of people not being able to hear clearly at the other end. My Voice drifts in and out and this is a big challenge. So after multiple experiments, I have given up on voyager legend. I am sure it works well when it works but if it needs repair after months of service, then it is not worth the trouble. Now evaluating between Jabra and jawbone.
Charging problems, i’ve had three of these headsets personally my wife has had two, problem is they’ll stop charging and if you don’t get a good charge you can answer the phone from the headset but then the Bluetooth connection turns off and the voice is on the phone, then you have to push the Bluetooth talk button again and again you have to turn it back to the headset. The charging cord is very short and because it’s out of sight, if you get in a hurry a lot of times you’ll forget it until you get down the road you either have to do without all turnaround and go back, sucks they also need a micro USB port because the charger does not charge well in driving conditions if you plug it in you’ll have to hold it in your hand to keep the charger working, the sound quality is great the voice quality is great the charging and the charger cable suck, hopefully they can fix it.
Was good - Now a Nightmare
When I first got this headset, based on good reviews it was good. But for months now I’ve had the nightmare of it randomly stopping working in the middle of a call. jumping back and forth again and againbetween headset and phone literally mid-sentence, with no warning whatsoever. I have to shout at it multiple times to get the handsfree answer voice answer feature to work. UGH. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND
It sounds like you're having
It sounds like you’re having interference with your Bluetooth signal. That could be the fault of the headset, the phone or another nearby device. Are you experiencing any issues with other devices paired to your phone? Do you have your phone paired with multiple devices and actively communicating with your phone? (For instance, I sometimes have my headphones, watch and heart rate monitor actively paired with my phone) Just want to get a good picture of the setting in which you’re experiencing problems.
Nice one - clear sound,
Nice one - clear sound, nice battery life… I love it.
Tech App Zone
I have been read this topic it so awesome in this topic you have wonderfully written about the bluetooth and by using bluetoth we can talk to any one with any diturbance of our work.In bluetooth we can leasen songs also.
Making a wired non bluetooth communication device bluetooth wireless.
I have a couple cheap chinese Leixen mini walkie talkies i use for work to communicate annd with those i have wired head sets. I am wondering if it is possible to connect wireless hands free ear bud with mic to a 2 in 1 bluetooth receiver plugged into the walkie talkie. That or a dongle of some sort and then a simple universal shutter switch for a camera to activate the mic on and off? Any suggestions? I would like to do this as cheap as possible.
Oh and also im wondering
Oh and also im wondering if this will have to be connected to my mobile phones data as i work out doors?
Probably will work
If you put a bluetooth adapter in the walkie talkie’s headphone jack, and pair that with a bluetooth headset, that should work. But you would want a headset with a manual mic or an easy-to-access mute button so you’re not constantly transmitting noise - I don’t see how you would accomplish this with a universal shutter switch.
I’m somewhat guessing here, since I’ve never tried it and don’t know exactly how those walkie talkies operate. I would order items you know you can return if the setup doesn’t work.
Way to make Voyager an EVEN BETTER headset!
I prefer ear buds that fit in-ear and seal out ambient noise. After a lot of searching, I found these adapters that can be used to switch out the stock ear tips on the Voyager and allow you to use rubber tips that fit in-ear like my other ear phones. You can find them here at http://www.chockalotta.com - they sell via Amazon.
From Gavin S. on March 07, 2014 :: 12:35 pm
I read your review of the Plantronics Voyager Legend. I have to totally agree that this earpiece is fantastic. I use it every day. I use it while driving and around the office. But the charging case that you can buys for this is also worth the money. It solves 2 of the small and I mean small setbacks for the Legend. http://www.amazon.com/Plantronics-Voyager-Legend-Charge-Case/dp/B009UNGYHG/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1394213405&sr=8-5&keywords=plantronics+voyager+legend
The charging case enables the battery power time to go further and how to charge the earpiece easily is solved by plugging into the micro usb port. I gotta say I love this earpiece and how comfortable it is. It’s worth every penny. If you are looking for performance and not looks, this is it!!