The $130 Aliph Jawbone is sleek--to the touch, and in the wearing. To initiate or end a call, or to dial by voice, for example, you press designated areas on the headset, going by touch alone--no buttons are visible on the Jawbone. The audio quality impressed in my hands-on tests: My contacts reported that my voice sounded crisp and clear. And the Jawbone's ability to eliminate background noise was even more impressive.
One person who saw me wearing the black Jawbone deemed it too manly. But looks aren't everything, and the Jawbone does its job so well that I couldn't care less about this apparent manliness!
Plantronics Discovery 925
The Plantronics Discovery 925 headset ($150) was a joy to use. This model, which lacks an over-the-ear hook, required very little effort to place in my ear; with one hand, I just popped it in and settled it into place.
The Discovery's audio quality was top-notch. Call recipients reported that my voice sounded crystal clear, as if I were standing beside them.
I appreciated the Discovery's rechargeable carrying case--it's a nice bonus. The case, which can also act as a storage unit, comes with its own battery. For color-conscious headset wearers, the Discovery comes in gold, black, and cerise versions; the accompanying charging cases match the headset color.
Putting on the GN Netcom Jabra BT530 ($100) involved minimal hassle--a plus for people who like Bluetooth headsets with earhooks. The Jabra's default earhook is relatively short and its loop shape is narrow, which suited my small ears (the headset comes with a larger hook that you can swap in, too). Earhooks not your thing? The Jabra lets you remove the earhook entirely.
The BT530's call quality was all over the map: My voice sounded incredibly clear during some calls, but at other times the call recipients heard echoes and some distortion of my voice.
Motorola Motopure H15
The $130 Motorola Motopure H15 is the only headset I've tested with a folding microphone design. To talk or to turn on the headset, you flip open the boom, which then sits on your cheek (it works a bit like a mini-clamshell mechanism); closing the boom conserves battery life. Motorola provides various cushions to place over the earbud, to help anchor the headset in your ear canal.
I was impressed with the H15's call quality overall. It did an excellent job of banishing various levels of background noise, too--like traffic on the freeway, and, in particular, my cranked-up songs. On a couple of calls, though, the recipient said that I sounded far away, and that my voice broke up a bit.
Smaller and far narrower than my thumb, the Nokia BH-804 ($120) feels superlight. Of all the headsets I've tested, the 25-ounce BH-804 is the lightest--but not by much. Factor in the headset's dainty size, and the BH-804 feels even lighter and, not surprisingly, very discreet.
Call quality varied. Most of the time, calls sounded crisp and loud. Great call quality is all very well, but I felt like I had to carry the phone around with me constantly to keep it that way. On many occasions, when I moved away from my handset--about 9 feet or farther--call quality deteriorated rapidly.
The Motorola H780 costs $100, $30 cheaper than its cousin, the Motopure H15. The H780 comes with a flexible clear-plastic earhook and three ear cushions of different sizes. I liked the H780's dedicated sliding power switch, which resides at the side of the headset--it's always obvious whether this headset is on or off.
In my hands-on tests, the H780's call quality was mixed. Sometimes it was very good. But even though call recipients' voices sounded loud enough to me, I sounded tinny or muffled to them some of the time, yet crisp and clear on other occasions. This model is one of the more reasonably priced ones in our Top 10, but you have better choices with more-consistent call quality.
The BlueAnt V1 offers one feature that no other headset I've tested does: integrated voice control. The $130 V1 comes with its own voice-controlled interface, called BlueGenie. This technology overrides your cell phone's own voice commands (your handset needs to support the capability, though). The BlueAnt has a repertoire of available commands, and you can't go beyond the pool of requests that it understands.
Calls sounded good most of the time, coming in clear and close up. Other times, some of my sentences broke up, or my voice sounded tinny to the people on the other end. If you're in a noisy environment, you can turn on the max voice-isolation setting.
LG Electronics HBM-760
The LG Electronics HBM-760 proved a pleasant surprise: This $60 model (as of 12/1/08) stacks up well against the more expensive headsets I've tested--some of them more than twice its price. Calls came through clearly and consistently, but lacked the sharpness of some better-performing headsets. Call recipients did not complain about voice distortion or echoes, but they did say that on some calls I sounded muffled.
For $60, you get a truly basic product. The HBM-760 comes with a charger and a manual--and that's it. So if you're looking for an elementary and affordable headset--perhaps one that you'll use only infrequently--the HBM-760 might just be the ticket.
The Samsung WEP700 ($90) didn't sit too well on my small ears; the earhook's loop is rather wide, better suited for larger ears. Samsung does not include an alternate earhook or earbuds--in fact, the WEP700 comes only with a charger and a user guide.
Call audio on the WEP700 was good to middling. Sometimes my voice sounded pretty clear. Other times it sounded faint, but all my sentences came through fine without any distortion, according to call recipients. When I tested the range limits, my voice still came through 25 feet away; it started crackling after that.
Plantronics Voyager 835
The Plantronics Voyager 835 ($120) is nothing to write home about: It looks like a plain black stick in your ear. The clear-plastic earhook clamped over my ear nicely, providing a secure fit.
Unfortunately, during some calls recipients had trouble hearing me. My voice sounded either far away or hollow; other times, my voice broke up a bit. Occasionally, my voice came through more clearly, but the result was never as sharp as the quality I got from its cousin, the Discovery 925. On the plus side, background noise was not distracting.
Read our Bluetooth buying guide for advice on how to choose a Bluetooth headset.