Small, stylish, low-priced or feature-packed: that’s pretty much the matrix for Bluetooth headsets.
You won’t get a single headset which ticks all those boxes. The first trait I’d toss would be ‘low-priced’, because that usually means cutting corners in reliability and comfort – both of which are paramount to a headset.
Plantronics’ Voyager Legend trucks confidently down the feature-packed route.
It’s certainly not the smallest headset on the market, nor the most stylish – Jawbone tends to rate pretty well in those areas – and the $129 price tag nudges it into a segment that’s more about delivering solid value for money than saving your shekels.
But what it does, it does very well indeed, starting with its ability stamp out background noise when you’re on a call.
The slim boom arm has three tiny microphones to pick up your dulcet tones while also filtering out noise from other sources.
This worked wonderfully during tests in the city and at the airport terminal, apart from a few very windy days outdoors where pretty much any headset would come to grief.
To its credit, the Voyager Legend doesn’t give your voice that pinched sound which some noise-cancelling headsets do. In fact, if your smartphone and carrier both support wideband HD Audio (at the moment, only Telstra does) then the sound quality is rich and well-rounded.
Another bit of high-tech cleverness: sensors inside the headset detect when you’re wearing it.
Leave it sitting on your desk and when a call comes in, it’s the phone that will ring – although just picking up the headset and putting it against your ear is enough to active it, and proved a very natural way to use the headset without keeping it tucked behind my ear.
Plantronics has also baked Siri-style voice commands into the Legend, although as with most such systems they can be a bit hit-and-miss.
You can ask it to report on its battery level or use caller ID (from your smartphone’s contacts book) to announce the name of a caller. Pairing the headset to a device, answering or ignoring an incoming call are also on the voice command menu.
Another trick is ‘multipoint pairing’, which lets the Voyager Legend simultaneously connect to two devices such as your smartphone and notebook.
I’m less fond of Plantronic’s decision to use a connector of its own design rather than the standard microUSB cable.
Yes, it’s very cool that this connector magnetically docks to the headset a la Apple MacBook.
But it’s not cool having have one more cable to put on your packing list for when you travel, and it’s totally uncool to leave it behind or lose it altogether.
Despite not being one of those teeny-tiny headsets, the Voyager Legend is quite light and sits comfortably behind and over the ear.
To help tailor the headset to your ears, Plantronics includes three different sized gel tips plus two foam earbud covers, all of which are easy to fit and replace.
The primary touch controls are sensibly placed and the ones you’ll use most – the volume rocker and power switch – are deliberately oversized.
Battery life is rated at a solid seven hours of nonstop talk time with 11 days on standby, and I’ve no reason to doubt that.
If you’re unsure of how much juice remains, use the voice command to ask the headset – if the needle’s dangerously near the Empty mark, a quick 90 minute recharge will top up the tank.
You can also monitor the headset’s battery level off your iPhone or Android device, while the Find My Headset app generates a tone from the headset for those mornings when you know it’s lying around somewhere…
The up-market Legend UC700 model ($259) supports ‘unified communications’ with your desktop or laptop as well as your mobile phone, and includes a battery-powered carrying case, desktop charging stand and a Bluetooth USB adapter for your PC.
If you’re okay with the size and price tag, and are a heavy-duty headset user who makes and takes a lot of calls outdoors, I’d put the Plantronics Voyager Legend at the top of the list.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.