Choosing the best Bluetooth headset is crucial, as they can be useful bits of kit for anyone who heavily relies on their phones. With many of us now needing to work from home, we use our phones more than ever for everything from staying in touch with our colleagues to ordering meals from food delivery apps.
Get the wrong one and you could be looking at headaches and dropped calls. But get the right one and it will have just the right wireless range, the perfect amount of padding, and crystal-clear audio quality for successful calls every time — in the audio department, anyway.
The best Bluetooth headsets feature crisp, smooth audio and robust battery life — and, like all Bluetooth devices, they’re portable, meaning no clunky construction and no wires to get tangled in.
However, the merits mentioned above aren’t the only things to consider when shopping for a Bluetooth headset. Multi-device compatibility, weight, and style all have a part to play, and that’s what our best overall pick.
Bluetooth Headsets vs. Earbuds
While regular wireless earbuds will work for calls in a pinch, the best Bluetooth headsets are specially designed for taking calls. That means larger earpieces to better hear the person on the other end, an extended microphone to capture your voice more clearly, and lightweight, wrap-around hooks that stay on comfortably for all-day wear.
It should also be known that Bluetooth headsets aren’t meant to produce the type of high-quality bass response that music earbuds were made for, but in-between calls, you’ll still be able to listen to music, podcasts, and even things like getting GPS directions straight from your nearby phone (which is especially helpful while biking or driving). And controls on the unit itself increase efficiency too, like volume and pause buttons for taking and ending calls. That’s all without the extra hassle of finding, losing or untangling cables.
In fact, the only wire you may have to deal with is charging. While some sets offer a wireless cradle, others require a wire, usually a USB-C to fully charge up. Battery life, especially on standby mode, is ridiculously long for many headsets. Charging up can take as little as 1-2 hours, while talk-time usually clocks in up to 15 hours. An earpiece in standby mode can retain a charge for a week, and sometimes (in deep-sleep mode) up to six months.
5 Best Bluetooth Headsets of 2021:
1. Sony MBH22
The Sony MBH20 headset used to sit at this point in our list. It was a simple, easy-to-use headset with good battery life, but it’s since been replaced by the MBH22. Although they both have a similar, simple design, this latest model is packing some newer features.
There are the same minimal buttons, but now there’s a USB Type-C connector instead of an older microUSB port. It’s still a good, comfortable fit although there is only one earpiece, which means that might not be the case for everyone.
You can connect two phones at the same time to switch between calls if you’re that in demand, as well as smart access to Google Assistant and Siri.
- Nice-looking, simple design
- Easy to use
- Better Bluetooth
- Only one earpiece size
The Voyager 4220 UC Bluetooth headset works well for calls and music streaming while traveling. With a battery that gives you up to 12 hours of talk time and 15 hours of listening time on a full charge, you won’t have to worry too much about running out of power in the middle of a call. The dual-ear headband-style headset has an excellent build quality, and it’s durable enough to last for many years.
Amazon Alexa voice commands are integrated into this headset to give you hands-free control, and the companion app has a bunch of useful features too (including a “find my headset feature”). The microphone can be rotated out of the way when not in use for easier music listening and storage. A dynamic mute alert lets you know if you’re trying to talk while muted, and a red LED indicator light lets others know when you’re on a call. It also comes with a handy carrying bag and features folding earcups for easier travel.
- Alexa built-in
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Flexible connectivity options
- Not great outdoors
When buying an audio product, consider an established name in the sound world — like Sennheiser. Sennheiser has long been a dominant force in both consumer and pro audio, and for a good reason. The Presence is a pretty sleek device, undoubtedly a lot fancier than many other options on our list.
The design combines black and silver with a Micro USB port for charging and an LED light on the back. It features an ear hook like most Bluetooth headsets, but unlike others, that ear hook is removable and can attach as needed. The device uses Bluetooth 4.0 and implements Sennheiser’s SpeakFocus tech, designed to enhance voice clarity in all scenarios.
The Sennheiser Presence-UC also uses the company’s WindSafe tech, so it eliminates — you guessed it — wind noise. Plus, Sennheiser claims it will last between eight and 10 hours on a single charge.
- Good sound quality
- Light and compact
- User friendly
The Jabra Elite 45h headphones continue the legacy of our former budget pick, the Jabra Move, with price-defying sound quality, comfort, and call clarity. This on-ear pair sounds better than those going for several times the price, and you can adjust the sound to your preference using the free Jabra app.
They have a lightweight build, and the pillowy earpads are very comfortable to wear for hours. The microphone intelligibility is stellar for phone or video chats. These headphones offer 50-plus hours of listening time per charge, so you won’t need to plug them in very often. Though the Elite 45h isn’t IP-rated for water resistance, Jabra offers a two-year warranty against dust and water damage.
This pair does not have noise cancelling, and there is no option to listen via a cord. But for folks who don’t need those features, these headphones are a great deal.
- Long battery life
- Weak battery
For less than the cost of your take-out lunch, you can get a headset that you can take on your morning jog and right to the office. The sweat-resistant and noise-cancelling AYL headphones provide fairly clear audio even when banging out reps in the gym or sprinting it out in the last mile.
For those of us who can’t keep work and play separate, this headset is able to pair with two devices at once, allowing you to listen to music from your watch and quickly switch to your phone when you need to take a call. And no need to be suspicious of the price—Amazon reviewers claimed they not only preferred this headset over more expensive options, but also found them to be incredibly durable.
It should be noted, however, that this is predominantly a headphone, so if you have a lot of long and important calls to make, you may want to opt for something with a better mic.
- Not the best for long calls
What to Look For in bluetooth headset?
- Wireless Range: The wireless range determines how far you can be from your connected device while maintaining headset connection. Most headsets connect within a range of 10 to 30 meters.
- NFC: Near field communication allows you to connect your headset to your phone by simply tapping them together, instead of having to open your setting and manually pair them, which can save some time when taking calls.
- Bluetooth: Most headsets will be equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 or 4.2. These are perfectly adequate for headsets, and there will not be much of a difference between the two.
Do You Still Need a Bluetooth Headset?
The era of the traditional Bluetooth headset is coming to a close. If you look at Amazon or any other major retailer, you see that the single-ear headsets of 10 years ago have largely evolved into stereo Bluetooth headphones, almost all of which include microphones for you to make calls with. While there are still mono headsets on sale, many of them are either low-quality, no-name products, or several years old.
That means many people will want to head over to our list of the Best Wireless Headphones and the Best True Wireless Earbuds. Most have microphones and call control buttons, and we detail call quality in each review. But you don’t want to wear headphones while driving, for instance, and that’s not the only case where a traditional single-ear Bluetooth headset comes in handy.
How we tested
When selecting the top wireless headphones, our expert panelists consider the sound quality, fit, ease of use, and comfort of each pair we receive. Those pairs that perform well qualify for further testing by me. This includes testing the microphones over phone calls, with background noise and wind noise.
I check the Bluetooth signal strength by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. I tinker with the included apps and any bonus features (like location services, voice activation, dual-device connection, and control customization). If applicable, I mist the headphones with water to see how moisture might impact the touch controls. I try each pair on with glasses, too. And if the headphones have active noise cancellation that sounds subjectively effective, I pass them on to Brent for measurement.
Finally, I test battery life by playing music loud enough to drown out an air conditioner (for most, this is around 60% maximum volume) and timing how long it takes for the battery to die.
When you’re shopping for a Bluetooth headset, you’ll find hundreds of different types and styles from a number of different brands. It can be tough to sort through all the fluff and find a quality product that fits your needs, but if you choose a headset with a long battery life, good noise cancellation, water resistance, and the right features and accessories, you should find a headset that’s right for you.
If the headset is for working at a home at a desk, you’ll probably be happy with a comfortable headband unit with a reliable connection, good noise cancellation, and a long enough range to travel into the kitchen for a snack.