NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Looking for the smart play in smartphones? Try the latest generation in small-business-ready Bluetooth headsets.
For all the buzz spawned by smartphones like the
HTC EVO 4G, or
Motorola Droid X, one sector of the uber-device market seems doomed to the media void: the fast-growing world of so-called Bluetooth headsets. These wireless, in-ear headphones-and-mics-in-one wirelessly connect the phone and media output of smartphones to a user's ears. Traditionally, most people, being normal, tend not to be overawed by the Lieutenant Uhura/
vibe of Bluetooth headsets.
But here the geeks have an edge: Dork factor aside, Bluetooth headsets have become de facto weapons of choice for small-business types sick of holding a slimy block of burning hot, radio-wave-emitting smartphone plastic up to their heads all day. And headset makers like
have been hustling to de-dorkify their Bluetooth rigs.
Today's b-tooth headsets sport excellent voice quality, bake in other wireless standards and work hard take at least some of the silly
factor out of these things
Here are my picks for best Bluetooth headsets for small-business use:
The Plantronics Voyager PRO UC
($200): Oh, what a great idea: Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Plantronics has combined a traditional Bluetooth-connected headphone with a PC-based USB connector that also supports softphone telephony options like
IP Softphone or even
The result is a single, high-quality headset that can connect to most any smartphone
your computer's VoIP telephony. Plantronics deserves credit for working slick, high-quality voice modulation standards and wind noise filters into the Voyager. And though you can expect some serious techno-hilarity as you work out which calls come from where -- remember this unit amounts to a full-featured, multiline phone that happens to live in your ear -- overall Plantronics gets props for making the Voyager small-business ready.
Overwhelmed with a desk phone and cell phone and a PC phone on your desk? The Voyager is for you.
($130): For the best voice quality Bluetooth headsets now,
a silly-looking protruding boom mic, go with the
510. Almost eerily clear sounding for a small, in-ear headset, the unit -- while not desk phone quality -- is darn close. The secret is Sound ID's propriety noise-reduction technology which blocks out background sound and saves your next sales call from getting crushed by kids screaming in the background. The 510 also ships with its own iPhone App, which is honestly just a nice bell-and-whistle, but it is slick nonetheless. For pure spoken-word quality in a reasonable looking non-dork headset, the Sound ID 510 is the leader.
($130): For flat-out best sound -- dork factor aside -- the Bluetooth headset winner right now is the EtyBLU from Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based
The EtyBLU achieves headset excellence the old-fashioned way: It puts a high-quality mic out on small boom in front of the speaker's mouth and then seals off the user's ear with a high-quality, in-ear-canal speaker. Though the unit can be clumsy to insert and it does shout out an "Yes, I do work at McDonald's feel," the fact is, calls on this sucker are over-the-top crisp. If you're tired of having your conference calls drowned out by the sound of your people's personal lives, hand out a bunch of EtyBLUs and listen to your conference call's quality -- and your meeting's productivity -- soar. Life is just too short for crappy-sounding conference calls.
-- Written by Jonathan Blum in New York.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.