Plantronics Bluetooth headset is solid and slick

The Plantronics Voyager 855 is more than a Bluetooth headset for making voice calls. It’s also a stereo headset for listening to music. Sound quality for calls is solid, and the physical design is pretty slick, too. The 855 won’t replace your high-end music ear phones, however.

At 2.25 inches long, the Voyager 855 looks a bit more conspicuous than other headsets I tested at the same time. Nevertheless, its call, volume, and mute buttons are comfortably positioned in the top third of the staff, closest to your ear. I didn’t hit any buttons accidentally when adjusting the device’s fit. At 0.52 ounce, it weights more than competing Bluetooth headsets, but not significantly more. The 855 comes with an AC charger, a carrying case, and a useful printed user guide.

Even in my small ear, which doesn’t like iPod and other standard-size earbuds, the Voyager 855 fit very comfortably. That’s because it comes with small, medium, and large plastic earbud attachments, which hug your ear canal and block out ambient sound. It sat in my ear quite securely on its own, but it comes with an optional earhook as well, for a more solid fit.

The Voyager 855’s unique feature is another bundled attachment–an earhook with a second earbud, which plugs into a slot on the back of the device. The result is a set of stereo headphones. I listened via Bluetooth to songs loaded on a Motorola Razer2 V9, using the mute button to play and pause the music. Volume controls worked fine, but they also advanced tracks if I held them down for a few seconds. When I received a call, I hit the call button to answer it and (simultaneously) to pause the music. Callers’ voices then channeled through both ears, sounding at times like that of the giant disembodied head in The Wizard of Oz. When the call ended, the music resumed.

Sound quality was pretty good. In a crowded train station, the call recipient and I could hear each other well. One nice touch: The bottom two-thirds of the 855 slides down to move the microphone closer to your mouth. When I performed that action, my test callers said that I sounded louder and clearer. (The Very Good rating that this headset earned for audio quality is based on the mic being pulled down.) The 128-kbps and 192-kbps MP3 files that I played from my phone sounded good, but the Voyager 855 is no match for a wired set of music headphones, especially for reproducing higher-bit-rate music. Plantronics’ stated talk time of 7 hours between battery recharges does not seem exaggerated.

The $76 Voyager 855 is well designed for a Bluetooth headset, though you’ll still look dorky from the perspective of music fashionistas. It also sounds goods, but again, only for a Bluetooth headset. In short, if you’re music-loving cell-phone user, the 855 is a nice compromise.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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