I've now owned around 5 bluetooth headsets, and the first 4 were unsatisfactory. After repeatedly hearing that bluetooth had gotten honestly better, I decided to try one more time to find something suitable.
The Plantronics M55 is everything I wanted. I spent a long time reading reviews and comparing models. I also kept a list of what I hated about my previous headsets. Let's visit it to see why the M55 is such an improvement.
Previous headsets, even those that claimed noise cancellation, made me sound garbled and distant to callers. The microphone on a wired headset or on my phone always had better fidelity. I experimented calling my voicemail with the M55 and thought it sounded slightly clearer than the wonderful noise-canceling mic built in to my iPHONE. Siri understands my dictation through the headset fine as well, though accuracy does fall off in noisier places.
My previous headsets were plagued with a plethora of tiny buttons. If you pressed button A a microscopic blue light would flash. If you pressed button B an equally miniature red light would glow steadily. If you held down button C the device did something different than when you simply tapped button C.
A manual detailed all these headsets' features but after a few days of not using them, I'd forget and have to read the documentation yet again.
By contrast, the M55 has only two buttons, and though indicator lights are present, you don't have to see them to operate the thing. Pressing the wrong button on my previous headsets had them running down the battery in my purse. The M55 is turned on with a slide switch, which cannot be activated by mistake. When it turns on, a pleasant and loud female voice announces that it's powered up, that it's paired with Phone 1 and how many hours of talk time remain. There are 11 hours on a full charge and in practice, switching it off at bedtime, that lasts about 3 days for me.
Sliding this switch to off also provides audible feedback: "Powering off" the voice announces.
On the bottom edge of the M55, a small button rotors through five preset volume settings. With each press, the voice announces, at the appropriate volume, whether it's going up or down. All five levels can be heard in a quiet environment and the highest two work fine inside a noisy vehicle. In a very loud environment -- I was at a flyball tournament last Saturday -- I had to use the highest volume on the headset combined with the highest volume my iPHONE was capable of. If you plan to be at very loud events regularly, this is probably not the best headset for you.
The final button comprises the entire front face of the unit. Holding it down for a second invokes Siri. Tapping it quickly answers or ends a call. Tapping it twice quickly redials the last number, the only feature I could live without, as I accidentally kept redialing unwanted numbers when trying to rearrange the headset on my ear. Holding the button for about seven seconds causes it to pair or unpair. The voice will indicate the status.
My previous headsets had a distressing habit of pairing only when they felt like it. If your phone is in range, the M55 pairs without intervention. You can switch it on and off all day and it will always pair without fuss. It is capable of staying paired simultaneously with two phones, and will announce them as Phone1 and Phone2.
When I leave my phone in my office and wander down the hall with the M55, it announces when it's out of range, and my phone gracefully unpairs. When I'm back in range, it connects again. Previous headsets required that I find the bluetooth menu, find the device and pair it all over again if I wandered out of range.
The last thing I hated about my previous headsets were their bulk and weight. Whenever I bent down to harness the dog, or pick up a dropped item, the headset would fall off. Even tossing my head would dislodge the thing, and I always thought their designers were ergometrically challenged.
At 8 grams, which is less than a third of an american ounce, the M55 never feels heavy or clunky. It's been designed with a loop that curls around the earlobe and an optional rubber plug you can stuff in your ear. I found it balanced fine on my ear even without the rubber plug, though that's necessary in a noisier environment. After some adjusting, I found I could wear it comfortably all day.
This is one of the lower-end headsets from Plantronics, and at $34 on Amazon I found it a real steal. It's last year's model but got better reviews than the newer ones which replaced it this year. Most reviewers gripe that it has no bass, but for audio books, podcasts, NPR and other spoken-word sources, who cares? I figure if you want to listen to music, you should use a real stereo headset. Voiceover sounds very crisp, and it's a big improvement over previous headsets which didn't even support the a2DP bluetooth protocol.
Another pleasant surprise was how well it worked with VOIP clients. Unlike other headsets which often came unpaired in the middle of a VOIP call, the M55 never has.
Looking on Amazon, I'm so happy with this thing, I have no idea why people would pay upwards of $300 for fancier single-ear models. The M55 works fine for my needs.