Many shoppers diligently research before buying a smartphone or laptop, but then they pair their purchase with any old headset. A good headset is more than just a hands-free way to talk on the phone or game online. The performance, audio and size of your headset affects your call quality and comfort level. Learn about the various wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, radio frequency and infrared, to see if saying goodbye to your wired headset is the right move for you.
Before you start shopping, think about how you plan to use your headset, such as at the gym or in the car, and the devices with which your headset must be compatible. For talking on your cellphone, Bluetooth headsets are still king. Compatible with smartphones and widely available, Bluetooth lets you talk on the go without any wires snaking out of your pocket. Despite recent improvements, Bluetooth headsets still have drawbacks. The technology works by compressing your data signal, which degrades the audio quality and results in a less dynamic sound. Battery life is another important consideration. Some Bluetooth models run for over 10 hours on a single charge, while others only last for two hours of talk time. Generally speaking, headsets with better battery life are bulkier than underpowered models. Some users find that though they love being unplugged, their headset is too uncomfortable to wear for a long time. If you plan to use your wireless headset on your computer, such as for Skype phone calls or online gaming, a headset that uses radio frequency or infrared technology is a good alternative. Radio frequency works in conjunction with a transmitter that connects to your computer, television or stereo. Compared to Bluetooth, radio frequency offers less interference, superior audio quality and a longer range, though some users say radio frequency lacks the bass quality of a wired headset. Infrared uses light to transmit data and requires a clear line of sight between you and your device. Infrared users report improved stereo sound and less interference than Bluetooth. However, most cell phones do not have built-in radio frequency or infrared transmitters, making these technologies impractical for cellphone use.
Despite the drawbacks of Bluetooth, many heavy cellphone users find that the benefits are worthwhile. Better batteries usually result in a bulkier headset, so look for models that offer enough battery life for your daily usage without exceeding it greatly. If you do not frequently talk on the go or if you want the best audio quality, you are better served by a wired headset. Home users are often happier with the longer range and improved sound quality offered by radio frequency or infrared headsets.