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How to buy a Bluetooth headset

Now that you have a cell phone, you might be thinking of getting a Bluetooth headset. Here are a few tips on how to choose one.

Even though many still think wearing a Bluetooth headset is a terrible fashion statement, they're often a necessary evil if you want a hands-free cell phone solution. Besides, many Bluetooth headsets are quite stylish and discreet these days. So if you want to get a new headset for your phone this holiday season, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Sound quality: Before you start thinking about design and features, you should be looking for a headset with superior audio quality. This applies to both outgoing and incoming sound. After all, what's the point of a good-looking headset if it sounds terrible? Be sure to look for headsets with dual-microphone noise-canceling, and find out if it's possible to return a headset if it's not to your liking. Do note that you'll pay more for better quality. Some headsets, like the Plantronics Voyager Pro and the Plantronics Discovery 975, have wind-noise resistance that make them particularly helpful with wind noise, whereas the Motorola Endeavor HX1 is unique in that it blocks out extraneous sound altogether. If you want to get a stereo Bluetooth headset, music audio quality should also be a consideration.

2. Comfort: Equally important to quality is comfort. A headset must be comfortable to wear, especially if you plan on wearing it for hours a day or if you plan on keeping it on while driving. This is where design comes into play as well, as some people like wearing an ear hook for stability, but others prefer the freedom of not having one. You should make sure a headset comes with different-sized ear gels or ear buds so you can play around with the fit. Some headset manufacturers do provide additional ear buds if you ask.

3. Features: Headsets can do more than just make and answer calls these days. Some of the higher-end headsets have features that cheaper models don't. They include multipoint technology, which lets you connect up to two different devices simultaneously. This means that you can pair and connect to two phones, for example, and the headset will seamlessly switch from one to the other without having to disconnect and reconnect. This works especially well if you have to use one phone for work, and the other for personal use. If you're looking to use the headset for music as well, you need to get a headset that is compatible with A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). All stereo Bluetooth headsets support this of course, but some mono headsets do as well, like the Jabra Stone for example.

4. Design: Though this is not quite as important as the other factors, sometimes looks do matter. For example, while we like the Plantronics Voyager Pro, it's quite a bulky headset that is reminiscent of something a telemarketer would wear. Some of our favorite stylish headsets include the Jabra Stone for its unique and discreet style, the Plantronics Discovery 975 for its one-of-a-kind pin design, and, of course, the Aliph Jawbone Prime with its luxury look and feel.

5. Price: Last but not least, price is an important consideration. Bluetooth headsets come in all different price ranges, from the very cheap to the terribly overpriced. You generally get a better headset if you pay more, but you can get decent Bluetooth headsets that are affordable as well. The Samsung WEP470, for example, is under $30, and makes for a good, basic headset. Most of the top headsets are over the $100 price range, however, but you do get what you pay for.

With these factors in mind, I've compiled a gallery of the top Bluetooth headsets of 2009 to help you make a decision if you're in the market for a headset. Take a look and feel free to agree or disagree in the comments. If you want more information, please check out our full Bluetooth headset buying guide feature.