Bose Bluetooth headset: High-quality audio at a high price

Bose is known for devices with great sound, and its headset is no exception. But is it worth the additional cost?

Bose is well known for high-quality, high-priced audio products, and especially for manufacturing media players that are capable of great sound. The company has now come out with its first Bluetooth headset -- which, like other Bose products, provides users with great audio at a higher price than most of its competitors.

Bose Bluetooth headset
Bose Bluetooth headset

What does it do? The Bose Bluetooth headset ($149.95) is a sleek, handsome unit with rounded ends and silver highlights against a black background. A convenient on/off switch on one side shows a tiny red label when it's off and a green one when it's on. On the other side is a button that lets you initiate and end calls, and the volume button.

On the inner surface (where they won't be seen when you're wearing it) are two tiny LEDs; one glows to indicate an active connection, and the other indicates whether the battery needs recharging. According to the company, the headset offers 4.5 hours of talk time and 175 hours of standby time.

It comes with a USB cable and power supply (so you can power it either through your computer or an AC connection), three ear tips and a carrying case.

What's cool about it? I expected great-quality sound from a product with the Bose label, and I wasn't disappointed.

I tried out the Bose headset in a variety of outdoor and indoor environments and was continually impressed with its clear sound. For example, I used it in an overcrowded party space that had high ceilings and noise levels that were nearly painful; despite that, I was able to hold a conversation with little difficulty, and the person at the other end reported that my voice came in quite clearly, while the noise around me was just a muted background grumble. This is especially interesting given that Bose doesn't use any noise-canceling technologies but simply adjusts the volume depending on changes in noise level.

In addition, Bose has fashioned what has to be the most comfortable headset that I've tried so far. When I'm testing a headset, I usually have to spend up to half an hour or more fiddling with its ear tips until I can find a reasonable fit. This one immediately sat comfortably in my ear the first time I tried it on and remained firmly in place without my having to push it too far in or add an extra ear loop. (However, it fits only in your right ear.)

What needs to be fixed? Bose hasn't added any of the additional features that are now included in many consumer headsets. For example, while some other headsets now use voice prompts to let you know when the device is connected and how much time is left on the battery, the Bose headset still uses a set of cryptic (and much less helpful) tones. Yes, it has an LED that shows red when the battery needs recharging, but if you're wearing the headset, you can't see it.

And rather surprisingly for a specialty company such as Bose, it doesn't include the A2DP technology that would allow you to listen to other audio such as music and podcasts.

Finally, the list price of $149.95 is high in a market where most similar headsets cost around $100.

Bottom line: The Bose Bluetooth headset is extremely comfortable and has outstanding audio for incoming and outgoing calls. It's good choice for people who make a lot of calls, especially in noisy environments -- and of course, for those who are fans of Bose products. However, its lack of user-friendly features such as voice prompts and A2DP technology, not to mention its relatively high price, makes it less attractive for more casual users.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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