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Review: 3 Bluetooth headphones for travel, work and play

Brian Nadel | March 7, 2016
These headphones from Audio-Technica, Bose and Plantronics offer private listening and calling for a reasonable price.

At a Glance

Plantronics Voyager Focus UC

Price: $300 (vendor price); $204 (Amazon price)

Pros: Excellent Bluetooth range, desk-charging stand, includes Bluetooth adapter, ambidextrous microphone with good sound

Cons: Did not feel secure on the head, audio was lacking in the midrange tones, less battery life than others

Conclusions

Bluetooth headphones need to do double duty, delivering high-quality audio for listening to audio while being ready for the weekly conference call. All three headphones can fulfill this at home, at work and on the road, but in testing, I found that each had its compromises.

The Audio-Technica QuietPoint headphones are small, light and less expensive than the others. They can run for a full workday (or intercontinental flight) on a charge, but their range is relatively limited, so you'll need to keep your audio source close at hand. Their audio was flat and the microphone sounded the worst of the three.

By contrast, the Voyager Focus UC headphones have a lot of useful features and a boom with three microphone elements that can be adjusted for the best position. They sounded better for calls and come with a handy desktop charging stand. On the downside, the Voyager only lasted 7 hours and 40 minutes on a charge and the audio lacked the richness of the SoundLink II.

Despite being bulky and relatively heavy, Bose's SoundLink II headphones are standouts. They lasted for 10 hours on a charge and delivered the most vibrant and rich sound of the three units tested. In fact, the more I listened, the more I liked them.

3 Bluetooth headphones: Features

Audio-Technica ANTH-ANC40BT QuietPoint

Bose SoundLink II

Plantronics Voyager Focus UC

Type

In-ear

Over-ear

On-ear

Mic location

Neck band

Right ear cup

Adjustable boom

Weight

1.2 oz.

7.0 oz.

5.4 oz.

Controls

Power, volume, play/pause/calls, noise cancellation

Power, volume, play/pause/calls

Power, volume, play/pause/calls, track forward/back, noise reduction, mute/OpenMic

Noise reduction

Yes

No

Yes

NFC

No

Yes

No

Cable connection to device

Yes

Yes

No (includes Bluetooth dongle)

Battery life (hr:min)*

10:10

10:00

7:40

Price

$185 retail

$280 direct

$300 direct

*Playing audio continuously plus one 10-min. call

How I tested

For more than a month, I lived, worked and traveled with these headphones, listening to music or the news, making calls and even watching the occasional movie. I tried them out with three difference devices: a Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone, an Apple iPad Pro and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

I tried out the features and controls of each pair. I wore each for at least an hour and made notes as to their comfort, how loud they got and how easy the controls were to use.

 

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