For a while now, some of the more heavily trafficked states have had laws forbidding drivers to hold cell phones. But having to fiddle with the buttons on your hands-free headset isn't much better. That's where the BlueAnt V1 Voice Control Headset comes in. True to its name, it responds to voice commands, and it offers noise-canceling technology, to boot. Although its audio quality is excellent, the voice recognition was spotty on our tests.
Design and Fit
Like the BlueAnt Z9i, the V1 has a short, chunky shape (1.5 x 0.7 x 0.4 inches). But unlike the plain black Z9i, the V1 has a flashier design: a glossy finish with fine silver and gray stripes. Despite the fact that it's voice activated, it also has a slew of buttons: a large pairing button on the front with a holographic ant and volume controls on the side with raised plus and minus signs.
The headset ships with two ear loops (one made of rubber-coated metal and the other, plastic), two foam ear covers, and two rubber ones. Although the ear piece felt comfortable, the headset felt too loose, even after we swapped in new ear pieces. The problem is that although the ear hooks rotate around the ear, they don't hug the ear. Moreover, the two ear hooks are identical in size, leaving no room for customization.
The V1 ships with three charging options: a USB cable, so you can charge it with your notebook, a car charger, and an AC adapter. The car and wall chargers connect to the headset via the USB cord, so all told, you need to keep track of just one short cable.
Voice Recognition Performance
With the exception of turning on the headset, you can use your voice to control every function of the device: pairing, answering or ignoring calls, checking your connection and battery, redialing, speed-dialing, calling back, and turning the V1 off. Double-clicking the button on the face of the headset ends a call. Pressing it just once--which terminates a call on other Bluetooth headsets--adjusts the level of noise isolation. We found this confusing at first.
When you turn the headset on for the first time, a male voice explains how to pair the headset with your phone. You can then say "Teach me," "What can I say?" and "Try it now" to learn more. We said "Try it now" to practice voice commands, and the headset understood us as we spoke at a normal volume and cadence.
As with other voice-control headsets, the voice-activated controls don't respond until you press the main button, except when receiving an incoming call. This is so that the headset doesn't respond to random conversations or burn through battery life. For instance, when we said, "Check my battery," we got no response. But then we pressed the main button on the headset, waited for the voice to say, "Say a command," and then repeated "Check my battery," and we heard the response "Battery medium."
In real-world situations, voice commands weren't easy to use. For instance, when we had an incoming call, we said "Answer" repeatedly and loudly, but the headset didn't respond. We tried saying "Ignore" and it still didn't respond. And this was in a quiet environment. While standing on a noisy street, the headset wouldn't respond to "What can I say?" We had to move indoors to be understood.
In addition to voice control, the V1 has dual mics and offers BlueAnt's noise cancellation, which the company has branded Voice Isolation Technology. In testing the V1's noise-canceling performance, we placed calls in a noisy environment, and immediately after, we placed calls with theAliph New Jawbone, a similarly priced noise-canceling headset that won our Editors' Choice.
In noisy environments, the two delivered excellent voice quality. Our caller said we came in clear both times and couldn't tell we were standing on a busy New York City street with traffic rumbling by. Likewise, the volume and sound quality were comparable on our end.
In quieter settings, the Jawbone delivered slightly better performance. Our voice cut out less than when we used the V1. That said, our caller had no problem understanding us regardless of which headset we used, and in neither situation was she able to hear much background noise.
Bluetooth Range and Battery Life
The V1 has a range of 33 feet. At that distance, we could still hear our caller clearly; the connection didn't become garbled until around 50 feet. Users can pair the headset with up to five devices at once.
The headset promises 5 hours of talk time and 8.3 days of standby. After almost a week of intermittent use, the V1 still had a medium-level battery charge. Even when we forgot to turn the headset off for two or three days, it still had juice when we picked it up again.
The BlueAnt V1 Voice Control Headset is one of the few noise-canceling headsets we've tested whose call quality rivals the Aliph Jawbone's. The identically priced Jawbone is more comfortable, though, and still delivers slightly better voice quality. While the V1's voice recognition system needs some serious improvement, it does work in some situations and can pair with up to five devices at once--two bonuses you won't find on the Jawbone.