The Plantronics Voyager 855 stereo Bluetooth headset transforms into a sleek set of earbuds for those who want to take phone calls while listening to music. Although it's comfortable and stylish, its call quality left a bit to be desired.
At first glance, we were convinced the 855 came out of Minority Report. The sleek black-and-sliver unit features a unique sliding boom that positions the microphone closer to your mouth. Opening and closing the boom provides a convenient way to answer and end calls. The rubber translucent earpiece on the spine of the device fits into your right or left ear. Plantronics cleverly packs in a smaller second earpiece to provide dual-ear listening; below the earbud lies the small opening for inserting the attachable earclip to the headset, which links to the twin stereo earbud.
Measuring 2.3 x 0.6 x 0.5 inches and weighing only half an ounce with the attached stereo earbud connected, the 855 is light enough to wear all day. We also like the three included earbud attachments that enable you to find the best fit. However, we wish the 18-inch cord connecting the buds were longer.
Plantronics keeps the control buttons on the device simple. The main headset includes a call button, mute button, and volume button, which you can also use to advance music tracks. The buttons are small, especially the volume; a few times, we accidentally raised the volume instead of lowering it.
We tested the Plantronics Voyager 855 with Sprint's Mogul by HTC--a Windows Mobile phone with stereo Bluetooth compatibility. The pairing process was easy; we were up and running in no time. Stereo music sounded clear-albeit a little tinny-even at high volumes, and the bass didn't distort. We could also change tracks with the headset's music controls. The earbud that lacks an earclip doesn't block out sound as well as the main headset, however. We heard more background noise in that ear while we rode a New York City bus.
Unfortunately, some of our calls sounded fuzzy, despite the AudioIQ noise-reduction technology in the headset. When we took to the streets in the rain, our callers asked if we were using a headset and complained of hearing a windy echo. We encountered a similar echo and patchiness when using a different cell phone on a clear day. On the plus side, our calls sounded clear while we were sitting in the office and in our car. Hearing our caller's voice in both ears was refreshing and preferable to solo ear headsets.
Picking up an incoming call by sliding down the boom allowed us to keep the phone in our pocket (and made us feel pretty cool, too). The Voyager's 33-foot range was very strong, with calls fading around 35 feet. The reported seven hours of talk time held true; we got seven hours of music playback while taking intermittent calls. But we were peeved that we had to wait two hours to fully charge the headset before using it.
We paired the Voyager with two devices at the same time to test its multipoint technology. Although we successfully paired the headset with two phones (the Mogul by HTC and the BlackBerry 8830) without a problem, we encountered issues when we tried to sync it with an HP Pavilion dv9000 laptop and one of the phones simultaneously.
The Voyager 855 is a comfortable headset with decent-sounding music playback--and plenty of style. It's also less awkward than Jabra's convertible BT8010. But heavy talkers may be disappointed in the call quality.