Mics Matter

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

In this case, a good microphone in a bluetooth headset.

Specifically, the Bose Soundsport Wireless:

I’ve had these a day so far, and I love them. But not just because they sound good. Lots of earphones do that. I love them because the mic in the thing is good. This is surprisingly rare.

Let’s start with the humble Apple EarPods that are overpriced at $29 and come with every Apple i-thing:

No, the sound isn’t great. But get this: they sound good to the ears at the other end. Better than the fancy new AirPods. And better than lots of other earphones I’ve used: ones from Beats, SkullCandy and lots of other brands. I’ve not heard any that sound better than plain old AirPods.

So, when a refurbished iPhone 7 Plus arrived to replace my failing iPhone 5s two days ago, and came with no headphone hole (bad, but I can live), I finally decided to get some wireless earphones. So I went to Consumer Reports, printed out their ratings for Wireless Portable Stereo Headphones (alas, behind a subscription wall), went to the local Staples, and picked up a JBL E25BT for $49 (against a $60 list price). I was satisfied until I talked to my wife over the things on my new phone. “You’re muffled,” she said. Then I called somebody else. “What?” they said. “I can’t hear you.” I adjusted the mic so it was closer to my mouth. “What?” they said again. I switched to the phone itself. “That’s better.” I then plugged in the old EarPods through Apple’s Lightning dongle, which I also bought at Staples for $9. “Much better.”

So the next day I decided to visit an Apple Store to see what they had, and recommended. “I want a good mic,” I said to the guy. “Oh,” he replied. “I shouldn’t say this, but you need a Bose. They care about mics and theirs are the best. Go to the Best Buy down the street and see what they’ve got.” So I went.

At Best Buy the guy said, “The best mic is in the Bose Soundsport Wireless.” I looked at my Consumer Reports printout. There at the top of the ratings was the Soundsport. So I bought a blue one. Today I was on two long calls and both said “You sound great.” So there ya go.

I’m sure there are other models with good mics. But I’m done looking, and I just want to share what I’ve found so far—and to implore all the outfits that rate earphones and headphones with mics to rate the mics too. It’s a kindness to the people at the other end of every call.

Remember: conversations are two-way, and the person speaking has almost no idea how good they’re sounding to the other person over a mobile phone. So give the mics some weight.

And thanks, Bose. Good product.

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