Hands On: Plantronics Discovery 975 Earpiece

Yesterday Plantronics got us hands on with their Discovery 975 Bluetooth earpiece. It hit the US market late last year, and arrives in stores here in a couple of weeks. That's a long wait in gadget years, and it was covered here in August, but now we've got local insights it still comes off as the best Bluetooth headset ever for people who think Bluetooth headsets suck the big one. Oh, and the tech is first rate, too.

The obvious win is style. It throws the bulk of the headset into the earpiece, with only a slender arm reaching out for your voice. With 90% (that's a guess) of the traditional garishness moved out of the way, it's subtle enough to keep you from looking like a total douche.

In the ear, it's surprising that it is really nicely stable without any over ear loop. There's a simple rubber earpiece that basically clips the piece into the ear channel (not right into the hole, more the contours around it). It slips in and out easily and quickly, so you shouldn't feel like you need to wear it constantly for it to be useful — and that's bonus points for reducing the douche factor.

If you're worried it might not fit you, check out the Plantronics wall of ears lab, where they test their headsets. Creepy, yet weirdly reassuring!

Completing the anti-wanker trifecta is the removal of blue flashing lights! Now there is nothing more than a subtle white glow to show the device status. Simple. Subtle. Made of win.

With the style topping the charts, it's almost a surprise to find the tech is still totally top shelf.

Dual mics are in the boom for enhanced noise cancellation, with the mic positioned behind special channels, grooves and a special (GORE made) material to dampen wind noise. Should the wind still be too much, the earpiece will actually give you audio feedback of how the noise is affecting your voice quality, so you can shift your head to fix it without too much messing about.

The 975 also performs some voice processing to ensure appropriate voice frequencies are the focus on your call. Not just for your outbound vocal quality, but it also processes the inbound voice to ensure you can hear the speaker as clearly as possible.

Perhaps the winning factor with this headset is the carry case / holster. The earpiece alone offers 5 hours talk time and one week of stand by. But the case itself also features a battery that delivers another two full charges of power. The case also displays battery meters for the headset and the case battery, so you know how much juice is left available on both counts. PLUS it shows a Bluetooth status so you know if you're paired or not.

Speaking of pairing, the 975 also pairs to two devices simultaneously. Whether that's two phones, or one phone and one computer, is up to you. If you are on a call on one phone and you receive a call on the other paired device, a single tap will hang up the first call and answer the second. Plantronics reps said that in future this might be able to deliver a hold function, but that's not possible right now.

As someone who has somewhat ignored the state of play in the Bluetooth market in recent times because I wouldn't be caught dead using one in public, I'm ready to try again. And that's as high a praise as any I can think to offer.

The Plantronics Discovery 975 will retail for $179.95. More details at the official site.

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