I haven’t used Bluetooth headsets for a while, the battery life was always poor, audio quality was varied and I listen to a lot of podcasts and music from my iPhone and stereo A2DP headsets are bulky.
But I am pretty impressed with the Plantronics M55 headset, it’s well designed, easy to use, and has a great battery life, and only a couple of things prevent this from my go to headset of choice.
The M55 is seriously well designed. It has a glossy black plastic finish, and there is a silver metallic effect edging all around. It’s extremely light at only 8grams, and measures 48mm L x 15mm W x 8mm W (19mm at the widest point where the earpiece is).
The front side has the call answer/end button which is activated by a press on the back end of the facia.
On the top side is a single press button which toggles through the volume levels, successive presses increase the volume level until you reach maximum (which you are notified by with a voice confirmation) and then you start again from the lowest level.
On the bottom the power switch is located. This is a simple slide switch forward and backward. I really prefer switches like this, the ones that require a long press to turn on/off are far harder to manage when you’re wearing the headset, and you usually end up having to take it out to confirm if you’ve completed the desired action.
The microphone is housed in the tip of the headset, nearest your mouth, behind a small grill area.
The M55 has a great range of voice prompts, and they make using this minimalist device far easier.
Besides the already mentioned voice prompt for the volume function, you get a voice prompt confirming Power On, which is followed by notification of the battery life, and finally confirmation that the headset has connected to your phone. There is also voice confirmation of Power Off.
There is only one supplied ear adapter, which can be put on the earpiece in the best direction to suit the individual. It worked absolutely fine for me, but people who struggle to wear headsets in their ears might prefer a model that comes with a range of adapters.
When a call comes in, the M55 gives you the voice options of Answer or Ignore, allowing you to deal with calls without even touching it!
Call quality on the M55 is pretty good, my test calls were all confirmed as clearly audible with minimal background noise, and the volume for hearing the other party was great, never needing to be turned up to maximum.
The M55 supports A2DP playback, meaning the headset will also function as a wireless speaker for podcasts, music, YouTube or any other audio you might want to listen to. Music is obviously not stereo and quality is ok but not great, but for podcasts and YouTube clips it works perfectly well. I found myself frequently using it to listen to podcasts round the house and in the car, and the freedom of not having trailing wires from headsets to snag on things was refreshing.
There are only 2 main issues I had with the M55.
The range of the device from my iPhone was great for voice calls, never an issue no matter what pocket I had the phone in, but streaming A2DP audio was far more of an issue. Putting my iPhone in my back pocket would result in frequent interruptions to the music, stuttering and compete breaks until it managed to reconnect again. Wearing the phone in my belt holster was fine if it was on the same side of my body as the headset, not ok on the opposite side. I resorted to mostly having my phone in my top pocket to guarantee reliability.
Range is quoted at 33feet and if there is no obstruction this is fairly accurate, but something in the way, particularly the human body and this range is much less.
The headset supports the A2DP profile which is fantastic, but offers absolutely no way to pause the music! Typically the call/end button should pause music during playback, but it does nothing. I confirmed this with Plantronics customer support, although it will play music you can only pause it on the iPhone itself. It might be me, but I often need to pause a podcast to talk to someone or reference a website mentioned, and have to quickly scrabble for my phone to do it. I find it appalling that Plantronics would build in audio support and not include the pause function. I eventually found that turning the headset off would stop the audio, but you would loose about 5 seconds while the phone worked out the playback device had disappeared and then stop. But this is a pain, and turning the headset back on still leaves you stuck unable to resume.
Plantronics CS did point out that this feature exists on their higher end models like the Voyager Pro but really if music playback is supported, so should pause/resume be.
The M55 is really good value at around £28, and for hands free calling it works very well, but if you want to be able to use it for music look toward the Voyager Pro that supports more of the features you will need.
>> You can buy the Plantronics M55 from Amazon or other online retailers.
>> Official Plantronics M55 website.