I came across the HBS700 set by LG (also called the LG Tone). This was a unique style as far as I can tell. It is a behind-the-neck band style, but with a thin band. It hangs down around your neck and has in-ear earbuds that come up with short wires from the unit. This more closely resembles those that use a relatively short headphone that plugs into a unit that clips onto your clothing. However, those have too much cord length with some being nearly full length.
As long as you are comfortable with the in-ear silicone earbuds, these are a great solution to the comfort problem since it’s just some small earbuds in your ears and not a rigid, heavy band around your head and over your ears like the Motorola S9-HD. Jabra has a set with a soft behind the neck cord, but those have bulky behind-the-ear earpieces that hang on your ear. There are Bluetooth sets with corded earbuds, but the cords seem too long to me to avoid getting in the way like normal corded headphones, and you have to be able to clip the unit’s body to your clothing.
One thing the corded earbud styles can do that the others can’t is to be able to use only one ear with the other open for listening to what’s around you. I often do this since I’m listening to mostly talk podcasts to be able to hear surroundings well while biking or walking around the house. I liked this about my regular iPhone headphones. With corded earphones, the problem is where to put the unused bud. Usually, you have to tuck it under a collar. The HBS700, with its very short cords are not much problem to just let the unused bud hang down, but it has handy magnetic storage cups at the end of each side of the neck band for the ear buds.
The neck band is quite flexible and small. With the earbuds on their little cords, bumping the headset body doesn’t bother them or your ears. It is easy to lie back and fall asleep with these on. It’s also easy to forget they are there if just stored around your neck (especially if you tucked them under your collar), so you have to be careful taking your shirt off to to remember they are there and not send them flying. So far, they have survived a few drops onto the wood floor.
I do like being able to tuck the unit under the collar of a shirt or under the neck of a collarless shirt to make it less obvious, but depending on the shirt, this can make it tricky to feel for the buttons. However, I can go all day with it stored there rather than have to worry about packing it in a bag. You might could with the S9-HDs, but with their over-ear hooks, they don’t lie very flat.
The controls are pretty easy to get used to even though the button shapes are the same on the left and right, which would seem to be a bit confusing to remember. Each side has an up/down rocker button and a round button. The left side is volume up/down with the call button. The right side is volume up/down with the pause/play button. They aren’t three closely-spaced identical buttons on each side, so they are easy to operate by feel. The down side is that they can be accidentally pressed when turning your head extremely to the side and down, like when riding a bike and looking behind you.
Another nice departure from most Bluetooth headsets is that it has a separate on/off switch so you don’t have to hold the multifunction button and wait to hear the audible confirmation. It also has a simple battery level check of holding down the volume down button and seeing a low/medium/full color of the light next to it. Yes, there is the requisite flashing blue light, but I haven’t found it distracting, especially if I’ve tucked it under my collar.
I’ve managed to get the multi-point feature to work, but that seems only because my original iPad does not support both A2DP and headset protocols —- only A2DP, so the headset part is available for my iPhone to grab, but you have to do a settings dance to make it happen. With it paired to both the iPad and iPhone and both with their Bluetooth on, turning on the headset always seems to connect to the iPhone for both headset and A2DP. To get A2DP from the iPad and headset to the iPhone, you need to turn off the Bluetooth on the iPhone, turn on the headset, its A2DP will connect to the iPad. Then, turn the iPhone Bluetooth back on, and it should connect to the remaining headset profile. Like I said, I think this is only possible with the iPad 1. I’ve noticed that you get one beep in the headset for each profile connecting, which isn’t in the documentation
For phone calls, which I don’t do very much, it is nice to just keep it around your neck with no earbud in your ear all the time and just reach for one earbud to take a call when you need to.
Also, the call quality is very good. Importantly, the caller can hear me very well —- better than any other headset I’ve tried. I’m sure it may not be the best, but it is certainly better than most.
In the car, I like using it with one bud in to easily take calls and listen to podcasts rather than using the car stereo. I can keep listening while getting out of the car and walking to my destination, which is especially nice if I’ve just left the phone in my pocket the whole time.
I’ve also used it while riding my bicycle several times and have really enjoyed it despite having to be careful to not pinch it under my neck when doing a head check to avoid accidentally pressing one of the controls. I don’t know if it would do very well if you were to sweat a lot. I don’t usually, and haven’t done with it on yet. It looks like it might be okay against sweat on your body, but it could be susceptible to sweat dripping onto the buttons.
Another big problem with many Bluetooth headsets I’ve used is reception. This is mainly since your body absorbs the 2.4 GHz frequency that Bluetooth uses, and often you can have a lot of body in-between it and your phone. An interesting effect is that indoors, you get better reception because there are things nearby that the signal can bounce off of to go around you. This headset seems to have good reception outdoors, so that I rarely get dropouts. Indoors I get pretty much the full Bluetooth range, which means I generally don’t have to walk around with the phone. Unfortunately, with our microwave, it can’t be used in the kitchen when it’s on.
Overall, it’s been really enjoyable.
- Good call quality
- Good reception
- Good battery life
- Very comfortable and convenient design
- Earbud cords, although short, can be fiddly sometimes.
- Earbuds have small bodies, which is generally good, but they can be tricky to get seated.
- You can forget they’re around your neck when taking off your shirt and fling them on the floor.
There us a new version out now, the HBS730. It has improvements feature-wise, but many reviews are saying that the reception sensitivity is greatly reduced from the HBS700 which means reduced range and more susceptible to body blockage.