You’re busy and you need to stay in contact with your dispatch, but you also don’t want the hassle of a ticket. Bluetooth headsets help you stay in touch with home and in compliance. In this buying guide we break down important features and give you a list of bluetooth headsets and earbuds to check out.
As a truck driver, you need a headset that’s more versatile and can handle more extreme driving conditions than a typical commuter car. You can’t afford to drive distracted so taking your eyes off of the road for a second isn’t an option. Here’s our list of the best bluetooth headsets for truckers along with a handy buying guide to help you make the right decision.
In A Hurry?
If you’re short on time and want to cut to the chase to find the best bluetooth headset that will work for you when you’re on the road here are our choices on Amazon. We research and pick the best available options.
Of course bluetooth headsets aren’t all created equal – From features to cost (headsets and earbuds range from dirt cheap to hundreds of $$$$) what will matter most are the features that you’re looking for in the course of your day to day routine. Just like other gear most driver have with them such as a power inverter or a mini fridge you’ll want your headset to be roadworthy.
In this buying guide we’ve put together some basic features you may want to give you a better understanding of what to look for when making your buying decision.
Why should truckers use a bluetooth headset?
Our society is mobile, and business is mobile which means you need to be able to talk with any number of people from shippers and receivers not to mention your dispatch.
Are you worried when you use your cell phone?
There are a ton of cell phone laws, each state has one. Not the least of which are the federal hands free cell phone laws. In fact, there are multiple regulations that govern a truck drivers use of a cell phone while driving. If you’re caught using your cell phone you can get both a ticket and CSA points from an inspection.
So what do you do?
The obvious answer to that is that you have to get yourself some sort of hands free device. Even the most expensive Bluetooth headset will be cheaper than receiving a ticket when you consider the high cost fines when receiving a citation.
There are a lot of choices and features to consider: in ear, over the head, noise cancelling and tons of other features. When selecting a bluetooth headset or earbuds you may also want to consider other things like how your cab is set up, your workflow etc.
For truckers looking for the best bluetooth headset, stick around. We’ve put together this buying guide to help you make the best decision without killing your wallet. Also, we’ll give you a list of the best bluetooth headset and earbud options that are out now.
Best Bluetooth Headsets For Truckers Roundup
Bluetooth Headset Features Truck Drivers Should Look For
As a Truck driver you know this;
DOT has plenty of rules that govern a lot of aspects of your job and driving hands free is one of them. In fact, they have two separate rules to write you up for depending on whether or not your hauling hazardous materials.
To stay hands free while driving means that you’re going to be wearing your headset for long hours. So it’s important to find a pair that works for you and your needs.
Professional truck drivers, (especially an owner operator that runs their own business) you’ve got a lot of time on the road between deliveries that you can make use of. Being able to make use of that time can be super helpful and productive.
The fact is;
If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel doing any kind of driving whether as a truck driver, commuting to and from work, or traveling in an RV you’re going to want to be able use your cell phone safely without being paranoid about getting a ticket.
A few features truck drivers should consider:
- Comfort – How do they fit you
- Sound and noise cancelling
- Microphone quality
- Battery Life
- Operational Range
Bluetooth headset vs Earbuds
Bluetooth headphones come in two basic designs and which one you decide to go with depends on your personal preferance.
Headsets – The headset or headphone (the terms are interchangeable) is the classic style where the headphone itself goes over the top of the ear. Wireless headsets are the traditional headphones that we’ve all seen for years that feature two earcups connected by a plastic or metal band.
If you’re going to wear a headset for long extended periods of time, you’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t squeeze your head too tight.
For these designs ear cup size and what the cushioning is made of will be factors that determine overall comfort.
Earbuds – The earbud style (also referred to as earphone or IEM depending on how they’re used) is designed to be inserted directly into your ear. Wireless earbuds give you the freedom to walk around a fair distance before cutting out. That being said, no matter which earbud you select you may not be able to walk from your truck cab to the back of your trailer before losing connection.
Today’s designs are very compact and nearly all of them sound good, giving many wired earbuds and headsets a serious run for their money. Because earbuds are inserted directly into your ear, they’re all designed nearly the same.
Pros and Cons of headsets vs earbuds
This list isn’t exhaustive, but can give a few things to think about as you try to decide which style you’d like to use.
Larger magnets – More sound less power.
Bigger drivers for less distortion.
Can use magnetostatic or electrostatic designs.
Uses individuals’ ears to help achieve sound you are familiar with.
Good ear seal depends on tightness and fit to the head.
Can be too large and bulky.
Band can be too tight, squeezing the head too hard.
individuals’ ear for sound can be unpredictable how it sounds.
Get a great seal in the ear canal.
Good isolation for loud environments.
Can be driven by phones and other low power devices.
Designed with less parts which means less to break.
Can be placed too tight or deep in the ear.
Can’t hear traffic as well in heavy traffic road conditions.
Newer buds are small and can be easy to lose.
Too many to choose from on the market
Getting good sound out of a headset will really depend on a couple of things. The type of driver the headphone uses to deliver the sound and the design of the actual headset. Each of these features come together to provide both a quality sound and isolation from noisy environments.
Headset Driver Types
So What do we mean by headphone driver?
The headphone or headset driver is the actual speaker mounted in the headset that drives sound into the ear canal. Without getting super sciencey, they are electromagnetic devices that convert electric signals into a sound you can hear.
There are three types of headset drivers that are used. Each having varying degrees of both quality and cost. In other words, the higher the quality the more expensive they are.
The three headset drivers are:
- Planar Magnetic
Known as ‘moving coil’ drivers, these drivers are the headset equivalent to the regular full size drivers that you might have in your home stereo or portable speaker. Dynamic drivers are the most common out on the market mainly due to a low cost in mass producing.
How Do Dynamic Drivers Affect Listening?
Dynamic drivers are good at producing frequencies at the low end of the sound spectrum but can distort at higher frequencies. At louder volumes they can be prone to harmonic distortion (or an alteration of the original sound wave. You can read more here)
Dynamic drivers typically use a neodymium magnet affixed in the interior of the headset housing that helps create a static magnetic field. The signal is initially sent through a thin wire coil that reacts with the magnet.
Dynamic headsets have the following features:
- Affordable for companies to produce, more affordable in price
- Usually don’t require external power
- Can be prone to harmonic distortion
Materials used to make the headset housing can cause variations in the sound quality of a dynamic driver.
These drivers are similar to their dynamic counterparts but are a step up and tend to be more expensive. Planar drivers are not as common as dynamic and not a lot of companies manufacture them.
They operate similar to dynamic drivers in tha they use a magnetic field to help generate sound. Instead of using a coil, planar magnetic drivers use a flat, large membrane (or diaphragm) that has a wire pattern embedded in it instead of a coil. The membrane sits between two magnets that have equal magnetic force which move the diaphragm to provide sound.
Planar drivers are mid range in cost between dynamic and electrostatic headsets.
How Do Planar Drivers Affect My Listening?
A lot of distortion in planar drivers are mitigated by sonic vibrations being evenly distributed across the entire diaphragm. The sound that reaches your ears is less likely to bounce off of your head in unpredictable ways which helps to give the listener the perception that the audio is more true to life.
Planar Headsets have the following features:
- Reduced distortion
- Sound reproduction is more accurate
- Tighter bass response
- Needs amplification or some voltage to drive them
- Not as common as dynamic headsets
- More expensive
Planar Magnetic headsets have become more popular recently, and provide low distortion and a tighter bass response
These drivers are the most expensive and the most complicated out of all three headset drivers. These headsets tend to be on the high end with some costing as much as $1000 or more (ouch).
Electrostatic headset work completely differently than regular dynamic drivers or headsets that were mentioned above and are a bit more complex.
Sound is produced by placing a static electric charge on a diaphragm that is sandwiched between two metal plates. These metal plates are perforated to allow air to pass through. Voltage is then supplied to the plates and the diaphragm moves by itself. There are no coils or wires embedded on the diaphragm.
These headsets require a large amount of power to function properly. They’re powered from anywhere from 100 volts to upwards 1000 volts (yep, you read that right).
How Do Electrostatic Drivers Affect My Listening?
These headsets have very few metal components and moving parts that will produce excellent sound.
Electrostatic Headsets have the following features:
- No moving parts
- No perceptible distortion
- Require some kind of amplification
- Heavy and bulky
- Very expensive
Headphone/headsets come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on what kind of listening is going on. Do you want open or closed back? In addition, there are two basic types of earcup designs to look for.
Open back vs Closed Back Headsets
Each of these designs or housings will either have an open or closed back. Open back headphones will have a grill on the back of the earcup to allow the driver inside to move air more freely. Closed back headphones are completely sealed so that they will only allow sound directly into your ear.
Open back headsets/headphones:
- Good for critical listening
- Not good for blocking outside noise
- Listening in public places
Closed back Headsets:
- Good for listening on the road
- Recording/mixing audio
- Listening in public places
- Don’t vent heat around ears well
The Two Earcup Designs
Earcups on headsets come in four basic designs that provide the listener with a different experience based on use.
These two types of headphones are:
- Circumaural (usually called full size headphones)
- Supra aural
Circumaural headsets are ellipsoid designed earpads that totally surround each of the ears. These earcups completely cover the ear and are typically used for studios or any other application where the listener needs more isolation from environmental noise.
Supra Aural headsets sit right on top of the ear but do not enclose the ear. These headsets are generally smaller than circumaural and are designed to be more portable. These headsets don’t block out outside noise very well and are common in personal stereo devices. You can read more about each type here.
What about Earbuds?
Wireless earbuds are all the rage these days and it seems like everyone from apple to sennheiser and everyone in between are upping their game when it comes to making earbuds.
Consumers tend to choose a pair based on the following:
It’s important when choosing a set of earbuds to look beyond those items and look at other important info.
Frequency response – Sound is measured in hertz. The lower the more bass the earbud will deliver. As an example, an earbud that says it will deliver 20hz will have more bass than an earbud that has a starting range of 50hz.
Here’s an example of lows mids and high frequency response ranges:
|Low, Mid and High Frequency Response Ranges|
|Extreme Bottom||Below 32Hz|
|Low Bass, bottom octave||20 to 40 Hz|
|Mid Bass||40 to 80 Hz|
|Upper Bass||80 to 160 Hz|
|Lower Midrange||160 to 320 Hz|
|Upper Midrange||2,560 to 5,120 Hz|
|Highs and lower Highs||5,120 to 10,240 Hz|
|Extreme highs, top octave||10,240 to 20,000 Hz|
Impedance – Earbuds run on electricity of course and electricity can carry a vibrational frequency that can wear your earbuds out over time. Electricity can cause hiss and in order to eliminate hiss, you need impedance.
Earbuds with a high impedance mean that the sound will have more clarity than those with a low impedance. So, get yourself a set of earbuds with the highest impedance your wallet can handle.
Drivers – The biggest reason a person may buy one set of earbuds over the other is the sound of the earbud drivers from one pair to the next, Cheap earbuds tend to only have two drivers inside the earbud and of course more expensive good sound devices have more.
The stronger the driver, the better the sound and each driver tends to boost base. Super expensive earbuds can have up to six drivers.
How does noise cancellation work?
Noise cancelling headphones use a couple of different methods that block (or ‘cancel’) distracting environmental sounds so that you either listen to music more clearly or focus on a phone call that you’re on.
Noise cancelling headsets or earbuds use the decibel measurement to specify the amount of noise that can be cancelled. The higher the decibels the better, but keep in mind that this is only a part of the puzzle. In addition to decibels, you’ll need to have some idea of what frequencies are being blocked..
There are two ways that headsets use to achieved noise cancellation:
- Active noise cancellation
- Passive noise cancellation
Active – The cancellation effect focuses on constant ambient droning noise by utilizing the headsets built in microphone and active noise control (ANC) to target undesired sound waves (or frequencies) and then generate a sound wave into the ear out of phase with undesired ambient noise.
Passive – The passive method physical blocks unwanted noise utilizing padded over the ear cups. For earbuds, cancellation is achieved by getting a good tight seal that will block out ambient noise.
Most quality headsets use a combination of both active and passive noise cancellation, while the earbuds of today use active noise cancellation. A good example are Apple airpods earbuds.
So what should I look for?
This is where comfort comes in, because chances are you’ll be wearing your headset or earbuds for long periods of time.
For headsets, look for a good heavily padded earcup and take note of the material it’s made from. Is it just plastic or is it a nice soft leather? After that, pay attention to how much padding is on the earcup.
Earbuds are more straightforward because they’re designed to be inserted into the ear. When it comes to earbuds look for a nice soft silicone that won’t irritate your ear canal. Also make sure the pair you buy has extras in the package.
Should you use noise cancelling while driving?
As a matter of safety, it’s not recommended that you use the noise cancelling feature of any headset or earbud while you’re driving.
Many times traffic accidents are avoided because the driver can hear honking, skidding and other types of road noise. There’s a time and place to be in your own world but behind the wheel of a vehicle (specially a commercial vehicle) is not the time.
There’s nothing worse than a truck driver to be on the road trying to make calls, listen to music or podcasts and then have your headset or earbud crap out with no power. It can be even more frustrating if you have to charge your headphones as often as you have to charge your cell phone.
When it comes to batteries, there are three things to look for:
- Battery Life – How long will the charge last? Many units can go as long as 40 hour before needing a recharge. For truckers having plenty of hours of talk time is essential.
- Charging Time – How long before you’re ready again? A good set shouldn’t take longer than two hours.
- Charging Speed – Look for a headset/earbud that has fast charging
Also, keep in mind the units warranty when purchasing. You never want to change a battery yourself (unless its designed that way). Tearing open the unit could lead to the warranty being voided.
How far you’ll be able to walk away from your cell phone without it cutting out will depend on two things:
- The range listed on the device itself
- How much interference you have. For example, are there walls, metal and other obstacles the signal will have to travel through?
Wireless headsets these days run the gamut of 100 feet to over 300 feet. Like anything else, the more range the more you’ll wind up paying.
Top Bluetooth Headset Brands
When people shoot for electronics like phones or laptops, the brand you buy can make a big difference. People like to stick with a brand that they know and love so that they ultimately get the best experience.
Bluetooth headsets are a bit of a different animal.
With the proliferation of bluetooth technology you’ll see big names in the space like Plantronics, Jabra or BlueParrott and tons of brands you haven’t heard of.
Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t make them bad and in fact you can find some great products out there checking out product reviews.
Plantronics produces quite a bit of the headband or clamp style headsets and is a leader for the business style headset.
Their headsets will be more expensive than other bluetooth headsets, but you can expect better quality with advanced features. The Voyager 5200 listed here has Alexa built into it along with noise cancelling audio.
Jabra has a reputation for producing products across a multitude of industries and professions. An example is the Jabra Steel headset that’s designed the professional that spend a lot of time outdoors.
They also make headsets that are ideal for day to day use in addition to professionals on the go. Their headsets are high quality but the battery life is not as good as you would see in other headsets.
When it comes to getting a bluetooth headset specifically for the trucking industry, look no farther than Blueparrott.
Blueparrott caters specifically to the transportation industry and kicked things off the B450xt which became an industry workhorse. Although it’s an older model drivers still swear by this headset.
Outside of the trucking industry Blueparrott isn’t as widely known as other producers, but they’ve been around for 25 years. Currently they have about 10 models to choose from.
DOT Hands Free Regulations
As if you didn’t already know;
DOT has multiple rules that they can cite you under for not using a hands free device while you drive. In fact, not only can you not drive while talking on your cell phone but you can’t have it in your hand. The only allowance that FMCSA makes for drivers is if they are on their device communicating with emergency service or law enforcement.
Are you hauling a load that is subject to hazmat placard regulations? There’s an entirely different rule for that that says that you can’t use a mobile device while driving.
Keep in mind that if you violate either one of these rules that not only can you receive a ticket, but if it’s listed on an inspection you’ll receive CSA points as well. In fact, it’s a whopping 10 point CSA violation that goes into the Safety Management System.
The Wrap Up
There are a lot of bluetooth headsets out on the market both over the head and in ear. They all feature the latest technology but that doesn’t mean that they’re the best. The best bluetooth headset for truckers will be one that provides the drivers with the features to help them do their job and stay hands free without breaking the bank.
Obviously they’ll need to sound good, but comfort and battery life will also be important factors as you make your choice.