Using a Bluetooth headset in a convertible (car)

UPDATE: See also this newer post Best Bluetooth Headset for convertible: Etymotic EtyBLU2

I drive a 350Z Roadster and like to listen to podcasts. Sure, I can pump it through the radio–I added an Aux jack, but you really have to crank up the volume to understand the conversation over the roar of the engine and road noise. Now, you can find plenty of Bluetooth headsets that have outbound noise-canceling–so others can hear you, but try finding one that has inbound noise-canceling–so you can hear your phone. I’ve found none. The best I could do was the Plantronics Voyager 855 Bluetooth headset which is an in-ear canal headset and, therefore, does a reasonable job of blocking out road noise. Still, I often had the volume at or near 100%, which can’t be very good for my hearing. I also considered the Plantronics Voyager Pro, perhaps, with a custom molded ear piece from AverySound, but I just couldn’t convince myself that this behemoth wasn’t hideous. Besides it didn’t support A2DP or AVRCP so you can’t remotely control a media device.

I got a pair of Audio-Technica ATH ANC3BK noise-canceling earphones and found they did a superb job of canceling out road noise. Initially, I plugged them into the Nokia headset adapter that came with my N97. This let me remotely control volume, make phone calls, etc. albeit with a wired connection. Unfortunately, with the ATH ANC3BK’s bulky control box (including AAA battery), I looked like a Christmas tree when everything was all hooked up.

Searching for a better solution I stumbled upon the Sony DRC-BT15. It has a built-in mic and media controls. Basically, it turns standard wired headphones into a wireless stereo Bluetooth headset. (I’m pretty sure Nokia made a similar device, but I could not track it down.) The Audio-Technica earphones work great with it. The set up is still a little bulky, but eliminating the wired connection to the phone makes it much more palatable.

So until they make an in-ear canal, inbound noise-canceling Bluetooth headset, this is the best solution I’ve found. I can drive with the top down on the freeway with the volume very low and clearly hear callers and understand my podcasts. It’s probably saving my hearing as well. Of course, I only have one side plugged in, so the other side of the earphones dangles. I haven’t been brave enough to cut one side off yet :-)

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