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Plantronics Explorer 395 Review

Plantronics 395 3

What’s under review: Plantronics Explorer 395 Bluetooth headset, MSRP $49.95

What rocks: Good call quality, simple to use controls, comfortable snug fit

What’s rocky: Earhook is unobtrusive but non-removable, lacks A2DP for listening to audiobooks or podcasts

Verdict: An excellent mid-range contender

We recently reviewed the Aliph Jawbone ICON and BlueAnt Q1, which are high end Bluetooth headsets.  Time for something more affordable we thought, which coincided perfectly with Plantronics launching its new mid-range headset, the Explorer 395.  So they were kind enough to send us a sample for review, and here is what we found

Plantronics Explorer 395: First impressions and controls

The Plantronics Explorer 395 ships in sealed plastic retail casing, which we eagerly cut open.  The box contains the headset, its charger and manual.  The Explorer 395 also has a non-removable earhook which can be rotated to fit either the left and right ear.  There are no multiple ear fittings included with the 395 but its earpiece is small and the earhook is designed to ensure that the headset stays put.  The Explorer 395 weighs in at just 11 grams.

The construction quality of the Plantronic Explorer 395 feels excellent and outwardly it looks like a premium headset.  The color scheme is black with chrome-style accents.  The earhook is transparent, and almost invisible when worn so the 395 resembles an earhook-less design to casual passers-by (see photo of devilishly handsome guy modeling it in the press shot).  As a note, presumably for security in transit the earhook was fixed to the side of the headset with a good size glob of removable sticky stuff.  This did not leave any marks on the Explorer 395 and hopefully it was just a case of someone pulling the glue trigger a bit too hard that day.

For a modern Bluetooth headset the Plantronics Explorer 395 is positively brimming with controls, boasting a large multi-function button on the main external side of the device, dedicated volume controls and an on-off switch.  There’s also a status light and a micro USB charging port, although the power adapter lacks the detachable USB cord of some more expensive headsets.  So although the Plantronics Explorer 395 can be charged from a computer’s USB port, those wanting to do so will need to provide their own cable.  A full charge takes two hours.

The Plantronics Explorer 395 supports voice dialling, redial, call transfer to and from the phone, and a combination of button presses allows the battery level to be indicated by the status light.

Plantronics Explorer 395: In use

Pairing the Plantronics Explorer 395 was straightforward; the headset entered Plantronics’ QuickPair mode when I switched it on for the first time and it connected extremely quickly to my BlackBerry Bold.  Although we’re only talking seconds here, Plantronic 395 12the Explorer 395 completed the pairing process notably quicker than most other headsets I’ve used recently.

Wearing the Plantronics Explorer 395 for the first time involves positioning the earhook to the correct orientation for your preferred ear and then slipping it on.  The fit on my head was snug and none of my ear bits felt like they were being strained, which is always good sign for something that might need to sit on your ear for hours at a time.  In fact after a two hour call the Explorer 395 felt comfortable enough to let me go the same distance again if necessary.

Call quality was good overall, with indoor conversations being crystal clear while outdoor ones were more variable depending upon the amount of wind and street noise.  The Plantronics Explorer 395 has an onboard DSP which is designed to reduce wind noise and echo.  This is not the audioiQ2 technology of the Plantronics 975 but the DSP certainly does as admirable job, and while it’s bested by the finest headsets on the market it did perform well given the Explorer 395’s price point.

Plantronic 395 11

The Plantronics Explorer 395 has a dedicated on/off switch

If we have a criticism of the Plantronics Explorer 395, it’s that some owners may prefer a design with a removable earhook.  However on the plus side, the earhook does make the 395 does feel extremely secure on the head which is a plus for those who have lost headsets to busy sidewalks.

Less importantly the Explorer 395 also lacks the nice-to-have A2DP profile which allows music, podcasts or audiobooks to be streamed to the headset.  While few mono headsets provide this functionality it would be great to see it implemented more frequently, especially since spoken voice podcasts and audiobooks tend to sound fine through one ear.

Is the Plantronics Explorer 395 a sound purchase?

For $49.95 the Plantronics Explorer 395 is an excellent choice as either a first headset or for someone looking for a good quality solution which doesn’t break the bank.  It might not have the bells and whistles of the more expensive Plantronics headsets, but for many people the 395 will give them everything they need.

Link to the Plantronics Explorer 395 product page.

Neil Berman

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Apr 23, 2010 - Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,

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