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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Stellar noise cancelation
Spotty wireless connection
The BlueParrot B550-XT headset has excellent noise cancelation and a few neat features, but its rigid feel and basic companion app detract from the overall experience.
The best Bluetooth headsets provide sufficient noise cancelation, and the BlueParrot B550-XT cancels out 96% of background noises. The B550-XT should be the ideal headset for an office worker or truck driver, as the fifth generation headset boasts voice control and other advanced features in addition to its high level of noise cancelation. I tested the BlueParrot B550-XT for two weeks, evaluating its design, comfort, audio quality, and features to see if the Bluetooth headset is worth its $200 price tag.
The B550-XT is a headband style monaural (single-ear) headset. The speaker has a thick over-the-ear pad that’s composed of a leatherette material. On the opposite side sits a curved silicon rubber piece that rests against the head and helps the headset remain securely in place. The all-black B550-XT isn’t particularly stylish, as the main ear pad is large and bulky, and the headset feels bottom-heavy and overly asymmetrical. However, it does have a few design perks.
The microphone rotates about 270 degrees, so you can wear the speaker on either your left or right ear, and the microphone, which protrudes from the speaker, has an adjustable boom for optimal positioning. The headset has minimal button controls on the outside of the ear cuff— a power/pairing button, volume controls, and a customizable BlueParrot button. It’s relatively easy to control the headset’s features and functions with one hand. This keeps your opposite hand free for typing or other tasks.
The B550-XT has comfortable, rubberized padding along the inside of the headband, and the outside of the headband has a soft, almost suede-like texture. Thick padding covers the single-ear speaker, but you can remove that padding and replace it with the alternative foam earpad, which is included in the package. You also get a removable microphone windscreen.
In spite of these ergonomic additions, the headset feels stiff and too tight on the head. After long periods of wear—three or four hours—the unit begins to feel uncomfortable. The curved rubber headrest pushes in slightly on your head, while the adjustable headband feels like it won’t fit quite right regardless to how much you tighten or loosen the band.
I appreciated the headset’s build quality and durability. The B550-XT feels rugged and tough, but it simply isn’t as comfortable as it could be.
The B550-XT feels rugged and tough, but it simply isn’t as comfortable as it could be.
The B550-XT has a single 36 mm speaker with a 150 to 6800 Hz frequency range. You can hear the person on the other end of a call clearly, without too much static or distortion. The speaker sounds good on calls, but it sounds mediocre when playing music—mid tones sound slightly tinny, and the low end lacks fullness. The music quality is not even close to what you’d hear on a pair of headphones like the Bose 700 or Sony WH-XB900N headphones.
The B550-XT has a bi-directional electret microphone with frequency range of 150 to 6800 Hz. Like its predecessor, the headset boasts 96% noise cancelation. The B550-XT is an ideal headset for those who work in a noisy environment, but it has a few quirks.
The mic randomly dropped off on a few occasions. I would be able to hear the caller, but they would not be able to hear me. It’s as if I was muted, even though the mute function wasn’t active. Eventually, I performed a firmware update, which appeared to resolve the issue. However, updating the headset was not exactly a seamless task. To update the firmware, I had to install a program on my PC. There was no option to quickly and easily update the headset from the BlueParrot companion app.
The headset boasts 96% active noise cancelation.
In addition to its high level of noise cancelation, the B550-XT has some perks like IP54 water resistance, which means it has limited protection from dust ingress, and it has protection from water splashing from any direction. The B550-XT can connect with up to eight devices, two of which it can connect to at the same time.
BlueParrot heavily advertises the unit’s voice control features. “Simply talk, to talk. The world’s first 100% voice-controlled headset,” trumpets the product page. The headset is compatible with Siri and Google Now, but it also has its own built-in voice assistant. When you use the wake words, “Hello BlueParrot,” you can follow up with a command or question. You can ask, “What can I say?” and BlueParrot will provide different command options. The BlueParrot assistant is not as feature-rich or functional as a more established voice assistant like Siri or Alexa, but it works ok. I found myself using Siri instead of the BlueParrot assistant simply because the BlueParrot’s options were very limited.
The B550-XT also has a customizable BlueParrot button, which you can configure in the app. You can change it from mute (the default) to other options, including speed dial, voice memo/walkie talkie, battery check, and more. It's a nice addition, but after I tried all of the customization options, I ended up going back to the default.
The B-550XT connects wirelessly via Bluetooth (Version 5.0). It has a published range of up to 300 feet. During testing, I paired the headset to different devices, including my iPhone XR. I was only able to travel about 30 to 40 feet away from my iPhone before I started experiencing a spotty connection. In an open area without any obstacles, the range extended to about 100 feet.
The headset doesn’t include a USB dongle. But it does include a USB charging cord and car adapter for your charging cord. The headset charges in about 3.5 hours, and it lasts for 24 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time.
For a mono headset, the BlueParrot B550-XT is pricey. It’ll set you back around $200, which is comparable in price to a lot of high-quality stereo headsets.
The Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC is a good option for noisy environments, with dual mics for active noise cancelation. Unlike the BlueParrot B550-XT, the 4220 UC comes with a USB dongle, is Alexa-compatible, and comes in a stereo version. With a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, the Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC is better for music playback, but the BlueParrot might be better for one-handed operation as it feels more rugged and sturdy. The 4220 UC is sleeker and designed more for the indoor office worker, while the B550-XT is a better on-the-go headset.
I liked it, but didn’t love it.
The BlueParrot B550-XT has a neat feature set, but it has a few drawbacks that negatively impact the overall experience.