Plantronics Explorer 370 Bluetooth headset

If you want to be permanently connected to the outside world, without having to dive into your pocket for your phone – either because it is impractical or illegal – then a headset is the way to go. Whilst many are too delicate to handle any sort of abuse other than a mild breeze from your M5 aircon, the Plantronics Explorer 370 is pitched at a different sort of user.

Of course the headline feature here is that it is certified to the IP54 standard, meaning it's tested and verified as protected against the ingress of dust and water. In reality, whilst not entirely waterproof, per se, it is safe with sprayed water such as rain. This makes it an attractive proposition for those that work or spend their leisure time outdoors, but want to stay connected to their phone – builders or cycle couriers for example.

In that vein it needs to be secure whilst stuck to the side of your head. The ear loop here is permanently attached, and sits on a swivelling hinged base, so it is good for left- or right-hand preference. This is paired up with an earbud that is pretty solid and funnelled which again helps stop water getting into the ear meaning you can still hear what is going on.

However things aren’t all rosy with the earbud. It is rubbered but has little flex and there is only one size available, so it either fits, or it doesn’t, which is an irritation if you are thinking of investing. We found that the earbud was a little uncomfortable and not as secure as a standard round earbud as you might get on a set of in-ear headphones. The ear loop however is extremely solid, meaning that even with a poor fit in the ear, it will stay put.

This support is needed as the proofing has lead to a headset that is larger than average overall – and weighs 20g, double your average weight these days. But size isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you want to operate this whilst using gloves.

The headset is controlled by a central button on the front, which is just about large enough for gloved use. It sits slightly recessed, so is fairly easy to find too. This multifunction button powers the device, answers and hangs-up calls, as well as accessing voice dialling – if your phone supports it. Diving into the manual (online, not supplied) reveals all the features, including last number redial and how to transfer back to the phone, for example.

Call quality isn’t fantastic however, lacking the advanced noise cancellation that you’ll find on rival headsets. Callers reported that things were clear enough during conversations, but background noise was a problem – a consideration if you are going to be using this in a noisy environment. However the design does aim to reduce wind noise through the clever placement of the mic on the inside. This does work to a degree, but ambient noise is still a problem.

Caller volume was fairly good and easily adjusted by two rubberised buttons on the side of the device.

A lanyard is included in the box, meaning you can carry it around your neck, or to add an additional level of security if you are worried about it falling out of your ear. You also get a mains charger, which plugs into the Micro-USB socket under a rubber cap on the top of the headset. The battery will give you about 8 days of standby and 7 hours of talk time.

Verdict

As a rugged device it has the advantage of not being affected by weather. In our tests we found that it was happy to be rained on, whilst we tested it on the bike. It is also simple enough to use, keeping functions realistic, rather than offering more options than you might ever need.

The lack of noise cancellation, however, does mean that this isn’t such a solid performer when lined up against some of the regular rivals. If you work or play in a noisy environment then this may be a problem, but if this is simply for keeping in touch whilst riding, for example, then it is not too much of a problem.

What is a problem, however, is the fit. It didn’t feel nearly secure enough or comfortable enough to wear for prolonged periods. With no choice of rubber to fit to your ear size, this will limit the appeal of this headset and sees it lose marks.