VXi BlueParrott Xpress Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Wireless Headset Review


For years I have been a Bluetooth headset evangelist.  I have reviewed many Bluetooth headsets for The Gadgeteer (see related links for some of my reviews).  I have long since gotten over any self-conscious feelings about looking like an employee in the McDonald’s drive-thru, and I have embraced my inner, and outer, geekness.  Then along comes the BlueParrott Xpress Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headset from  VXi Corporation .  Now I am conflicted, excited, and verklempt, all at the same time. Let’s find out how the Xpress stacks up!

(NOTE: click the images for a larger version.)

Initial thoughts

When I opened the box for the VXI BlueParrott Xpress ,my first reaction was “wow, this is big.”  (Please, no Michael Scott jokes!)  I mean, I have embraced my geek-ness, but this is pushing the limit, which causes me to question just how vain I am.  The headset, as you can see from the pictures, is quite large compared to other Bluetooth headsets you might have seen.  My personal observation of the trend over the past couple of years in Bluetooth headsets is that manufacturers are trying to make them smaller and smaller, while trying to improve the sound quality at the same time. So in that regard, the VXi BlueParrott Xpress seems to be blazing a trail here by going in the opposite direction for size.

The list price of the BlueParrott Xpress is $119.99.  In the box you will find the headset, a small user’s guide, a USB cable for charging via a PC, a car charger that also uses the USB cable, an ear loop, and a couple rubber ear buds that fit on the piece that is inserted into your ear.  What you won’t find is a wall charger, which for this price point is a little shocking to me.  I am not always around a computer or a car, so that means at times I am using a wall charger from another device to charge this headset.  Very disappointing.

Hardware

The ear loop that comes with the Xpress fits just fine, but with a headset this big I had some issues with it falling off my ear if I moved my head too fast.  To be fair, I have had issues with other Bluetooth headsets that used the ear loop type of hook that fits over the ear.  So I also got the Xpress Convertible Wearing Style Kit ($12.00) that includes 2 types of over-the-head bands.  One of them goes over the top of your head and the other goes around the back of your head. When I use those headbands, I almost can’t tell that I am wearing the Xpress.  They are extremely comfortable and I highly recommend getting these if you are going to get the Xpress.

The USB charging port is on the end of the device, and on the side of the device, you will find the volume up/mute button and the volume down. The mute button is nice because you can hold that down for 2 seconds during a call to mute it, and the headset will beep in your ear every 10 seconds to remind you that it is muted.  On the outside of the headset is the multi-function button which does many things, of course, regarding answering calls, rejecting calls, pairing, etc.  The volume up and down buttons also do some neat things, like turning off that blue blinking light that you always see on Bluetooth headsets.  That annoys me, so it is nice being able to turn that off and on when I want.

Above:  behind the head (left) and over the head (right)

Nobody will ever mistake me for a model.

Performance

The headset takes about 2-3 hours to fully charge, which is a little longer than some of my other Bluetooth headsets.  But then again, the battery on the Xpress lasts longer than other headsets.  The specs say that you get about 7 hours of talk time, but I got slightly longer than 7 hours.  Battery life is very, very good on the Xpress. With that large size you also get a much longer boom mic, which is bendable, so you can fit it directly next to your mouth.  That means you don’t have to speak as loud, and the folks on the other end can hear you better.  I have no complaints about sound quality on the other end of the line.  Everyone who I spoke to using the headset said that it sounded great. You can pair the headset to multiple devices at the same time, which I did, and I had no issue with that.  It worked flawlessly in that regard.

The Xpress paired very easily with multiple devices that I have – cellphones, tablets, iPods, etc.  It comes with A2DP, which means I could listen to music over the headset, which is a nice addition to the feature list.  I can’t say the music sounded that great, but then again, I don’t think that this device was meant to be used for listening to music all the time.  You will hear a pleasant British woman’s voice saying prompts in your ear when certain things happen, like, “power on”, “your headset is connected”, etc.  I do wish there were more voice prompts though – for example, when the headset is getting ready to die. It beeps at you and then just dies. The Xpress will say “power off” when you intentionally power it down, but not when the battery dies. It would be nice to hear something like “power off” in that situation, because there have been times when it beeped at me as it was turning off, but I kept talking and didn’t realize that the beep meant that the headset died. Not a big deal, but I just wish it had more voice prompts.

If you want to see the full list of specs for the device, check the BlueParrott Xpress page on the VXi website.  I will talk about more performance aspects of the Xpress in the next section.

Comparison

I wanted to compare the Xpress to another very popular Bluetooth headset which I reviewed here on The Gadgeteer and still use daily, the Plantronics Voyager Pro HD (herein referred to as the ‘HD’).  I used to think the HD was big, however, compared to the Xpress the HD is small.

Both pair and connect very quickly.  Both of them have voice prompts, although the HD has an edge there with a few more prompts such as letting you know how many hours of talk-time you have when you turn it on, and it says “power off” when it turns off and “recharge headset” when you are getting close to dying.  Both of them have A2DP, and I listen to music on both of them.  I will give that edge to the HD though, as the music has clearer, deeper, and richer sound. But again, these devices aren’t meant for listening to music, it is just an added feature.  The Xpress battery lasts longer than the HD, by over an hour, so if battery life is an issue for you, you’ll love the Xpress.  Both are very comfortable to wear with no fatigue over long periods of time.  I literally forget that I am wearing these headsets.

One of the most important features of any Bluetooth headset is background noise cancellation.  Both claim to have excellent noise cancellation, so I put both of them to the test in side-by-side real-world comparisons.  I did 2 tests calling my voicemail at work and leaving a message.  For the tests, I stood on a busy, noisy street with lots of traffic, and I drove in a convertible down the road at 55 MPH with the radio turned up really loud.

In the convertible, the Xpress wasn’t able to handle it.  The background noise and wind were so bad that I couldn’t understand most of the recording. The HD didn’t block out 100% of the background noise and wind, but it was easy to understand everything that was said.  On the busy street, I got different results.  I didn’t hear one bit of background noise with the Xpress, but with the HD I did hear some background noise. It wasn’t enough to ruin the call, but I could definitely hear noise.  So my conclusion is that the Xpress has issues with wind noise, but does a great job otherwise with general background noise.

Conclusion

I am going to give the VXi BlueParrot Xpress a rating of 8 out of 10.  It has excellent battery life, a very comfortable fit, and very good voice quality, so I believe you will be happy with it.  My recommendation if you buy this device is to also buy the accessory kit that gives you those headbands, so considering that, the price point is over $130, which is really steep. You can get comparable headsets like the HD for much less than that, and you’ll get a wall charger to boot.  And the Xpress is one of the largest headsets I have seen, so you’ll have to be prepared for that. To be honest, I restrict my use of the Xpress to my office or in the car simply because I am self-conscious about how large it is.  I am going to chalk that up to being vain, so don’t hold it against the Xpress.  It is a great headset with lots of features, but you’ll have to be the judge whether or not that awesome battery is worth the premium price you’ll be paying.

 

Product Information

Price:$119.99
Manufacturer:VXi Corp
Pros:
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Great fit, especially with accessory kit headbands.
  • A2DP-compatible.
  • Voice prompts are a nice addition.
Cons:
  • It's big. Really big.
  • Needs more voice prompts.
  • No wall charger is unforgivable.
  • Wind noise-cancellation needs work.
Posted in: Bluetooth Gear, Reviews, Travel Gear, Wireless

15 comments… add one

  • Garnet September 22, 2012, 10:42 pm

    Nice review Thank You
    Now am going to buy this head set
    or the Plantronics Voyager Pro HD

    Wich would you buy

  • Steve Holt September 23, 2012, 12:27 am

    If I could only have one, I would choose the Voyager Pro HD. Call quality with both of them is great, but my love affair with the Voyager hasn’t ended… yet.

  • Garnet September 23, 2012, 10:10 am

    Thank You
    As I am a truck driver I need good Call quality
    and noise-cancellation
    I will buy the Voyager Pro HD

    Garnet

  • N Young September 24, 2012, 11:14 am

    Great review Steve
    I had one question, can I control the volume from my phone? I have a different VXi product, and you can only control the volume from the headset. I collect headsets like yourself so I like to adjust the volume on the phone.

    Have a nice day

  • Steve Holt September 25, 2012, 6:45 pm

    @N Young I Can indeed adjust the volume on the headset by using the volume button on the side of my phone. You can also use the volume up and down button on the headset to adjust the volume. Having said this though, I imagine there are going to be phones that won’t support this feature. I am guessing this is a phone-specific issue, and there are many, many phones out there of course. Good luck!

  • joda October 2, 2012, 1:58 pm

    The VXI is a top-notch product for 2012, BUT the audio prompts are INSANELY LOUD. And there is no way to turn them down. I literally returned the headset for this one reason alone. When it says “YOUR BLUETOOTH HEADSET IS CONNECTED” it is loud enough to cause hearing loss. I’m not kidding. They say they are working on this for the next version of the headset, but this one does not have upgradable firmware.

    Also, wind tests are stupid. Put foam on it and you won’t get wind noise. Don’t put foam on it and you will get wind noise. This goes for both headsets (I’ve owned both), and all other headsets. I own convertibles and have tested most of the best headsets (all the ones with boom microphones), and this is really the answer. Don’t depend on digital “processing”, as it will never work as well as foam, and it will make your voice sound worse to your conversation partner. Also, with the top down in a convertible, put the windows up and put the headset on your left ear; there’s generally less turbulence there.

    One other thing about the VXI is that it only comes with 3 eartips (all one type). None of them worked that well for me, but I’ve accumulated dozens of eartips over the years, so I was able to make an old one work to get the fit I needed. Lots of Amazon reviews of this product indicate that it doesn’t fit well. I think the addition of more eartips (types and sizes) would help.

    Thanks for the review! It was because of your review that I bought the VXI to try out in the first place.

  • Steve Holt October 2, 2012, 2:08 pm

    @joda Using a foam cover for the tip makes alot of sense. Unfortunately, the headset doesn’t come with one so most folks will be out of luck unless they have an old one laying around. I will be looking for one this afternoon! I also agree with rolling the windows up, and I do that alot actually. But I wanted a real stress test on both headsets and I got it with that test. You know, I haven’t had any issue with the VXi fitting well. No complaints from me on that one.

  • John R October 6, 2012, 10:54 am

    Thanks for the great review. I have spent hours researching headsets to use for VoIP on my computer. Looking at TheBoom and Other VXi and Plantronic solutions. So much to choose from!!

    Can you recommend and resources for comparison?

    Thanks

  • Steve Holt October 6, 2012, 4:04 pm

    @John R You know, when I was looking for headsets I never found one definitive website that gave me all the answers that I needed. So I searched on Google to find the most popular reviews of the products and read many reviews, and I will say that The Gadgeteer website here is a great site to consider.

    If I was going to be in the car most of the day, every day, then I might lean toward the VXi, because it does come with a mobile charger and it has great battery life. I still love the Plantronics Pro HD and use it daily as my go-to headset. But I do use the VXi every week, usually when i am in the car.

  • Shishir November 21, 2012, 5:27 am

    Thanks Steve for the review. I attend a lot of international calls and find the volume too low. Can you please suggest a really loud headset with excellent call quality? I do not have any other need (for example listening music). Thanks, Shishir

  • Steve Holt November 21, 2012, 9:06 am

    @Shishir Honestly, the VXi is really loud for me, in fact, one of the loudest. The only other headset that I can recommend is the one I mentioned in my review, the Plantronics Voyager Pro HD. I have no complaints about it and the sound is really good on that one as well. I wish you luck!

  • Paul C January 14, 2013, 12:36 am

    Thanks for the review. You answered the question I had, “what is that incredibly loud and annoying beep I keep hearing?” Now I know it was the mute function. The beeping is almost unbearably loud and you can’t turn it down. The range is also extremely disappointing. Either I have a bad production model or I live in some very noisy RF environment. If the phone is by my left side 4 feet away and I turn my head to the right, the audio drops out. If I walk away, it drops completely. Same issue with iPhone 4 and 5. I like the boom mic being close to my mouth, but the loud prompts and the lack of range are deal breakers for me.

  • Steve Holt January 14, 2013, 9:19 am

    @PaulC Well, that’s disappointing. I did not have a bad experience like you had. I still use my VXi in the car periodically. You must have a headset with issues. I would exchange it and give it another try. That beep is really loud though, isn’t’ it?

  • Susie December 13, 2013, 4:58 pm

    Hi, Steve!

    Thank you for this review.

    I am looking for a good top-down (convertible) worthy Bluetooth earpiece. The Bose Bluetooth Series 2 was recommended to me by someone. I don’t listen to music but clarity is very important. Have you taken a look at this one and if so, what are your thoughts? Thanks!

    Best,
    Susie

  • Steve Holt December 14, 2013, 8:57 am

    @Susie I do not know anything about the Bose. Sorry.

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