The Plantronics Marque 2 M165 Bluetooth headset builds on the earlier M55’s smaller design and wallet-friendly price by including a second mic for improved noise suppression, and two additional eartip sizes in the box. The Marque 2 M165 doesn’t last as long on a full charge as the M55, so it narrowly misses taking the Editors’ Choice crown away from the earlier model. But it’s still a great budget headset and well worth your consideration.
Design, Fit, and Pairing The Plantronics Marque 2 is made entirely of plastic; you can get one in either white or black. Thanks to a lightly coated finish and tight tolerances, it doesn’t feel cheap. As with the original Plantronics Marque M155, there are fewer controls on the Marque 2 than on Plantronics’ higher-end headsets. The package contains the Marque 2, an AC adapter, and fold-out manual and safety guides in addition to the three differently sized eartips.
The top edge of the Marque 2 features a sliding power switch, while the front panel contains a slightly indented, easy-to-find multi-function button for answering and ending calls. The bottom edge holds a combination Volume and Mute button. This design isn’t ideal, as you have to cycle through available volume levels by tapping the button repeatedly, but it’s easy enough to get used to, and you can always control volume from the handset. Holding the button down toggles Mute. An indicator light shows power, pairing, and low battery status.
It doesn’t look like it, but the Marque 2 is very comfortable to wear. The gel eartip and oversized gel loop make it virtually impossible for the headset to fall out, while simultaneously not putting any undue pressure on your ear. I had no problem using the default eartip size, but having the two additional choices is helpful. The first time you power up the Marque 2, it automatically enters pairing mode and delivers voice-prompt-based instructions. You can answer or ignore calls just by saying either word.
Sound Quality, Other Features, and Conclusions
The Marque 2 now features a dual-mic design; one mic captures your voice, while the other works to detect and then cancel out background noise while preserving the sound of your voice. There’s plenty of gain in the earpiece. Calls sounded smooth and clear, if somewhat trebly. Transmissions through the microphone were a bit thin and brittle in quiet environments. The noise cancellation worked well to eliminate steady noise sources when I wasn’t speaking. But the sound of my voice quickly degenerated and became unintelligible once the headset began to cancel background noise simultaneously, such as when I was speaking over construction when outdoors, and when speaking indoors near an air conditioner.
Plantronics has slightly improved DeepSleep, a mode the headset slips into if it’s no longer in range of your phone for more than 90 minutes. In this mode, the Marque 2 can now last up to six months, one more than the M55 could. Come back into range of the Marque 2, tap the multi-function button, and the headset wakes up again. Plantronics says the Marque 2 lasts for up to 11 hours of talk time, but for us it fell far short of that mark, scoring a decidedly average 6 hours and 5 minutes, which is also more than two hours less than what the M55 achieved; either the extra mic is draining the battery more, or there’s a smaller battery to make room for the mic. The Marque 2 fully charges in two hours.
Other features: The Marque 2 supports A2DP streaming, for listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and background music (in mono, obviously), as well as for delivering voice prompts from GPS apps. You can pair the Marque 2 with up to two devices simultaneously. The headset also works with the increasingly dated Vocalyst, an Android app that delivers news updates, social network updates, and text-to-speech for incoming email. A new MyHeadset app lets you locate the unit if you can’t find it, provided you have an Android phone, and you’ll also see a battery indicator for the headset if your phone runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
All told, the Plantronics Marque 2 is a solid buy, but it doesn’t take the Editors’ Choice crown away from the prior M55, thanks to the lower battery life score. Our favorite Bluetooth headset overall remains the Jawbone Era, which is much much more expensive (double the price), but delivers the best voice and noise cancellation performance available in many conditions indoors and out. For the price difference we would like our morning coffee to go. The Samsung HM1800 lacks capable noise cancellation and A2DP streaming, but is otherwise a great bargain. Finally, if you don’t mind using a pair of earbuds on short wires, the Jabra Clipper lets you connect wirelessly to your phone for stereo music as well as hands-free calls.