We’ve all been there: it’s a Friday and the minutes are ticking away slowly, so to pass time faster, we surreptitiously turn on Netflix. Well, with multipoint, you can use your work laptop to listen to your show while remaining aware of any work notifications that come through your phone, all with a single headset. Using your favorite headset to connect to multiple devices simultaneously is a small delight that headphone manufacturers tend to overlook, and just a select few devices support the technology. Let’s breakdown what multipoint is and why just some headphones support this beloved feature.
What is Bluetooth multipoint?
Bluetooth mulitpoint was introduced in 2010, with the release of Bluetooth 4.0. In the case of wireless audio, multipoint allows a single headset to maintain simultaneous connections to at least two source devices (e.g. a laptop and smartphone). In order for it to function, a device must support both A2DP and HFP/HSP connections for audio streaming and talking, respectively. Some devices may support a phone and computer connection only, while others can support two simultaneous phone connections. It all depends on what Bluetooth profiles are supported.
When supported, multipoint performance varies across consumer audio products.
Now that I’ve tried it, multipoint is difficult to do without: it lets me stream music and receive notifications from my laptop while keeping an ear on my phone, which is almost always in another room, for incoming calls. It automatically prioritizes a connection to the device receiving an incoming call over the one streaming YouTube videos.
Who is multipoint for?
Anyone will benefit from the convenience afforded by multipoint technology. If your company provides you with a work phone, you can connect your compatible headset to both your personal and professional devices. One issue that may present itself to users who take calls on multiple devices is when you’re already on a call and speaking via your multipoint-connected headset, and another call comes in on your secondary phone. If you reflexively answer the second call, the first one will automatically end.
Related: Why do conference calls sound bad?
How to avoid dropped calls with advanced multipoint
This functions nearly identically to the standard multipoint technology with one additional feature. Advanced multipoint puts a primary call on hold when a second incoming call is answered. It comes in handy for anyone who likes to chat with their friends or family during lunch breaks, but needs to remain available for professional happenings.
Perhaps you’re telling your partner of the moderately entertaining joke you made around the water cooler, and you hear your work phone receiving an incoming call. Instead of abruptly hanging up on your partner, you can quickly put them on hold, take the work call, and hop back into your tale of office toil, all without missing a beat. Advanced multipoint is available in professional Bluetooth headsets, but isn’t quite as ubiquitous within the consumer audio market. Some headsets even allow you to connect to three devices at the same time.
Why is multipoint support hard to find in wireless headphones?
As with all features, there is a cost-to-benefit ratio that manufacturers must consider. For most of us general consumers, we don’t require multipoint; rather, it’s an appreciated convenience. However, for professionals, Bluetooth multipoint support is a necessity for juggling multiple tasks from multiple source devices. Not only does multipoint help notify listeners of incoming calls, but it also forwards notification pings, dings, and rings, so if you have a sound for Slack, email, and Skype, you can auditorily process it all without having to actually remove yourself from the task at hand.
Since it’s something of a frivolity for consumer headsets, companies don’t feel the need to include the proper hardware and software as it equates to more capital and ultimately drives up the retail price. What’s more, this technology isn’t without its shortcomings, at least in the consumer audio space. Many multipoint-supported headphones and earbuds I’ve tested struggle to switch between devices. Even more annoying, in the case of the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100, a white noise, static-like crackle is often emitted when notifications from the secondary device interrupt the primary device’s playback (e.g. if I’m watching a movie on my laptop and a text comes in on my phone, I hear the text ping interrupted by a crackling sound).
In a space where multipoint isn’t a must-have feature, it seems difficult to justify introducing a technology that may be fraught with issues, at least on devices that primarily serve as headphones for audio playback, rather than as communication headsets.
Consumer headsets with Bluetooth multipoint
Nearly all professional headsets on the market support multipoint connectivity, if not advanced multipoint, but what about headphones you’ll find at your favorite brick and mortar stores or online retailers? Here are some of my favorite headphones and earbuds with multipoint support listed alphabetically.
- Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless: These are some of the most comfortable on-ear headphones you can buy. While they don’t effectively isolate you from your surroundings, they’re easy to travel with and produce excellent audio quality for the price, so long as your music isn’t masked by external noise.
- Jabra Elite 85h: Many of Jabra’s professional Bluetooth headsets offer multipoint support, but the Elite 85h is an excellent all-purpose pair of noise cancelling headphones that supports simultaneous connections. Another unique feature of the Elite 85h is its water-resistant coating, so you don’t have to worry about getting a little sweaty on hot days.
- LG Tone Flex XL7: This headset is a big step up from the Tone Style SL5 as it features Google Assistant integration and Meridian Audio technology which facilitates a neutral-leaning sound signature.
- LG Tone Style SL5: If you’re looking for a great pair of budget neckband earbuds, look no further than these ‘buds. The retractable earbud mechanism is a nice touch and sound quality is great for a sub-$100 headset.
- Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC: This is a work-oriented headset but features a sleek enough design that you can pull of wearing it around the city. It includes a magnetic charging dock, a nice zippered carrying case, and is supremely comfortable. For anyone interested, here’s a more extensive list of multipoint Plantronics headsets.
- Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Wireless: These stylish in-ear headphones boast fantastic sound quality, and much like their true wireless sibling, they’re shy on features because you’re paying for audio performance above all else.
Sony WH-1000XM3 multipoint is limited
The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones don’t offer complete multipoint support; however, you can connect to two devices so long as one is specifically dedicated for media playback and the other is dedicated to call audio. You have to go into your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu, select the desired headset, and toggle “use for audio” off.
Multipoint’s presence may become more salient with the rise of Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec, but until then, we’ll be sure to mention in our reviews when a device supports this handy connectivity mechanism.