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Bluetooth Headphones Surprisingly Good

May 25, 2008

I have been experimenting with bluetooth headphones over the past 5 days and have the following interim conclusions:

  1. Bluetooth 2.0 headphones can produce better sound quality than most other wireless headphones. They lack the occasional crackle of analog wireless headphones and aren’t subject to a break in the sound that can result from body movement when wearing infrared wireless headphones. These are problems that have bedeviled attempts to make decent wireless headphones for listening to music for years.
  2. However, bluetooth 2.0 headphones (at least when used with a PC (as I have done so far) aren’t as easy to use as the should be. Not even as easy as using them with my cell phone.

Here is what I had to do to set up and then use two different sets of headphones I have been experimenting with:

Setup:

  1. Download drivers from IOGear site
  2. Put the IOGear Class 2 USB dongle in the USB port of my PC
  3. Install the drivers (including rebooting the PC)
  4. Pair with the set of headphones
  5. Disable handsfree telephony and headset services from devices tab – properties
  6. From Sound system tray icon, Playback Devices, set default speakers to Bluetooth Stereo Audio

Not so bad, but using them ideally would just require turning on the headphones. Not so. Here are the steps To Use the headphones:

  1. Double click Bluetooth Devices system tray icon
  2. Turn on Sony DR=BT50 headphones
  3. Wait until headphones show up in Devices as connected then
  4. Go to audio tab, select headphones and click connect

Note that for the Nokia BH-604 headphones I have been testing, I almost always have to repeat these steps (including turning the headphones off and then on again).

I plan to experiment with other Bluetooth dongles and a device that promises to connect the headphones wirelessly to my receiver, I’ll report on my results.

I find the audio quality of the both headphones perfectly acceptable for listening to music even if not "audiophile" quality.

Both sets of headphones allow me to control basic elements of J River’s Media Center, like pause, play, skip to the next track and skip to the previous track. The same is true for controlling Windows Media Player 11.

Connection issues aside, I like the audio quality of the Nokia headphones better and their controls better, but the extra steps to connect to Nokia headphones are sufficiently annoying that if I had to choose right now, I would choose the more expensive Sony headphones.

I am interested to see if the Nokia phones’ issues are linked to the particular Bluetooth dongle I’m using and what the real capabilities of a Class 1 Bluetooth dongle might be (with a range of 300-400 feet).

 

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