I have been on a quest. A quest for a pair of Bluetooth headphones. I have a deep and abiding hatred of wires between my head and my music device. When I had just an iPod, it was an annoyance I learned to live with until I found Bluetooth dongles and true freedom. When I found out that the iPhone wasn’t going to have a Bluetooth headphone profile, I railed at the cold, uncaring gods. With the release of OS 3, the iPhone is halfway to freedom. I can live without the ability to skip forward/back – I’m just happy to have the wireless option again. Which brings me back to my quest.
Bluetooth headphones are even more difficult to fit than normal headphones. That whole wireless thing really confuses manufacturers. I’ve tried expensive sets and cheap sets. My best set to date were a pair of wiREVO S300‘s that I used until I beat them into the ground. I’ve since tried at least five different makes/models in my quest for the perfect set. (the wiREVOs were a bit too loose on my ears without the headband and too tight against the back of my ears after a couple hours with the headband).
Today, I picked up a pair of Sony DRBT160AS headphones from a Sony Style store in my future employer’s shopping plaza.
I was a little skeptical of these initially. The CNet review was OK – not great, not bad. Of special concern were the weight of the housings containing the electronics, plus the ability of the earbuds to fit my ears and ear canal without being annoying.
I popped the package open, pulled out the phones, and tried them on. The default set of earbuds were too small, so I replaced them with the biggest pair. The earbuds are color-coded so that you don’t mix up your pairs, a nice little touch.
It’s hard to get a sense of scale with these. They look bigger than they really are. And they are surprisingly light. The headband is definitely flexible but you can’t adjust the loop diameter, so if you have a very large or very small head, that can be an issue. I’m also curious how they would work in winter, when you’re wearing a jacket.
The electronics casings do make the headphones a bit wobbly, and the first few times you handle them, they almost feel like they’re going to snap. Long term wear and tear is a bit of a concern, and I’d be afraid to just throw them into my bag for transport. I’ll probably end up wearing them around my neck when I’m not using them.
With the modification to the earbuds, I found that they did an excellent job of sealing my ear canal. Ambient noise was diminished and the earbuds fit nicely into my ear. The casings aren’t terribly heavy and they don’t really impact your experience. It didn’t take me long to get used to them to the point where I could ignore them.
I then charged them for about an hour or so before taking them out for a test walk. Grabbing my trusty test canine, I headed out into the world. During my 30 minute excursion, I found myself pleasantly surprised. The transmission was strong, with none of the stuttering I’d experienced with other headphones. The weight was negligible and the volume levels were more than acceptable. Coincidentally, a call came in while I was walking and I was able to test the headset functions. My caller did note some wind noise (partly from my walking while talking and partly because there was a storm moving into the area), but the conversation was fine otherwise. I was able to hear him just fine and he didn’t mention any level issues from his end.
The left casing holds the battery and has a plug for the charger. No USB-based charging plug is included – you have to plug the power cord into an outlet directly. So if you plan to travel with this gadget, plan on bringing its charging device with you.
The right casing holds the controls. Power button and microphone on the outside, phone control button on the bottom, and a five direction toggle on the back of the casing to control the music. Once you figure everything out, the controls are intuitive and easy to manage.
For those of you with glasses, you’ll be happy to know that they seem compatible with most frames. I tried them with both my sunglasses and my eyeglasses and didn’t notice any conflict. The lack of frame compatibility was why I had to return the Jaybirds I’d tried out earlier in the year.
After trying them out in the gym and on the run, I will give these a solid B+ rating overall. The band does get in the way at the gym, especially when using benches. However, they didn’t fall out of position on my head when I was laying against the bench and they didn’t move around much while I was working out. The left side definately felt lighter than the right side, which made my head feel like it was off-kilter. Running with them was fine – they do bounce a bit, but nothing too terribly distracting. I wasn’t running all that fast though, so speedy peoples’ mileage may vary. For power walking they would be fine.
Good on ya, Sony – finally a product I can get behind.