2006-10-26

Headphones From Harald

I'd like to start by saying that I love wireless headphones. I need to lay down a little love, because I'm certainly going to lay down a little hate.

Wireless headphones come in many flavors. The flavor I like, for now, tastes like Bluetooth. I choose Bluetooth for the multiuse radio, the interoperability amongst varied vendors, and the reasonable cost.

I've been complaining about the state of Bluetooth audio for quite some time. The headphones on the market sucked, or at least they weren't the style I was after. The support in, or attached to media players was nearly non-existant. Worst of all, the cost was still quite high.

As of late, the situation has gotten a whole lot better. I can't say that it is good, but it is at a usable point. I now have a complete, stereo audio, Bluetooth solution. I'm happy with it in some cases, and disappointed in others. Here we go.


The Headphones
I spend a fair bit of time monitoring what Bluetooth products are available on the market. During one of my routine weekly searches, I found something called the Motorola Bluetooth DJ Headphones. This instantly sparked my attention. Through further searching, I was able to determine that Motorola had released a set of A2DP enabled, on the head, big can, headphones.

They appeared to be more durable than any of the other Bluetooth enabled full headphones on the market. The price was reasonable. They seemed to meet all of my criteria. I had to have them. After a handful of delays, Mobile Planet finally shipped me a set. I was elated. I've been using the headphones for a few months now, so I can really give a honest review of them.


The Good


  • Build quality - They aren't bombproof like my Sony MDR-700s, but they are the toughest built Bluetooth headphones I've handled. They have swivel ear cups that allow them to flatten for easier storage. The headband is adjustable and seems like it will hold up. The ear pads seem nice as well. They are soft and I haven't had any problems with wear so far, but it has only been a few months. My only complaint is that they hang a wire out a bit where the cups meet the band.
    If you really used these for DJing, that could snag on things, or just wear to the point where it would fail. I wish that the wire were routed through the interior of the phones like most "DJ" headphones.

  • Comfort - Pillows of sound. My ears can start to hurt after a few hours with the MDR-700s. I can wear the Motos all day without the slightest discomfort.

    These are very comfortable headphones. I also like the traditional
    over the head design. I can't stand the behind the ear designs. I wore the Logitech A2DP headphones and my ears hurt after 7 minutes, I counted. I know that I probably look goofy with my giant headphones, but I don't really care.

  • Battery life - Battery is good. It far outlasts the other end (dongle). I usually go a few days of listening between charging. This matches up well with how often I charge my iPod.

  • Sound quality - A working A2DP setup is nice to listen to. A problematic A2DP setup will frustrate you to no end. More on that in a bit. I like the sound quality. I'm no audiophile, but the range is wide and the bass deep enough that I don't complain that it isn't enough.

  • Ability to be wired - When you're on the plane or out of battery, you can cable up the headphones and use them traditionally. The headphone jack is hidden under a rubber flap on the ear cup, next to the charge port (mini-usb, type B)

  • Interface - Moto keeps it pretty simple. There are two different actions and two instances of each action, left and right. You can push a button, or twist a ring on the ear cups. The left button is for connecting, disconnecting, turning the headphones on and off, and initiating a pairing. That sounds like a lot of options for one button, but it works pretty well. The right button is for play and pause. If you have an A2DP adapter on the other end that supports AVRCP, you can start and stop your music without touching the player. I love this. You can also skip tracks back and forth with a twist of the right ring. You can't fast forward and rewind however. The left ring is for controlling the volume. The volume is not affected by the volume you set on your iPod, at least not for those A2DP dongles that attach to the dock port. Those that connect to the headphone jack are affected by the volume set on the iPod.

    To put these controls in perspective, this morning I rode the city bus. I was waiting in the pouring rain for it to arrive. I had these motos on. I could change tracks, play/pause, and control the volume through the hood of my jacket. That's good design.

  • Styling - The blue lights aren't too brash. The Moto logos are visible, but not overpowering. They aren't as clean as an iPod, but they also don't look like a label happy PDA (cough, Dell Axim, cough).




The Bad

  • Buttons - I like the size and location of the buttons. My problem is the feel of them. Sometimes I'll push them, they'll depress, and nothing happens. I think the button contacts are poorly designed. You have to push the buttons pretty hard, or exactly perpendicular for them to work.

  • Charging - I got these via import so they came with a UK power plug. It's massive and only gets worse when I add a US converter to it.

    I've found that the Motorola HT820 headphones expect the exact same power supply characteristics, so if I can find a replacement charger that works with them, I can do away with my charge lump. I also hate that the phones have a mini-USB plug, but don't seem to want to get charged from a real USB plug. They want 550mA of power. A USB port can provide 500 according to the spec. I hated my electronics classes and thus didn't learn a whole lot. I'm guessing I could get away with charging at 500mA, but I haven't tried it yet. If you have the knowledge, please smack me down in the comments on why this would or wouldn't work.



As for these headphones being "DJ" headphones, forget it. There is a slight latency between the source audio and what you hear in the headphones. You couldn't care less when you're listening to your iPod. You care a huge deal when you are trainwrecking your beatmix. We'll just assume that Moto is using the "DJ" descriptor to refer to the swiveling ear cups, and not the ability for them to actually be used by a performing DJ.

Overall, I really like these headphones and I would recommend them. Hopefully Motorola will give the US a proper release of them.

In a follow up post, I'll discuss the iPod adapter that I chose to complete my Bluetooth audio solution.

2 comments:

cottageman said...

For wireless stereo audio, Bluetooth headphones all have the same shortcomings; less than ideal audio quality and relatively short battery life.

A new announcement by Kleer Semiconductor proposes an alternative wireless audio technology. It promises to deliver uncompressed stereo audio quality at 10 times the battery life of comparable Bluetooth solutions.

Reference designs are already available for wireless iPod nano adaptors, and OEM products are likely shipping sometime next year.

More info is on the Kleer web site at www.kleer.com

Andreya said...
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