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Motorola S705 SoundPilot

Tue Nov 27, 2007 - 8:39 AM EST - By Douglas Morse

Overview

It is with great excitement that I review Motorola products for TreoCentral. Recently, two Bluetooth headphones, the DJ style S805 and the sporty S9s have been my favorites. The latter is a model of excellent design with fantastic controls, slim line form factor. The former is much bulkier delivering excellent sound as a wired or wireless solution. Despite the trade offs, I was well impressed with the choices made, build quality, and functionality.

When I requested the SoundPilot S705 to review, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was getting. This was described as a Bluetooth Class 1 device with an extended range of 330 feet and I knew of no headset that fit that bill (and no headsets were shown in the picture). I knew the S705 was a Bluetooth music device that handled A2DP (the Blueooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) as well as FM Radio Frequency Modulation. However, the picture in the TreoCentral store did not offer a clue as to where the headphones went. Getting the package, it was clear that the headphones plugged right into the top through a standard 3.5mm jack and fortunately, quality earbuds are included.

There are of course trade offs with the SoundPilot S705, though its unique abilities, form factor, and functions are well worthy of an extensive review.



Design

The SoundPilot itself is a diminutive pendent like unit less than two inches in length and about an inch across. The color scheme is a simple matt black with metallic silver. There is a scroll wheel, wait,… that’s patented, so although it looks like a scroll wheel, it only has volume and track functions etched on it. In the center is a tiny joy stick to click on the cardinal directions to adjust volume or track control (up and down for volume, left and right for track control) If you need to play or pause, press the joystick directly down. The scroll wheel is elegantly backlit in a glowing blue when you operate it. On the right side of the unit is the call control button, and on the left a power/pairing button. A dedicated power button is always a good thing.



Above the controls is an LED display. It shows a cute little music bar staff and the word Streaming when connected to the Treo. The display also has a battery icon, a Bluetooth connected button, and a bit to tell you if you’re in play or pause. When you switch over to FM radio the LED shows the relevant information, more on that later though. Caller ID is supported as well. This LED is no slouch.

Included in the box are the SoundPilot, a pair of ear buds, a lanyard, a svelte mini USB charger, a detachable shirt clip, a carry pouch, and the usual paperwork. To set up the SoundPilot, plug in the mini USB charger for about two hours. Although a USB to mini USB cable isn’t included, you can easily charge this from your computer, albeit at a slower pace. The unit is rated for about 8 hours of music and talk but I seemed to get less in my informal tests. The manual notes that "Your S705 automatically adjusts Bluetooth power output based upon the distance and environment to maintain a connection with your device(s). The amount of Bluetooth power output used affects your S705’s battery life." In other words, if you use this sucker from 330 feet away, don’t expect your full music list to play through. As with all Bluetooth headsets I’ve used, watch your Treo battery. Bluetooth connections suck the life out of the Treo battery. If you’re a heavy Bluetooth user for calls or streaming music, carry a spare battery or get an extended power version.

The S705 pairs easily enough following the instructions on the Quick Start guide. Like most Bluetooth headsets, it can pair with up to eight! Bluetooth devices. This is helpful if you have a Bluetooth capable computer, phone, and stereo. One great feature is the ability to pair the headset with your Treo and stream wireless music from another source.

There are two ways to wear your S705. You can use with the included lanyard or shirt clip. Both are easy enough to set up. For the shirt clip, take out the rubber plug from the back of the unit and attach the shirt clip. If you are the type to change your mind, find a smart place to store the rubber plug. I’m sure mine is lost already. You should follow the clear instructions in the manual to set up either (or both) options. The microphone, right next to the 3.5" headset jack should hand about 8 inches from your mouth.

You’ll also need to choose a pair of headphones. Any standard headphone with a 3.5mm male end will work. In case you don’t have a pair you like at hand, included is a solid set of Motorola branded earbuds with soft foam ear caps, though in theory, you could also use this with a pair of studio ‘cans’ (as I did at one point).


The LED Display

The S705 is so packed with features that the LED display gets a solid work out. Simply when adjusting volume, six volume bars are displayed, but each of these bars has three discreet changes leaving you with 18 possible volume choices. I’ve already discussed the basic music display, but the call display is caller ID capable, and unlike most other devices I’ve seen, you can lock the input buttons so you don’t have to deal with any involuntary presses. The unit also allows you to easily cycle through various music sources.


The FM Radio

I want to talk about the FM radio feature because it is unique to the devices I’ve tested. It took me a little while to figure out how to get it up and running because every time I turned on the unit, it connected in Streaming music mode to the Treo and would not get out. After a quick peruse through the manual, I found out that I had simply had to press the left hand side menu button to get into radio mode.

I think this is the first time I’ve listened to radio here in England. Happily enough I’ve found an oldies station, which is always a lot of fun. The LED display has kicked in and shows me I’m listening to BBC Cam (which I’m sure is the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Cambridge station). This is courtesy of RDS (radio Display System) The track forward button pops you forward .10 of a unit. Holding the joystick button down scans for other stations. The menu allows you to quickly switch back to streaming music, change pairing information, or even the LED display language.

Now what amazed me most was the sound quality. Suddenly the music was some of the clearest I’ve listened to, forcing me to reevaluate what I’ve tested and putting down many of the problems to poor Bluetooth. I feel I need a proper Bluetooth 2.0 device to fairly evaluate this and other devices. However, this is still a Treo site and the Treo has yet to support 2.0.


Sound Quality

I was disappointed with the quality of the streaming music. The real problem for a reviewer is that once you test ‘the best’ then everything else must stand up in comparison. I recently took a look at the Lubix headphones with 3D sound, and the sound is wonderful – as long as you can deal with the odd earring like form factor of the Lubix. As usual, another trade off. For those of you new to this, you’ll need a device that supports at least Bluetooth 1.2 and A2DP for wireless music and as of this writing means a Windows Mobile Treo. At first I thought it was the earbuds included with the unit, though in fact these seem like a solid performer. The studio headsets I used barely increased the quality. I was a bit shocked because these weren’t quite as good as the S805s or S9 units I tested a while back – and I expected sound quality to rival those units. However, I cannot track down the weak link. Perhaps it is the extended Bluetooth range that somehow degrades the quality of Bluetooth streaming music; perhaps it is the implementation in this particular device. The music isn’t terrible, just not up to the standards I’ve come to expect from Motorola Units.


Conclusion

Is the Sound Pilot perfect? Not at all. The music isn’t quite as nice as I’d like and callers report that I’m a bit too echoey, though I can hear them extremely well. Is this a fantastic device? Absolutely. First of all, the 330 foot range (line of sight for longer distances please) is not marketing hype. This thing really stretches. The built in radio is not only a plus, but the sound quality is wonderful. Controls are easy to use; the unit is lightweight and compatible with your favorite headphones. The LED display gives you caller ID and much, much more information. This one is a huge winner.

Note:Bluetooth is named for the 10th century Viking king Harald Bluetooth.






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Criteria 

Rating

Design 5
Functionality 5
Sound Quality 4
Cost/Benefit 5
Overall
(not an average)
Pros
  • Great FM Radio sound and control
  • Can use with choice of headphones
  • 330 foot range!
  • LED with Caller ID and much more
  • Solid Accessories
  • Solid Motorola Build Quality
  • Mini USB charger
  • Can lock device
  • Cons
  • Music quality just okay
  • Drains battery


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