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Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

Tue Jan 1, 2008 - 12:20 AM EST - By Douglas Morse

Overview

By the time you read this, I’ll have jumped to the good ship iPhone. I’ll be writing reviews for our affiliate site www.phonedifferent.com, though I hope to wander back to these pages for an occasional review. Since I’ve now flogged my Treo 750 on E-Bay though, I’m one device short. One very, very odd omission from the iPhone is the lack of A2DP support (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). Wireless stereo streaming music is a no go on that Pod. Many theories abound about that glaring omission, but for now, the Treo line is ahead on that score, and it’s pretty significant. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the multitude of A2DP devices I’ve come across, not the least of which is the new Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970.



Design

The HBH-DS970 is a pendent style while the guts of the unit is an oblong shaped unit that hangs from a lanyard around your neck. I found each section of this headset beautifully done. The earpieces themselves are soft rubber that gently fills the ear. They are much more comfortable than earbuds that tend to jostle around. The earpieces are snug, blocking out unnecessary noise and focusing the sound you want directly into the ear.

The earpiece wire runs directly into the lanyard and is woven into the fabric. In fact build quality is all around excellent. At one junction of earpiece wire and lanyard is the call control button – a plain plastic disk labeled with a phone icon that simply clicks when you press it. The mirror image wire lanyard junction houses the microphone in a dub of plastic. When in your ear, the mic hangs just to the right and up from your mouth – where a typical earpiece microphone is placed. The lanyard has a permanent connection to the unit itself.

I love the controls on the HBH-DS970. At the top of the pendent is a dedicated power button. On the right hand side is the track control button. This slides forward and back. On the left hand side is a rocker style switch for volume control. Both of these controls are logical for their specific function. Next to the volume rocker is a unique switch that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Without powering off the device or changing settings in a Bluetooth control panel, you can control the multipoint features of the device. You can stream music from one source, say your computer, while take calls on your HBH-DS970.

The pendant itself has a shiny black face offset with orange trim. The ‘w’ walkman symbol reminds us how Sony once dominated the portable music market. On the face of the unit is a play/pause button, clearly marked in orange. Below that is the LED display which shows various status graphics and caller ID. On the back of the unit is a proprietary charging port. The AC adapter is lightweight and first charge took about 8 hours and pairing was quick and painless. Subsequent charges should only take a couple of hours.


Functionality

All of the various buttons and placement of them is far from confusing. The specific functions simplify operation. This may be the first device I’ve seen with separate Play, Power, and Call control buttons. What is nice about the pendent design is that you can simply hold it up to look at the LED and controls. The unit makes no pretentions that it can be used as a clip on or used as anything else than a lanyard pendant solution. You can adjust the length of the pendent through an easy to use slider on each side of the lanyard. The only issue with the lanyard design is that the unit can tend to swing about a bit. This is not a headset to be used for vigorous activity. For those, head over to the Motorola S9s. I should note that the headset weighs in at a mere 27 grams, but since most of the weight is in the pendent supported by the lanyard, the earbuds put practically no pressure on your ears.

The sound quality is great. The cushioned ear foam really does channel and focus sound in a way that all of the sophisticated noise reduction circuitry cannot. Callers are clear and you are heard clearly as well. It’s not on par with a wired solution, though it is pretty close. The only downside of the music was that it lacked dynamic range. Windows Media Player for WM5 desperately needs a graphic equalizer function. The Lubix headphones I tested had wonderful equalizer presets that greatly enhanced the quality of the music. More manufacturers should integrate this sort of technology.


Conclusion

This is one great headset. I am so impressed with the controls. Each has an excellent feel and location. The slider for track forward or back is a lovely touch. The ability to pair with both a phone and a separate music device, and a dedicated switch to change multipoint connections with various Bluetooth devices is great. The LED display handles caller ID with aplomb, shows battery status, and volume level. I love the earpieces themselves as they are extremely comfortable and do well with the music.






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Criteria 

Rating

Design 5
Functionality 5
Sound Quality 4
Price/Performance 4
Overall
(not an average)
Pros
  • Great sound
  • LED display excellent
  • Best control layout
  • Ships with spare earplugs
  • Excellent build quality
  • Cons
  • Proprietary power port
  • Pendent design sways a bit


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