Stereo Bluetooth headphones, which often go by the technically obscure “A2DP” (the name of the Bluetooth standard protocol they use to communicate), have been consistently heralded as the next big thing in mobile multimedia, however due to a multitude of reasons they've been slow to catch on.
Add me to that bunch that has waited awhile to try it out. But now that Palm has officially added A2DP support to the Sprint 700wx, I figured why not give a try. Today I’ll review the Motorola S805 “DJ style” BT headphones ($94.95) on three different devices: Palm 700wx, Motorola Q and the HTC-6800.
Given my earlier reticence with A2DP, I was happily surprised by my experience.
First thing I should point out about the S805’s: the style is called “DJ”, here referring to the over-the-hear, cup style of the headphones. For some people, this style is just not an option, whether you want them for exercising or you want a more discreet form, then DJ is not for you. But I actually prefer DJ style as it is much more comfortable for long-term wear, you can sling them around your neck when not in use or need to quickly talk to someone, and the sound is not shot down your ear canal like a cannon! The S805’s performed well in this regard and were especially comfortable to wear, not causing ear fatigue over a couple of hours like some other headphones.
- 17 hour play back; 3 hour charge cycle
- A2DP & AVRCP
- Music controls: jog dial for volume and tracks; push buttons for phone and play/pause
- Circumaural ear interface i.e. DJ-style, over-the-ear
- Wired jack to use in all stereo devices
Opening the Box
The S805’s come in a rather large box that is well sealed. Upon opening it, I realized the reason for the size: these headphones come with their own protective carrying case. This case is one of those in-between hard and soft cases, so you can’t easily crush your $100 headphones and has an area to secure the included wall charger. The case is a nice touch. Speaking of, these headphones come with a wall charger that powers the device via the mini-USB port, which is great for Moto Q users used to having mini-USB cables for charging and syncing. You also get the standard quick-start guide and larger user manual.
The S805 can be charged in 3 hours via the wall charger and, the big surprise here, is the 17 hours playback. I’m honestly not used to anything these days having a 17 hour battery life.
Overall I can describe the S805’s in one word: quality. When you pick them up and try them on, you really feel like you got your money’s worth.
Usage and Features
I had no issues pairing up with the 700wx, Motorola Q or 6800 -- all went flawlessly and A2DP was enabled without issue. The feature-set of AVRCP, another ridiculous technology term, basically means that these headphones also have controls on them for manipulating music playback, enabling a true hands-free music experience. Here I feel Motorola did a fantastic job as they could have put 10 buttons on the headphones, making it confusing and silly looking. Yet on the S805’s, you have just 2 buttons: one for answering/hanging up your phone and the second for playing, pausing or stopping your music. The other controls are jog dials that are basically the earpiece. You have one on each side, one controls your volume and the other will skip a track back and forth. This makes manipulation of the AVRCP functions effortless and very intuitive—the learning curve here is very low. All worked without problem on all three devices.
Turning on the headphones is also easy: just hold down the phone button for 3 seconds and you’ll see the blue LED light up and blink. Turning off is the same method, but not the LED is red and paring involves holding the Phone button for 6 seconds. Although this method works well, honestly I would have put a simple dip switch for turning the device on and off. I’m not a big fan of having to hold down a button and wait for a visual feedback to know they are on or off, although I suppose Moto was just keeping parity with standard BT headsets which operate the same way. The blue LED will continue to occasionally blink, but the effect is the slow fade in/out style (similar to how a Mac laptop looks in standby) instead of the rapid on/off, giving a nice, calming effect. Also I’m happy to report: all LED blinking can be disabled if not preferred.
As mentioned earlier, the headphones themselves feel very high quality. They have soft padding for the earpieces, which also happen to turn in for easy storage (they fit easily in my carrying back sans case) and the overall construction of the device feels sturdy. On the buttons, they have the bit of clear plastic that goes over them that sort of slides around a bit—that’s my one quibble, as I would have preferred a slightly better designed button, however I don’t feel this is a functional problem or something to be concerned about.
Audio Quality & Performance
So here is the important part: how do they sound? In my opinion, remarkably well. This goes for all three devices tested with, although not surprisingly, the Motorola Q had the loudest volume and probably slightly better performance—Motorola seems to have really nailed BT from my experience.
The sonic range is quite even and well balanced, having surprisingly ample bass. I did notice on some tracks, regardless of type of encoding or bit rate, a slight amount of high pitched hiss. This I feel is more attributable to the limits of A2DP than the headphones themselves, though I could be wrong. This slight hissing was not noticeable on all tracks and after a few songs, your ears quickly tune it out—it’s not something I was concerned with and some friends who tested it either did not notice it or were not bothered.
Range is rated about 30 feet for these headphones but I easily got 50+ feet from them on all three devices (yes, even the 700wx). I felt the range was truly remarkable, allowing me to walk into other rooms without any degradation—and that’s how it was, the signal was basically perfect, then at about 40 or 50 feet it’ll basically just drop. Battery life was also near the 17 hours of playback, which is more than enough time to last a few weeks for many—or rather your device will power down many more times than these headphones will.
Taking calls on the S805’s was also easy: a call comes in, the A2DP will lower the music and then pause it for you answer the call. A small chime comes over the earpiece and you just hit the Phone button to pick up; when finished hanging up will restart the music. The audio quality for the phone calls was not as good as the music which is not surprising, but it was more than adequate and on par with standard BT headsets, while the microphone worked sufficiently according to those who I spoke with on the phone.
I’ll be honest: I’m never going back to a wired headset. All these discussions about needing a 3.5mm jack instead of the 2.5 mm are becoming moot for me and many others as we finally switch to the wireless world of A2DP. I absolutely love using the S805’s, especially on the train to the city, where I have full control over the music without touching my phone and where I can sling them around my neck if I need to order a cup of coffee (they’ll also double nicely as ear muffs in the winter!). The physical quality of these headphones, the case and the audio experience were all more than I was expecting. Likewise, all the people whom I demonstrated them for were all equally impressed (most were unaware of such technology).
If you own a WM Treo, Motorola Q or 6800 and you’re okay with the style, I can definitely say these will work with your device and you’ll be pleased with the performance. I also suspect that since Motorola did such a good job on these, they’ll work for years on many other devices without issue.
One thing I’d like to see in the future: Go all out Moto and make them noise-canceling, like PlaneQuiet or Bose for loud environments.