Since I have been writing here at Gear Diary, and at JAMM, I have had the opportunity to test numerous Bluetooth headsets. I love the freedom that Bluetooth gives you to talk on your phone without tying up your hands. On the other hand, I hate having a piece of plastic stuck on my face all the time (especially one with an annoying flashing blue light). To me, the ideal Bluetooth headset must find a middle ground between these two interests: allowing me to easily use it to place and receive calls, while remaining unobtrusive and accessible when not in use.
This is essentially the challenge which SoundID posed to some of the world’s top acoustic scientists and engineers when they developed the SM100. Ever since I learned of this new company, I have eagerly anticipated the result. Now that the SoundID headset is available, let’s take a closer and find out if it lived up to my expectations, or fizzled out in a hiss of static.
What Is In The Box: Everything you need is included in the box. In addition to the headset, you will receive:
- a set of three differently sized earpieces
- an AC adaptor
- a user guide
Additionally, the headset should also begin shipping with an optional over-the-ear-hook in the immediate future. The over-the-ear-hook was not available for this review, however, if I get one then I will post an update and let you know how it works. If your headset did not ship with the over-the-ear-hook, you can obtain one for free by registering on Sound ID’s website.
Overview: Before we get started, we’ll take a quick look at the headset itself. I loved the shape of this headset, which is cleverly designed to resemble the SoundID logo (which I presume was no accident). It features a small round earpiece with a short microphone sticking out of the front.
On the face is the main control button, with the SoundID logo.
The top has the AC adaptor socket so you can plug it into the wall for charging. I do wish this headset would charge from a standard mini-USB adaptor so that I could use my universal charging adaptor with it, but that is not big deal.
The bottom has a program button and volume controls.
On the back of the headset is the eartip with the “Real Comfort Ear Loop” This is the part that holds the headset in your ear. The ear tip sits on top of the speaker and rotates so that it can be adjusted to sit on the right ear or the left.
Setup and Pairing: Getting started with the SoundID headset is a snap. Of course, like most headsets, the battery does not come fully charged. Plug it in with the included AC adaptor until the light on the back turns green.
Once the headset is fully charged, press the main control button for about eight to ten seconds, until the light on the back begins blinking red and green. Set your phone to pairing mode and follow the steps on your screen. When the light on the back stops blinking, the headset has connected to the phone. To reconnect at a later time, all you have to do is hold the main button until the green light turns on.
Comfort and Style: Although the ear tip on the SoundID headset may appear to resemble a mediaeval torture device, it is actually extremely comfortable. Simply insert it into the tip of your ear canal, as you would with any earbud style headphones. The ear loop helps ensure that the headset remains securely in your ear at all times.
I typically am not someone who likes having something in my ear unless I am actively listening to music or talking on the phone. I generally find wearing a headset all the time can be extremely irritating to my ear. Not so with the SoundID headset. I kept this headset in my ear for the better portion of the day, and I could barely feel it sitting there. Unlike most headsets, I did not have that constant irritation or heaviness on my ear all day.
One of my biggest concerns with the SoundID headset was whether it would stay in my ear without the over-the-ear-hook. Although I did feel it was slightly less secure than an ordinary headset, I do think this was my perception rather than reality. While many similarly styled headsets would fall out of my ear at the slightest hint of motion, the SoundID stayed in place extremely well (I still would not advise playing football with it on, but otherwise, it stayed in my ear much better than I expected.)
Finally, I should say a quick note about the size of this headset. It is the smallest and lightest headset I have ever used. The main section with the speaker and ear tip is about the size of a quarter. The microphone is about the size of a dime. Picture a quarter and a dime end to end and you have an approximation of the SoundID headset. When you put a headset this small into your ear, it practically disappears. Add to that, the fact that SoundID has (thankfully!) eliminated the standard Bluetooth flashing blue light, and people will hardly know you are wearing a headset.
Sound Quality: The most important feature in a headset is how it sounds. I have reviewed terrible looking headsets which I continued to use due to their superior sound quality. Likewise, I have also tested some headsets which looked fantastic and stylish, but sounded terrible. When you wear a Bluetooth headset, your main purpose is not to make a fashion statement. This is not a piece of jewelry (although some are extremely fashionably designed). Of course, the primary purpose of a headset is making telephone calls. Regardless of how nice the headset looks, this purpose is defeated if the speaker and microphone do not work well together.
I loved using the SoundID for telephone calls. Both the speaker and the microphone were crystal clear, enabling me to hear (and be heard) at least as well as simply talking into the handset of my phone. Additionally, the headset features a noise filter — called NoiseNavigation — which analyzes the loudness, frequency, pitch, and tempo of incoming sounds initiates appropriate counter measures which minimize background noises and optimize the sounds quality of your speech. I thought this was a fantastic feature which really helped when speaking in noisy environments. I could, for example, speak to my wife on the train without a lot of interference. Of course, a few times this worked too well and she thought she had dropped the call because of the complete silence when I was not actively speaking.
Telephone Functions: The SoundID headset is designed to let you control virtually all of your phone’s functions without touching the phone itself. Of course, you will need to use the keypad to dial (unless you use voice dialing which I have never really done).
The basic functions work like any other headset: when you dial with the headset connected, the call will automatically be transferred to the headset, to answer a call, just push the main button, and push it again to hang up or end a call.
In addition, however, the SoundID headset can control several more advanced telephony functions, including:
- Mute Call
- Reject Call
- Answer Call Waiting
- Switch Between Active Call and Held Call
- Voice Dialing
Environmental Mode: Now that Bluetooth headsets are becoming more of the norm, headset manufacturers are starting to recognize that holding a small piece of plastic in your ear can make it difficult to hear, especially when the headset is on Standby.
SoundID has devised an innovative solution to this problem, which they call Environmental Mode. I call it The Bionic Ear. Essentially, when you are not actively engaged in a telephone call, Environmental Mode acts as an amplifier for your ear. It intercepts ambient noise in your area and amplifies it. This can be a little disconcerting when you first begin using the headset, however, once you get used to it, it can actually be an extremely useful tool. It would be nice if this mode offered better noise filtering so that only voices would be amplified. Sometimes, I would have to take the headset off because, for example, the sound of my typing was booming in my ear.
If this is all too much for you, Environmental Mode can be turned off or adjusted using the program button.
One2One Mode: One of the reasons I was drawn to the SoundID headset was its promise of headset to headset communications, without being connected to a phone. This, I thought, could be the revolution. I can see first responders dropping their bulky radios and phones in favor of a small headset unit like this. I can see construction workers or others in high noise environments using this headset to communicate. Heck, I could even see… well you get the point.
Unfortunately, in its present form, I did not feel that the One2One Mode lived up to its promise. It really ended up being nothing more than a gimmick, which I hope will be improved upon in future models. I say this for two reasons:
- The headsets connect via the Bluetooth radio, meaning the range is limited by the range of the Bluetooth. In other words, you can only move the headsets about 30 feet from one another before you lose the connection. Unless you are in the noisiest environment, 30 feet is close enough to hold a normal conversation without the headset.
- When the headsets are connected, you cannot connect the headset to your phone. In other words, you will not be able to make or receive calls using the headset when you are in One2One Mode, thus defeating the purpose of wearing a headset in the first place.
I think One2One Mode has a lot of potential to be a fantastic feature. This initial offering, however, simply did not achieve all that I was expecting. I hope SoundID will continue to develop this feature to make it more usable in the future.
Conclusion: To borrow a phrase from Clint Eastwood, I have seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (and some have been extremely ugly) that Bluetooth headsets have to offer. The SoundID SM100 is among the best headsets I have used, and has quickly become the headset I use on a regular, daily basis. The sound quality is second to none, and I am anxious to try the over-the-ear-loop accessory. I suspect that addition will only add to the comfort of this headset. I just never feel the SoundID headset was secure in my ear without it. Some of the features this headset offers, such as the One2One Mode, have a lot of unrealized potential which — if more fully developed — could send the SoundID headset soaring from a useful accessory to an indispensable tool for many. Nonetheless, with this initial offering, SoundID has practically rewritten the rules for what we should expect in a headset. I will be anxiously watching SoundID as they continue to develop future generations of headsets, to see how the potential they have shown here continues to grow and develop.
Where to Buy: SoundID.
What I liked: Just about everything.
What Needs Improvement: One2One Mode has a lot of potential to grow and become a useful tool, but that potential was simply not realized in this model.