The Gennum nXZEN PLUS 5500 Bluetooth Headset Review

Alright, alright, settle down! Just because you are looking at a picture of a pink headset, there is no excuse to dismiss the product as “not something I’d be interested in.” It’s also available in a unisex silver; I just wanted to try something different. 😉

With that out of the way, let me tell you about how I gained first-hand knowledge of the? Gennum nXZEN PLUS 5500 Bluetooth Headset‘s noise canceling properties. My buddy Vincent likes to call every time he gets a new headset, so I can tell him how he sounds on it. Generally I’m able to tell when he is on the headset or when he is on the handset – because yes, he tests me.

I totally failed on this one.

I heard very little background noise, and Vincent’s voice was clear as a bell, so I said “handset”. Next I heard the television blaring in the background while he was practically shouting to be heard, so I smugly said “headset”. I was wrong on both counts, and that’s when I knew I would have to give this little gem a try. Vincent kindly shared his PR contact, and in a short time I was trying out my own noise-canceling nXZEN 5500 BT headset…and yes, when offered the choice I took it in pink. 😉

The nXZEN 5500’s body is composed of pink (or silver!) plastic with dark gray rubberized accents. The headset measures approximately 2.3″ long x 1.1″ wide x 0.5″ thick, and it weighs 0.54 ounces. It can be can be worn with or without the ear hook.

But before I get into all of the nitty-gritty details, let’s start from the beginning…

Included in the box are the nXZEN PLUS 500 BT headset, two ear hooks, four eartips (one small clear, one each black small, medium & large), an installation CD which includes the equalizer software, a user’s manual, a quick reference card, a stereo audio cable, and AC Wall Charger and a USB cable for charging.

– Bluetooth 1.2
– Available in Pink and Silver
– DSP Performance – 120 MIPS
– Stereo- 16 kHz audio bandwidth processor
– Audio Path: 20-bit end-to-end path
– Talk Time: Up to 7 hours
– Standby Time: 100 hours
– Charge Time: 2 hours
– Battery: Lithium Polymer
– Four-Button Operation
– Multiple Device Pairing

This is a great diagram of the headset which I borrowed from the NXZEN online manual, showing all of the 5500’s buttons and features.

photo courtesy of NXZEN

Setup is simple: plug the USB cable into a spare USB port and then plug the charger tip into the headset’s plug. A deep blue LED will glow on the headset to indicate that it is charging; it will turn off when charging is complete.

The ear hook can be flipped up or down to accommodate the right or left ear, or it can be completely removed for those that wear glasses or who don’t like anything touching their upper ear.

The hook is removed by squeezing the forked end – and then gently twisting the ends from their receptacles.

Because I generally wear sunglasses while driving, I prefer to wear the headset without the ear hook; I find that the headset actually stays in place quite comfortably while using only the small clear silicone flange. However, the ear hook add a reassuring level of security.

The volume buttons on the 5500 can be swapped so that the volume (+) button is always on top, no matter which ear the device is in. This is done by holding the two volume buttons together until a “volume switch successful” melody is heard.

The headset is turned on and off by pressing the large circular side button until two quick flashes of blue occur, followed by a three second flash. If the headset is being worn at the time, a series of ascending tones can be heard. The headset is turned off by pressing the side button until four quick flashes occur; five descending tones will be heard if the headset is being worn.

When the headset is turned on, the triple-nubbed “pinch” buttons near the microphone end of the headset are used to pair the headset with up to three devices. To do this, the buttons are squeezed until four blue flashes are seen, and then the LED will glow solid blue indicating that the headset is in pairing mode.

I’ll digress for just a moment and talk about pairing from the Pocket PC Phone Edition side…

With Bluetooth turned on and the device discoverable, the two pinch buttons should be squeezed to begin pairing.

Once discovered, the nXZEN will show up as a headset, and the Next button should be pressed.

The standard passkey of “0000” should be entered…

…and the hands-free configuration will automatically pop up, checked.

Clicking Finish will show the new partnership, and the headset will now be fully operational; it’s that simple! 🙂

Some of the features of the headset will depend on what mobile phone it is paired with, as some have built in voice-dialing software and others do not. For instance, on my Treo, the most direct way to make a call is to simply press the call-button on my today screen for the person with whom I am trying to connect. Those with voice dialing can press the pinch buttons together until a beep is heard, at which time they can say the name of the person they are trying to call.

The 5500 includes a special Stereo Music Audio Input which has one earbud on a cable, a plug which fits in the charging port on the back of the nXZEN, and a 3.55 plug that will fit in a digital music player’s jack. When the headset is plugged into the cable, and then wired into a digital music player, the music will automatically mute when a BT call comes in over the user’s mobile phone. The music will continue playing while muted, and sound will resume upon the call’s termination. The included mini CD contains equalizer software so that the user can customize the sound in both stereo headset mode and phone mode. I confess that I really didn’t mess with this much, as I prefer to use a better headset when using my Zune. 😉


The biggest selling point of this headset is not the fact that it can be used with a digital music player, and it is not the fact that it is easy to operate; the biggest selling point is that when you use the nXZEN 500 – as long as the dual microphones are pointed in the vicinity of your mouth, the person on the other end will most likely not even know that you are on a headset. There are some excellent audio comparison clips available on the nXZEN site, but what they can’t convey is how good incoming calls also sound.

I can finally say that I have found a replacement for the Bluespoon AX2 which was – up until now, my favorite. Even though the nXZEN is a little bit larger, the fabulous sound quality and comfort make it an easy choice. Never mind that it looks way too cute with my Vaja case. 😉

The Gennum nXZEN PLUS 5500 Bluetooth Headset is available from various retailers, many of which are listed here.
There is an extensive nXZEN online support center with a comprehensive knowledge base, downloads, and other help.
MSRP: $159.99
What I Like: Excellent noise cancellation, multiple ways to wear it, comfortable fit, easy to operate, multiple spare parts to get the perfect fit,
What Needs Improvement: Nothing I could see – it sounds and works great! 🙂


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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.