It didn’t seem that long ago that I visited a local users group regarding Bluetooth, the takeaway phrase was walking around with your own personal wireless network.
Technology has surged ahead indeed reminiscent to first riding a bicycle in my youth: “Look Mom, no hands!” to “Look Mom, no wires!”
So what is Bluetooth wireless technology?
“Bluetooth wireless technology is a short-range communications technology intended to replace the cables connecting portable and/or fixed devices while maintaining high levels of security. The key features of Bluetooth technology are robustness, low power, and low cost.”
Plantronics earlier this month announced the U.S. introduction of the Pulsar 260 Stereo Bluetooth Headset, a unique Bluetooth pendant-style headset designed to support high quality, wireless stereo sound and manage mobile phone calls with the touch of a button. The Pulsar 260 enables users with Bluetooth mobile phones featuring the (A2DP) Advanced Audio Distribution Profile to wirelessly listen to stereo music and answer/end calls without the need for an adapter or picking up the phone.
Courtesy of Plantronics, I was able to take this new stereo Bluetooth headset for a test drive. I like the availability of listening to music on my Treo or Samsung smartphones, but I often forget to carry a pair of stereo headphones, as I also use the (recently reviewed) Scala-700? VoIP Bluetooth? Headset.
My curiosity was peaked; is the Pulsar 260 primarily intended for use for music phones with the added bonus of managing phone calls?
Listen Time * Up to 7 hours
Talk Time * Up to 9 hours
Standby Time * Up to 200 hours
Charge Time 3 hours
Range Bluetooth standard 10 metres
Headset and Pendant Weight 25 grams
Power Requirements 5VDC – 300 mA
Battery Type Lithium Ion Polymer
Speaker Frequency Response ? Telephony 300 Hz to 3600 Hz (CVSD)
Speaker Frequency Response ? Stereo Audio 20 Hz to 20 kHz(16-bit 48kHz SBC Coding)
Impedance 32 +-4 Ohms x1 kHz
Distortion Version Bluetooth 2.0
* Performance may vary by device.
Lets see what inside the box.
One headset for wireless conversation and music; stream music from your mobile phone and never miss a call? sound promising.
Underneath the outer container is the Headset, Pendant and AC charger.
Also included was a easy to comprehend user manual, an audio-out cable with a 3.5mmm plug to connect to a home stereo, lanyard, and a packet of two extra ear bud covers of varying sizes.
The Headset cord measures 22″ in length from the 2.5 mm plug with a removable clip to fasten the wire to your shirt. The microphone with a call control button sits 2″ beneath the fork of the ear bud wires, one 15″ and the other 7-1/2″ in length.
Here?s the stereo Bluetooth pendant measuring a compact 2-1/2″ L x 1″ w and 3/8″ D with a detachable clip. On the wheel is a 5-way control / Volume Up, Volume Down, Track Forward and Track Back with a Mute/Play/Pause in the center with an indicator light underneath.
On the side is power on/off/pairing button.
After charging the pendant via the mini-USB socket for two hours, I was ready to go.
Here?s the tricky part and the fine print: Supports Bluetooth Hands-Free and Headset Profiles, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2 DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), and Generic Audio/Video Distribution Profile (GAVDP). For stereo sound, Bluetooth enabled devices must support the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). Go here for a Bluetooth glossary for more detail on what the profiles mean.
I had a hunch that the Pulsar 260 Stereo Bluetooth? Headset was designed for the new generation of music phones.
I still wanted to know if the headset would work with my Palm Treo 650 or 680 smartphone. Just like any pairing of a Bluetooth device, I select the ?260 Plantronics? and enter 0000 as the passkey. While both the phones recognized the 260 Plantronics, it was a no go on listening to music on either device.
Looking at my iMac, I was curious if I could listen to iTunes; I drew a blank.
Next I paired it with the Samsung SGH-i320 Windows Mobile Smartphone finally!
I started up the play list using the Media Player and it worked like a charm. The volume controls stepped up/down the sound, with a brief audio ?beep? rather a smooth transition of volume. Using the volume control on the phone itself eliminated the beeping. The sound was bright in the high end, but it wasn’t too bad once the equalizer was adjusted on the Samsung to boost the bass. Still, I wasn’t expecting to get audiophile sound, but it was acceptable. Whenever the volume is adjusted, the blue light around the control wheel stays on briefly; otherwise the blue light in the bar underneath the wheel blinks to indicate the headset is active.
The wireless range was good and close to the 33 feet as I walked away from the phone with no loss in sound quality or digital “skipping”. I did encounter an occasional dropout most likely due to all of the wireless stuff I have going around me, but it was random at best.
The next day I went down to my friendly Cingular retailer and was showing off the Pulsar 260 to the guys (geek bonding going on).
They were very nice to let me try pairing the various phones on display. I quickly found out the LG CU500, Samsung SGH-A707, and the Motorola MOTORAZR V3xx all paired easily. As a note, I was extremely impressed with the Samsung SGH-A707 audio quality with its fuller sound even though it was filled to the brim with rap and hip-hop music. Equally impressive was experiencing no dropout in sound while roaming the store.
The Pulsar 260 product-landing page does has a compatibility lookup guide but I gather from my visit at Cingular, the key operating phrase is ?Bluetooth Capability for Music and Voice? to identify the particular phones for the Pulsar 260 to work on. What would be more helpful is to supply a punch list of phones that are immediately compatible out of the box.
I ran the headset nonstop playing music for four hours which outlasted the Samsung SGH-i320 Windows Mobile Smartphone battery?s life, so the listening life was good with no discernable loss in audio playback or quality.
And before I forget, the voice capabilities were good! When the outgoing number is dialed on the keypad, the call transfers automatically to the headset. To answer or end a call, just press the call control button. When done, the music restarts. It was different to hear a phone conversation in stereo.
For me, I would use this Plantronics Pulsar 260 Stereo Bluetooth Headset primarily for music and audio books on my multimedia phone for extended periods. If a call comes in, great ? I won?t miss the call? unless Frank Sinatra or the Beatles is singing at the time, in which case I?ll send the call to voicemail. Nobody interrupts Sinatra or the Beatles while I?m listening! If I were in a heavy phone call mode, I would most likely use a ?standard? one ear Bluetooth headset mainly to relieve the ear fatigue.
As for portability, with all of the wires tucked into my shirt pocket having a wireless STEREO headset that doubles to take phone calls became a spoiler feature for me. I now want to hunt down wireless earbuds for the iPod.
Plantronics included this paragraph in the press release:
The market for music enabled mobile phones is growing rapidly. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, 69 percent of mobile phones will feature music capabilities by 2009 ? up from 27 percent in 2006. Mobile phones featuring the A2DP stereo profile are expected to reach 37 percent – up from only four percent in 2006.
As high speed multimedia phones gain traction, I’m believing that more headsets like the Pulsar 260 will be commonplace in the near future. I found it fascinating that Plantronics jumped to the forefront with a pretty good stereo headset that delivers the goods for other manufacturers to emulate. As we become even more mobile with enjoying our music and conversing on multimedia phones, freedom from the wired direct connect around our personal body space for physical mobility I suspect will be a requested feature. I can’t wait to see if the Pulsar? 260 is compatible with Apple’s iPhone!
The Plantronics Pulsar? 260 Stereo Bluetooth is available from Plantronics. Check them out here: Plantronics Headsets and Accessories.
What I like: The forward thinking of anticipating the need for wireless stereo headsets for multimedia phones. Quick setup. Easy to understand users manual. Long listening time of four hours and better. Works as advertised.
What needs improvement: A helpful list of phones that readily accept the headset.