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Bluetrek Crescendo Voice. Bluetooth Headset Review
In the Box
*Home charger and a USB 12 volt cigarette lighter charger are options and may or may not come with your headset. Please, check the content of your package first should you decide to buy it. In my case, home charger was present and car charger was not.
Bluetrek, a brand owned by Hong Kong based Innovi Technology, Ltd., was around for a while now. I remember them displaying at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2003 - back then anything Bluetooth was still new, innovative and mysterious, and when people heard about the Bluetooth they thought about some kind of a dental problem. Bluetrek was actually the name of the first Innovi headset that later became a family of various Bluetooth products. As one of the Bluetooth headset pioneers Bluetrek was destined to succeed, but for whatever reason that never happened and the company stayed on the side, watching GN Telecom (Jabra), Motorola, Nokia and everybody in between pass it by on a way to brand recognition and financial success.
In 2006 Innovi was acquired by French ModeLabs S.A. Change in ownership brought new capital and new blood into the business. Bluetrek began to reinvent itself; a few interesting models were launched, including the Bizz - the first headset/memory storage device in the world. I'm not sure how many people need something like that, but it is clear that the company wants to go forward even not being afraid to take the risk.
Excellent package, probably one of the better and more expensive packaging setups I have seen not only for headsets, but for phones, cameras, etc. A transparent hard plastic box with high quality inserts gives the packed headset expensive appearance and feel. While you go through all the small boxes and pockets containing the accessories coming with Crescendo (see the list above), you understand that you did get something nice. The boxes are also great for retailers, who can build forts out of them at point of sale. According to the manufacturer, the packaging is fully recyclable.
Design, Materials, Build Quality
Crescendo Voice is the top of the line headset in current Bluetrek product line, retailing for around $100. Not a cheap proposition competing with the likes of Jawbone, Blue Ant Q1, Plantronics Discovery 975 and Jabra Stone among others. A serious competition to beat, so what does Crescendo bring to the fight?
The headset is made of black plastic on all sides. While the sides and the back side are made of the high quality mate finish rubberized compound, the front is made of today's typical high gloss black plastic. To make the looks more distinctive and probably the fingerprints less noticeable, the surface is covered in hexagon pattern lines, thin and tasteful. The assembly is very high quality; everything is firm and tight, just the way I like it.
Crescendo has two usual controls: the On/Off/Activate/Deactivate button on the lower part of the front and the Volume lever on the top of the headset (if you wear it on the right ear). The volume button feels a little rubbery; there is no positive feedback to the finger when it is pressed. The multifunctional button is small and initially not very comfortable, but after a few hours the finger finds it easily. This button contains LED light, indicating the status of headset and it is the single major ergonomic flaw Crescendo has: because of the size of the button, it is very uncomfortable to use the it while the headset is in your hand, for example to turn it On or Off. You have to literally press it with your nail to be able to see the LED and it is both annoying and uncomfortable.
Next to the Multifunctional button is one of two microphones used in the headset. It is rather large and noticeable. Another microphone is located on the top of the headset in a standard location. Finally, on the bottom of Crescendo is a charger connector. Unfortunately, Bluetrek decided not to use a regular mini or micro USB connector, but rather uses proprietary USB, so try not to you loose the original charger.
It takes a couple seconds to hear a confirmation from the Crescendo once a call is disconnected. This causes a small confusion sometimes when you have to juggle a few calls: you do not understand if you hanged up the call you wanted to or did you just shut off that guy that was just offering you a 6 digits job.
There are not too many headsets on the market with their own built-in voice control. Crescendo Voice is one of them and its Talk2Me voice interface powered by BlueGenie (also used by BlueAnt in their V1 and Q1 headsets) does it in American English and French languages. You will be welcomed and guided through the pairing process. Should the phone and the headset loose each other, you will hear "Attempting to connect" every couple of minutes. Unfortunately, you are not informed when the connection did take place, so you do have to check the screen of your handset to see if Crescendo is connected. Once the call is over you hear "Call terminated".
You can press the main button to access active voice controls: "To use voice control, press the Main Button, wait for the "Say a command" prompt to finish, then say your command." The full range of voice commands includes Redial, Speed Dial numbers calling (up to 7 including dialing Voice Mail (did not work with my Nokia 5530), Home and Office by name), "What can I say?" voice prompt guide, pairing, status of the phone connection, Call Back (call the last number received), battery check, Yes, No, Answer, Ignore, Cancel and Settings Menu. For the US market there is also free access to Microsoft Bing 411 directory and to local traffic conditions (511). Headset tells you the number you getting a call from. Very impressive indeed. A little drawback is that once in a while when a phone does not ring, but rather the call goes directly to voice mail, all of a sudden you hear some lady telling you "Call terminated" right into your ear when you least expect it. Once in a while you are informed that call was terminated even when there was no call.
The voice recognition quality is very high; I cannot recall a single occasion where the headset misunderstood me. Maybe once: I asked it to make me a sandwich and it refused to understand, just like some wives do. Some! Not mine! You are great, honey, I love you.
It is important to know that voice prompts can be turned off and you'll have a regular headset. Just for more money.
Not bad at all. The headset is light at 0.32 oz (9.1 grams) and the silicone buds are made well. I have to say that the most comfortable headset I used was Jabra BT8040 and it did feel better than Crescendo, but as people are different, so are their ears and tastes and if my ear was getting tired by the end of the day wearing this headset it means very little to other users. Otherwise the headset feels very stable in the ear and there is no fear of losing it.
I do not like ear hooks, but they are made from shape adjustable plastic, so I assume they would be comfortable to wear for almost anybody who’d like to use them.
Quality of Sound and Performance
There were some complaints about the sound from the other end, but less than usual. The number stayed low, consistent with bad reception I have in some of the places. The quality of sound on my end was great - I do not recall another headset that would have such a loud speaker. I did not have to earn premature wrinkles on my face by trying to hear what the other party is saying unless they were talking complete nonsense, which, unfortunately, happens often, at least in my life. In the majority of cases however, I heard that nonsense loud and clear, thanks to Crescendo. The dual microphone Noise Lock suppression system works pretty well in the office, in the car or on the street.
Bluetrek claims up to 5 hours talk time (6 hours on the box) and up to 7 days standby time for Crescendo. As we all know, these claims are usually made up by the marketing departments studying the ridiculous claims competition is making and trying to one up it. In my case (let’s call it “real life”), with headset connected to the phone/phones, battery lasted for about 48 hours with a couple of hours of talk time or about 41 hours with 3.5 hours of talk time. Taking into consideration the fact that Crescendo was turned off for some time during the night, the actual work time was 2 – 3 days, not bad.
The headset has a very good range; the noise starts rather abruptly in about 35 feet (12 meters).
The ringtone used in the phone transfers to the headset if phone allows it.
Headset was paired with a few phones (Nokia 5530, Nokia N82 and Motorola L7), but when connected to one refused to connect to another. As any geek, I first try to use the device and only later, if I cannot understand something, I read the freaking manual. This time too, the easy approach did not exactly work, so I tried to consult a manual. Unfortunately, the short User Guide included into the package is dedicated mostly to the Talk2Me voice controls and does not even mention the Multipoint. The full manual it refers to with all the other questions was not found on the manufacturer's website either, despite the promise made in the User Guide. Once the manufacturer was contacted with the issue, within 24 hours I had the very detailed step-by-step instructions that worked as supposed. And a connection between Crescendo and both 5530 and L7 was successfully established.
I don’t use much of L7 though and just learned how Multipoint connection works with it. Once paired and seeing both phones working, I chose to flash the headset with Nokia specific software to test it on two Nokia phones for a cleaner experience. Unfortunately, my dreams did not come true. The headset easily paired to N82, but refused to work with two phones at once. Following the instructions, I tried over and over to reset it to enable the new pairing sequence with the right phones to no avail. I tried to flash it again, assuming that a software flash may change its life and repent, but to no avail: this sinner would not go into Update mode. At least, I kept on begging, can you just go into Multipoint mode? Please?! “No Sir”, was a polite and yet stubborn answer. In the meantime, everything else worked fine, except the headset began to lose connection with the single phone it was connected to frequently, every 15 – 20 minutes. Once connection was lost, the phone continued to assume that Crescendo is connected and I had to reboot it to make it drop this stupid idea. All the while Crescendo continued to inform me “No phone found”.
In order to change the already paired devices, you may have to reset the device. To do that, you need to press and hold the Multifunction and the Volume+ buttons simultaneously for 7 seconds. It does not work every time. In fact, it worked with Generic software, but not after I flashed Crescendo to the Nokia specific
Crescendo is only the second headset I know that is capable of software upgrades, first one being BlueAnt Q1. Even more - there is not only a generic software upgrade, but rather phone brand specific software in addition to the generic one the headset comes with. I sincerely doubted that the company of Bluetrek size was able to invest into developing special software for all the different phones, so I assume the difference is minimal if there is any, but it is pleasant nonetheless. The update is done very nicely: first you download a ZIP folder containing the Wizard, software itself and a video tutorial on how to do the update. Unfortunately, tutorial only shows the update on XP computer, but in any case the install is pretty straight forward and easy. The sweet part is that once you are done with the update, the software immediately runs Uninstall wizard and removes itself from the PC. I do not recall such a thoughtful feature from any manufacturer of any gadget ever.
After trying Crescendo with generic software I downloaded the Nokia specific version and the difference was noticeable. First of all, the headset began to connect to the phone much more reliably after the phone was lost before. Second of all, the voice option of Accept or Ignore phone call appeared. Unfortunately, while the headset clearly did receive the command and reacted to it by no longer asking this question, the phone showed total lack of respect for Crescendo’s best intentions and continued to ring no matter what until answered via headset or ignored via handset.
The Voice Recognition software works great.
Talk2Me Voice Interface is awesome. Very convenient and easy to use.
Value. If you like to have your discussing stuff with you, Crescendo price falls neatly between the only two competitors it has today: BlueAnt V1 is about $30 less, BlueAnt Q1 about $50 more.
The speaker volume is excellent. No matter how hard I tried, I had no problem hearing the other party under almost any circumstances, including shopping centers, cars, etc.
The noise cancellation is very good, not too many complaints from the other side.
Comfortable to wear and light. My ear was tiring after 5-6 hours of wearing the headset, but this is individual.
Good build quality.
Decent talk and standby time.
What's Not To Like
Phantom calls are "terminated" once in a while.
There were some issues with reconnection to the phone. When I was forgetting about the headset in my ear and was walking outside the Bluetooth range, the lady living in my ear would say "Attempting to connect". First of all, this is kind of sudden and somebody can pee himself. Second of all, you hear this message every minute or so and it becomes somewhat annoying. Most importantly however, the headset has a tendency not to reconnect to the phone once it is inside the range and you have to go through shutting something down and powering it back on to reconnect. In my experience it was a 50/50 affair with the generic software the headset came with. I almost did not have the pleasure to experience this problem once I flashed Crescendo with Nokia specific software.
Multipoint. It may work fine, but it did not work for me. I sent the inquiry to the Bluetrek support on Friday afternoon and will update the review should they point me into the right direction and/or make me look like an idiot. I’m not ashamed of my very, very few and far between shortcomings if their exposure will show the way to the truth! Should it be the headset software problem, I assume it will be fixed with future software updates.
I also did not appreciate the proprietary USB connector, similar to the one in my camera, used for charging instead of a regular mini or micro USB.
The design of a smallish multifunctional button with LED inside is just an ergonomic disaster.
The choice of colors: it can be black or it can be black. Easy to choose.
Silicone buds are attracting dust, which is then difficult to remove.
The full manual for the already released expensive headset is missing from the packaging and the manufacturer’s website. Inexcusable for a product in this price range, especially for a good product.
Bluetrek Crescendo Voice is one of the more advanced headsets on the market. It is not cheap, but it is easy to use, provides excellent functionality with voice activated features, easy to follow setup and high quality noise suppression/DSP. It is comfortable to wear and light. The design is nothing to write home about, but it is a good, if average, looking device. The standby and talk times are average on today's market and will not disappoint. Finally, the range is very good. Some smaller deficiencies and one larger flaw (Multipoint) exist, but there is nothing perfect in this world.
Published 31 December 2009
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