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Harman/Kardon BT Bluetooth Headset Review
In the box:
It was really unexpected when Harman/Kardon introduced these two interesting accessories Ц the BT and AE bluetooth headsets. The names must have come from the long and hard work of the entire creative department. The first one is a big bluetooth headset, and we are going to review it here. The other one is not a wireless headset Ц it's just a pair of regular earphones with a remote control for Apple devices.
As I understand, this is H/K's first experience in producing this kind of things under this trademark. They announced them quite recently. In their brand-name store, they offer the BT at about $250. There are also the CL model (not as big) that costs $200 and the wired AE earphones offered at $150. Besides, I have also found one more accessory there, NI by name Ц it's priced at $100.
Well, let's talk in detail about the BT now.
The headset comes in a big box made of thick carton. The box features a quite interesting opening method. The package contains cables, a replaceable headband and a case. The case is made of leather and looks very nice. Or maybe, it is some high-quality artificial leather Ц I can't say for sure. Even the cables have their own peculiar design, which really deserves respect, as the majority of manufacturers don't pay much attention to such things. But here we can see that they gave themselves the trouble to take good care about it, and we do approve it.
The headphones design corresponds to the common H/K style. There is a lot of plastic, nice to the touch, and a lot of metal, too. Look how great they made this metallic frame around the headphone. The headband is made of metal too and it's not adjustable. Under the metallic headband there is another one with leather finishing. The headphones fit very well even on my big head, so no complaints about the comfort. The cups are rotatable and removable, so you can hide the headset in a small bag. The mechanism seems weird, of course, but the headphones produce such a pleasant click when being removed from the rails that it even adds some comfort, too.
Moreover, this model doesn't resemble any other big wireless headset. Manufacturers are often too busy playing with the design and forget about the ergonomics then, or they can forget about metal and there is only plastic in the product. Or sometimes they just produce something that has already set our teeth on edge: they take old wired earphones and turn the model into a bluetooth version. But here, I find an extraordinary and thought-out design, good materials, nice build quality, and excellent ergonomics. These headphones cover your ears completely; nothing produces any extra pressure or rubbing Ц you head can relax. The noise insulation is really good even when you're not listening to any music. I can't say you go deaf to the world around you, but the level of the surrounding noise gets reduced considerably. The leather earpieces are very soft, and the speakers are covered with textile. And how do you find that tiny speaker hole under the grid?
H/K have always been capable of making good-looking things Ц I've never had any doubts about it. But the BT headset really deserves all those kinds of praises with its appearance.
On the edge of the left earphone, there are volume controls and a multifunctional button. Actually, these are a remote control for Apple devices: you can switch between the tracks and pause and resume the playback. On the bottom of the same earphone, we find a BT button used to activate the coupling mode. The indicator looks weird, as it absolutely doesn't fit into the entire design: to put it briefly, it's not too beautiful, or we may even say it's bad-looking.
Connected to the iPhone 4S, the headset doesn't require any codes to be entered. Too bad there is no headset battery indicator on the screen.
You shouldn't forget that this is a headset, not just earphones. So you can talk on the phone using the in-built microphone. The voice rendering quality is quite good, but the ones you talk with may notice some stray sounds or echoes. You can hear the voices very well, with all their peculiar tones. Keeping in mind that the microphone is positioned quite far from the mouth, I can only give another praise to the manufacturer for the well-considered design. But still, you should remember that people will hear you much worse when you are in a noisy room Ц there's nothing we can do about it.
I have tested the BT with an iPhone 4S and I liked this device as a bluetooth headset: the sound quality is really nice and I guess there are few wireless models that can compete in it with this one. The sound quality is what really wins here Ц I don't know how they did it, but when you increase the volume a little bit, you start feeling as if standing near a couple of big heavy speakers. The basses are really, really good.
Here are the specifications:
The sound is very good for a bluetooth headset, but the BT can be used work in a different way, too!
Passive mode operation
This headset can be connected to an iPhone 4S as a passive unit Ц the package contains a special cable for that. 'Passive' means that even when the battery is exhausted, you can keep on using the device: the control buttons won't work anymore, but the microphone will still function properly. The sound quality, when connected with the cable, is even better than working via bluetooth connection: the volume can be higher and the music becomes clearer, more transparent and more saturated. So you can notice all the drawbacks of bluetooth connection right away. Unfortunately, this technology is still being improved very slowly, if judged by the sound transmission quality.
The major disadvantage of this headset is that special 2.5-mm jack used for USB cable and audio cable connection. If you lose one of them, you will only be able to use the BT as a decoration for your neck or head.
The manufacturer claims about 12 hours of operation. In practice, the headset has shown about 10 hours of playback at maximum volume, coupled with an iPod Classic, which is a pretty good result for such a big device.
I like its design, controls, battery life, and the excellent sound quality. The headset can be connected to your gadgets via bluetooth or with a cable. It's really a universal thing that will suit both iOS users and those who like Android. The drawbacks are the strange indicator and the special audio cable connection jack. But still it's a unique product for its market niche, and I can safely recommend it.
The price for the BT by H/K in the USA is $250, which can be considered reasonable for a gadget of this kind. So I can conclude that H/K have produced a very good thing, and their first attempt to make a product like this is really a success. It's surprising, but true Ц they did very well actually.
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Published Ч 25 June 2012
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