I've been using the Bluetake BT420 i-PHONO Bluetooth Hi-Fi Sports Headphone a lot lately. Bluetake (which supplies us with some of the cool Bluetooth products in use here on Geekzone) have created what I believe is the first commercially (and readily) available Bluetooth stereo headset. I've read about other products and tried contacting the manufacturers, always to receive a reply with a "next month", every month. This time Bluetake contacted me to say "now", and I've got the box three days later, for this review.
Now to the product. So far, Bluetooth audio have been restricted to Headset or Handsfree profile implementations, with their mono sound. While this is ok for mobile phone users, people that want to hear music, or watch a movie from a portable DVD player or media center jukebox had no other quality option. Not only this, but only a very little number of these products come with Bluetooth built-in. If any...
What we have inside the i-PHONO box is a 3.5mm Bluetooth adapter (BT430 Bluetooth Hi-Fi Audio Dongle) and the foldable headphone (BT420 Bluetooth Hi-Fi Sports Headphone). The adapter can be plugged into any standard stereo audio plug, on any sound device. Think of your Pocket PC, Apple iPOD, laptop, portable DVD player, Minidisc player, Home Theatre receiver, or even the airplane seat! Plug this little box (50.5mm x 51.7mm x 14.7mm, 36g including battery) into any of these devices, and you automatically have a Bluetooth enabled media device with a high-quality audio profile, called A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). Turn the headphone on and you're ready to listen good quality stereo sound, without any wires, up to 10m away. The headphone itself is very light too: 98g, including battery. You can fold the headphone, turning it into a small piece, only 100mm x 88mm x 77 mm. Also inside the box you'll find a couple of velcro bands, so you can have the adapter "connected" to your device, if you want.
The headphone sits comfortably around the neck when open, and the sound itself is really good. It's clear and crisp, even when loud (like in a movie for example).
i-PHONO adapter connected to my Pocket PC
The foldable headphone
The headphone also supports other profiles, including Headset (HSP) and Handsfree (HFP). And then it comes another cool feature: you can pair the headphone with a mobile phone too! While you're exercising, or watching a movie, you're still connected. As soon as your mobile phone rings, the headphone will switch from the sound stream to the mobile phone and the ring will play. You can then answer the call as you'd with any standard headset, by pressing the Call Answer button. You can talk all you want, and when you hung up, the headphone will switch back to the sound stream from the BT430. Very clever. The boom mic is attached to the right side, encased into the shell. It worked very well with the phones I have around here (the i-mate Windows Mobile Smartphone and the Sony Ericsson P800). And mind you, this is for use with the Headset or Handsfree profile only, so it will not add sound in to devices connected to the adapter box.
Boom mic closed
Boom mic open
The BT430 adapter has a round button in the center. If at any time I want to stop the sound streaming, a touch on the button and the headphone silences. Another touch and it comes back. Of course the sound source is still playing, but the sound is not sent to the headphone. On the headphone itselt you find the on/off button, volume up and down, and Call Answer. The Call Answer button is also used to pair the device: press it for a couple of seconds and it will enter pairing mode. From here, you can pair with a mobile phone (or even a Bluetooth enabled desktop/laptop).
It's also possible to use the BT420 headphone with a computer. While using the headphone will only give you mono sound (unless your Bluetooth adapter provides A2DP), the sound itself is much better than any standard headset, and you'll hear it from both sides (like connecting a mono sound source to the left channel of a stereo equipment).
Using the headphone with my desktop
If you're fashion conscious, Bluetake supplies the headphone with a variety of easy to replace covers, in different colours. Simply snap the new pair in and you have a new model (or combine the colours, if you are more adventurous).
i-PHONO colour covers
Both devices use rechargeable batteries, with a full charge lasting around five to six hours. And the good folks at Bluetake thought well on this side too: the combo comes with a Y-cable that connects to either a wall charger or a USB charger. You can keep this running from your laptop batteries!
In short, it's a very nifty product. I've seen some easy to use Bluetooth devices before (mainly LAN Access Points, which are plug-and-play), but this one is very easy. A well thought product, and nicely done.