The iTech BlueBAND-R Bluetooth Stereo Headphones are designed to let you connect to a stereo Bluetooth source such as a PDA, mobile phone, or with the addition of a stereo Bluetooth dongle, an iPod, or other music player.
Offering wireless freedom, ease of use, and playback controls for some devices, the iTech headphones are a joy to use – they come with an AC charger (US plug only – needs an adapter for New Zealand), and a mini-USB cable for charging (which negates the need to increase the cost of the item by adding a US-NZ plug adapter).
The instructions were clear and concise, and the headphones were easy to set up with the dongle (which is sold as a separate product), and paired first time with no hassles – which was a nice change from other Bluetooth audio products I have used.
After pairing was completed, it’s simply a case of plugging the dongle into any dock-connector iPod and start listening to your music. Although its form is based around a 20GB – 80GB iPod, it also works happily with iPod Nano.
Being a dock connecting device, the volume control on the iPod is not used, and the controls on the iTech unit are the only option. Volume is easy to adjust with a volume rocker on the top of the right side of the headphones. The volume adjusts in nice steps, and has got more than enough volume at the top end of the scale, but unfortunately, at the very low end, you can have “very low volume” or “nothing”, but no steps in between. Sometimes I like having such a low volume on headphones so that I can also listen easily to other things around me, but the iTech unit was obviously never designed for that situation.
Unlike many older (or indeed many competing current) units, the iTech has iPod playback controls built in, including play, pause, next track and previous track – this is a great development, made possible by the dock connector dongle.
The unit will also happily pair with a Bluetooth cellphone, and connect to both the phone, and the iPod at the same time, and when an incoming call is received, mute the iPod music, and patch the call in instead. I have not tested this function yet on the iTech, but I have used it before with an iPhono brand headset, and although coming through in mono – talking through a decent headset covering both ears is quite an experience. I have hearing problems, and will look to stereo Bluetooth headphones as a way in the future of maintaining my ability to use a telephone. Unlike other units I have seen with a telescopic boom mic, or a flip down mic, the iTech microphone is simply built in to the headphones, without protruding.
With wireless headphones, the possibilities are many – go running or cycling with your iPod safely away in a belt-bag or backpack, lie in bed with iPod safely on your night stand, leave the iPod on the bench while doing dishes, or other tasks where the headphone cord would be restrictive or dangerous.
I spend more time in hospital than most people I know, and the cordless freedom is great – it means I am not getting tangled up in ECG cords, and when I fall asleep listening, the iPod is not in danger of being knocked off the bed!
All the controls were extremely easy to find and use, and were logically laid out. The audio quality is “very good”, with a very warm, rich sound, with a noticeable drop off in high end treble frequencies and low end bass frequencies. I am using them as my primary headphones, as they are particularly comfortable to wear, even for long periods, and weigh very little. Battery life is good – I have yet to have them go flat on me, as I tend to listen for either 2 – 4 hours at a time, or several bursts of ˝ and hour, before charging.
Another feature I really like is the one-piece headband, which unlike other fold-up units, does not catch your hair in it – so when you remove the headphones, there is no painful “ouch”.
Being mini-USB is really convenient, as my Apache Pocket PC also uses the same charger, so one charger does the job for the Apache, the headphones, and the iPod dongle.
A really neat feature of the iTech iPod dongle is that when plugged into the iPod, can use the mini-USB port to charge the dongle and iPod at the same time, and also to sync the iPod to itunes and/or allow usb mass storage to be used. Very neat.
Overall, I am very impressed with the iTech headphones – they perform well, sound great, and are easy to use.
Available locally in New Zealand, from Flashcards.co.nz, the headphones retail for $190, while the dongle retails for $108.
Bluetooth specification v1.2 class 2 : 10 Meter transmission
Supports Bluetooth Headset, Handsfree, A2DP and AVRCP profiles
Rechargeable 280 mAh li-polymer battery
Talk Time: up to 7.5 hours
Music Playing Time: up to 7.5 hours
Standby Time: up to 150 hours
Nominal charging time: 3 hours
Compatible 110 ~ 240 Vac switching power charger with 5V 1.0A USB charging, you can also charge from any PC or Notebook with a USB to miniUSB cable.
Dimensions: 90 x 80 x 119mm
Weight: 70 grams
Bluetooth speciification v1.2 class 2 : 10 Meter transmission
Supports A2DP and AVRCP profiles
Audio Streaming Time: Up to 10 hours
Nominal Charging Time: within 3 hours
Dimensions: 62 x 30.5 x 13mm
Weight: 17.2 grams
Easy to use
Easy to setup
Reliable Bluetooth pairing
Will work with any A2DP device
Lowest volume setting needs to be lower still
Dongle could be more useful with a passthrough dock connector