Every so often, I get to test a product that I would term ‘revolutionary’ as opposed to most which are somehow ‘evolutionary.’ Now, I have tested many a Bluetooth product including scores of headsets. This was my first chance to experience Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. Is this a ‘revolutionary’ product? Read on for my thoughts. BlueAnt Wireless is an Australian company specializing in Bluetooth short range wireless devices. I have previously reviewed their X3 Micro headset and Supertooth II Car kit.
Bluetooth Stereo is a killer feature, but it is so new that I have yet to really experience it implemented in an effective, user friendly fashion.
Enter the X5. The X5 features, from the company site read:
Wireless Stereo Music or Voice Connection to your phone or computer
Use with your favourite iPod/MP3 player. Connect using a standard 3.5mm audio jack
Use with VOIP programs
Supports Bluetooth Profiles – Handsfree, Headset, A2DP, AVRCP
Plug and Play to utilize your computer’s sound card
Ergonomic and Dynamic Design. Collapsible Neckband for easy portability
Compact Removable Rechargeable Battery lasts for more than 12 hours
Easy Charge via a USB port on your computer
Stores Bluetooth pairing information for up to 10 different devices
There is a lot going on with this product, so let’s take our time and look at all that we get.
What’s in the box?
Package Contains X5 Stereo Bluetooth Headset A2DP* Audio and Voice Streamer Detachable Microphone 1 x 3.5mm Stereo Cable 1 x 3.5mm to Stereo and Mono Y-cable 2 x Rechargeable Li-Polymer Batteries 2 x USB charging cables 1 x AC Charger 2 x Foam Speaker Covers User Manual Quick Start Guide
The X5 is a behind the head, over the ear headphone – often called a ‘street’ style. The X5 comes with soft, cushioned pads and a set of foam pads as well. I preferred the cushioned feel.
The Headphones fold for easy storage and the cups swivel for a good fit over the ear. The right headphone has all the controls – the on/off switch and the multi function button. There are also a volume up and volume down buttons along the edge. The multi function button can be used to answer calls or to disconnect or initiate voice command when the Headphones are used as a headset.
That takes me to my next point – this set of headphones doubles as a wireless headset. Simply plug in detachable microphone to the mini-USB charging port and you have a wireless headset. (more on that later.)
Ease of Use:
The first thing you need to do with the X5 is pair it with your Bluetooth device. I used both a Treo 650 and a Motorola Q for test purposes. Pairing was a snap – hold the volume up button and the power button for a few seconds and alternating blue and red lights start blinking. Just search for the headset with your Bluetooth device, enter the 1234 passcode and you are good to go.
One thing I found was that I was asked after the first pairing as a stereo headphone if I also wanted to pair the X5 as a headset. In theory, you can have the X5 play your music and a different headset take phone calls – at least you can do this with Windows Mobile devices.
Once it is set up the fun begins. In order to truly appreciate the marvel of this product, you need a Bluetooth phone/device that supports A2DP. What is A2DP? I’ll let the BlueAnt website explain it to you:
A2DP technology is a new music revolution allowing you to send CD quality stereo music from one device to another without wires. A2DP is stereo music sent over Bluetooth without the hassle of plugging cables.
Bluetooth Wireless Technology with A2DP technology makes mobile phones, pda’s and computers capable of streaming music directly to products such as the X5 Stereo Headset or the Sonic Portable Speakers.
The Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) is just one of the modes available for Bluetooth technology. What if my Bluetooth phone does not have A2DP?
You will still be able to use the Bluetooth handsfree functions of the X5 and Sonic with your mobile phone while streaming music from a PC. When a call comes in, the music will stop and you can answer the call.
To enable your computer to have A2DP, use the external Bluetooth USB Dongle that comes with the Sonic …or the audio streamer that comes with the X5. Though many devices already come with A2DP, for the X5 you can A2DP enable any audio device (TV, DVD, PC or Mac, Stereo, MP3 player, iPod etc) using our included ‘A2DP streamer’.
Using the X5 with a non Bluetooth device:
The X5 very thoughtfully ships with a Stereo Streamer – a small device which looks like one of the headphones disconnected from the headband. Just plug the streamer (with a standard, included audio cable) into the headphone jack of any device. I tried this with my Ipod and it was great. The streamer sees the X5 and the music streams wirelessly across the room.
This has been the sticking point with this technology – does it compare to a good, wired headphone? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Overall, I found the sound quality of the X5 to be more than satisfactory – it was quite good. Now, it was no where near the sound quality of my Super.fi Pro’s – but they cost a bit more as well.
The bass was good and the treble was a little weak. I found vocals and instruments to sound quite nice through the X5’s What was amazing to me was the clarity of the signal and the beautiful stereo separation. I was skeptical of Bluetooth stereo – now I am a believer. As a Headset for phone calls, the X5 was nothing short of amazing. It was very cool to have the sound coming into both ears. The microphone did a good job at canceling background noise as callers had no trouble hearing me.
The best part of the X5 as a headset is that if you were listening to music prior to the phone call – it goes back to playing once the call is done.
This is where this produce shines. Stereo Headphones with no wires. For me, that’s huge. It means I can cut the grass with my Q in my pocket and my wires won’t get tangled in the trees. It means I can ride my Bike with not wires to get caught. And, it means that I could stream Sirius Satellite radio from my Q directly to my headphones with no wires. How cool is that?
This is a ‘revolutionary’ product. I really think this is the future of Bluetooth technology. It was very, very cool to listen wirelessly. Sound quality was good and this product did exactly what it stated.
One thing to check is the A2DP compatibility of your phone or Bluetooth device. The Motorola Q worked great at streaming music. With the Treo, you need Pocket Tunes and a third party app called Audio Gateway from Softik.
The build quality was great, the included cables were terrific and the documentation is very clear. BlueAnt has a great website as well with product simulators which show you exactly how each of their devices works right here: http://www.myblueant.com/BAasset/flash/x5_simulator.swf
Final Grade: A
Pros: Good sound, easy to use, great headset quality, very cool
Cons: Sound quality could be better
Visit www.myblueant.com for information. The X5 is priced $139.00 but can be had for less than that from web vendors.