by Kevin O’Brien
Cellphones and PDAs have generally always had a very limited selection of headphones compared to notebooks or media players. Cellphones, depending on manufacturer, have smaller or completely proprietary headphone jacks making a standardized solution close to impossible. PDAs, while usually having a 3.5mm headphone jack have sometimes been limited by what size headphone they could power, compared to a dedicated media playing device. For both of these situations, wireless Bluetooth headphones can solve both problems. Motorola’s new MOTOROKR S9 Bluetooth headphones are one such option, which will be covered in the following review.
- Water and sweat resistant
- Enjoy up to approximately 6 hours music listening, 7 hours talk or 6 days standby time from a single charge
- 180 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Version 2.0 Bluetooth wireless technology for better call quality, less interference and faster connections
- Class 2 Bluetooth wireless technology range up to 10 m (33 ft)
- Mini USB connector for charging
- 1.14 oz
- 126 mm x 130 mm x 48 m
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Build Quality and Design
The MOTOROKR S9 headphones are built very well, having a nice sturdy plastic feel. The semi-rigid plastic body is traced with silicone materials to help with holding it in place on your head. This same material is also used to cover the USB charging port, but not in a way that would keep water out. The weight from the electronics and battery in the rear of the headband throws off some of the balance, but did give the set a nice sturdy feel. Overall the headphones felt as if they would hold up quite well over a handful of years, or until the internal lithium-ion battery died.
Compared to ear buds, or other similar in-ear headphones the sound quality is pretty decent. The headphones feel as if they were designed to be a headset first, then stereo headphones second. As with most headsets, it is designed to not block out outside noise (conversation not during a call), and with this type of design you tend to hear a ton of noise around you while listening to music.
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One problem that is partially associated with the fit of the headphones is bass reproduction. The default headphone fit has the ear buds ticking slightly outward, and it doesn’t get a tight fit inside my ear canal. A result of this is I hear little to no bass unless I press the ear buds in with my fingers. So depending the shape of your head you may experience great audio quality, or they might sound like a super cheap pair of headphones. General sound quality is about average, although it does have some clipping distortion at some higher volume levels.
Conversation quality is somewhat mixed depending on the situation. Speaker quality is fairly nice in terms of wireless headsets, but you hear a ton of background noise. Driving in my VW GTI at highway speeds with the windows up and stereo off, I could not hold a conversation on the headset with all the background noise that came through. At lower speeds without as much wind or road noise it was much better, as well as talking around the house.
Range on this set of this headset I was say is above average. For casual use around the home, where you cellphone is laying on a table or desk, you could get 20-30 feet before you started to hear any interference. If you like to walk around while you talk on the phone, this headset would work perfectly.
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During my daily use I found the battery life to be quite similar to what was advertised. With 7 hours of talking time, it could usually handle my needs for 3-4 days before needing a recharge. The only time I managed to kill the battery during use was listening to music at work, with the headset shutting off after a bit under 6 hours.
The MOTOROKR headset only gives the user one adjustment, which is swapping out the ear canal fittings. Motorola includes 2 different styles, with one style coming in 2 sizes. The first style is a type that is supposed to fit snug inside your ear canal. This comes in 2 sizes, one of which hopefully fits inside your ear. The second is a style that sits just outside your ear canal, and has very flexible flaps to lightly seal around your ear. The second style I found to be very comfortable compared to the inside the ear canal fittings. Those, even when correctly sized, could never seal correctly and were painful after wearing the headphones for more than a handful of minutes.
The headset body, while quite flexible, can’t really be adjusted well for different shapes of heads. A few of the people I had try on the headphones found them to not fit well at all, just because of the default shape of the headband. Make sure you find a local store that carries this product to try out to see if they are comfortable
Software and Setup with Windows Vista and XP
Pairing the headset for use with a notebook running Vista was quite simple. With the headset in paring mode, you search for the Motorola S9 device in Vista, and then connect. Vista will automatically install all the drivers, making it as painless as possible. After pairing is complete, users will want to go into the Bluetooth options, and verify the correct services are enabled for the headset under its properties. After that it is just a matter of making sure Vista’s sound settings are set to use the “Motorola S9 (Audio Sink)” device. This setting will let the headset work for playing music, but individual chat programs will need to be configured separately.
Use with a notebook running Windows XP was almost as simple, following the same steps, but it would only work using the Widcomm Bluetooth stack. The Microsoft Default stack would pair with the headset, but did not support any of the audio profiles for use with other programs. Users who have the default install of Windows XP from the factory will usually already have this software. If you happened to do a clena install on your computer, and encounter problems pairing this device, you may want to consult with your notebook manufacturer on proper bluetooth drivers and software.
If the headset fits your head, the MOTOROKR S9 is a great product. Sound quality is pretty nice, and the range better than most Bluetooth devices I have used in the past. If they don’t fit quite well, you lose any bass reproduction, hear a lot of background noise, and it ends up sounding like any cheap headset. Since the review could go either way depending on who is using the headset, I highly suggest that you find a store that sells this locally, and try a pair on before you commit to purchasing them.
- Good range
- Great sound quality (if they fit)
- Solid build quality
- Poor Sound quality (if they don’t fit)
- USB port cover could be designed better to protect from liquid