Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth Headset Review

by Reads (13,136)

by Patrick M.

The Plantronics Pulsar 590A and 590E is a higher-end bluetooth headset with a wide range of features and abilities. One of the newer generation bluetooth 2.0 devices, it runs off of the A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution) protocol for wireless stereo sound of a very high quality, but also supports HSB (Headset) HFP (Hands Free) AVRCP (Remote Control) and GAVDP (Generic Audio/Video Distribution) so you know it’s a very compatible device and can be used not only for just listening to music but as a skype device, or a cell phone headset.

A brief history of Plantronics, they are a company that has done nothing but make headset devices for more than 40 years and is one of the industry’s leading brands when it comes to consistent quality and value. Out of every brand of headset I have seen in my day, none of them have had less negative feedback or failed products than Plantronics. When you have done only one thing for more than 40 years and you’re still around, you know your doing something right.

The review is for the 590A, not the 590E, but to clarify the only difference between the two is the universal bluetooth adapter. The adapter comes with the 590A but not with the 590E making it a more affordable choice if you dont need the adapter for any reason. However that adapter is one of the main reasons that I was attracted to the Pulsars: It single handedly lets you turn almost any device you can think of into a wireless device. Using a 1/8" headphone jack it broadcast a strong and clear bluetooth signal to the headphones for up to about 20-30 feet away. It’s very important to me since that lets me use them with my home stereo system, while others may use it with their Ipod or Laptop.

It’s also very important to understand that using them in stereo for music requires using the A2DP protocol. Many older devices like my Sony Erricson W600 walkman phone have bluetooth but not that protocol, so even if the device you own has bluetooth buit in, it might not work. Make sure you do your research first. That said, let’s get the stats out of the way and move onto the good stuff.


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Product Features

  • High fidelity stereo sound for superior audio performance
  • Up to 12 hours talk time (Headset) and up to 10 hours audio listening time (Adapter)
  • Universal adapter plugs directly into most 3.5 mm audio devices
  • Seamlessly switch between calls and music listening
  • Telescoping voice tube provides clear calls and discreet conversations
  • Foldable headset design for convenient travel and compact storage
  • Adjustable headband and pillow-soft ear cushions for superior fit and wearing comfort
  • Dedicated buttons allow call and music control functions directly from the headset
  • For stereo listening, Bluetooth® devices must support A2DP profile.
  • Devices that do not support the A2DP profile must use the Plantronics universal adapter.
  • Bluetooth phones with built-in MP3 must support the A2DP profile for stereo listening.

Specs

  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Supported Profiles: Headset (HSP), Hands Free (HFP)
  • Supports Advanced Audio Distribution (A2DP), Audio/Video
  • Supports Remote Control (AVRCP), Generic Audio/Video Distribution (GAVDP)
  • Listen Time: Up to 10 hrs
  • Talk Time: Up to 12 hrs
  • Stand By Time: Approximately 130 hrs
  • Battery – Lithium Ion Polymer
  • Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
  • Weight: 3.45 ounces (97.7 grams)
  • Speaker Freq Response (Stereo): 20Hz – 20kHz, 16-bit 48kHz SBC Coding
  • Speaker Freq Response (Telephony): 300Hz – 3.6kHz, CVSD u-Law


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In The Box

  • AC Charger, Y-Cable
  • A2DP Dongle, 3.5mm (Universal Adapter)
  • Desktop Charging Stand
  • In-Flight Cable, 3.5mm
  • Travel Case
  • USB Charging Cable
  • Spare Voice Tubes, Qty 2
  • User’s Guide

Reason for buying

I got these because, like many of you, I am tired of cords. Wireless devices give you a whole new level of freedom. I was skeptical of the quality because Bluetooth headphones seem to have a negative reputation when it comes to quality of sound. However, there were many times I said to myself, "I sure wish I had a nice pair of wireless headphones right now." My birthday rolled around and everybody was asking me what I wanted around the $50 range and I was out of ideas for anything that would interest me for that price range (tech guys are so expensive). Then I realized a pair of Bluetooth headphones would be a perfect gift that I would both use and enjoy … and since it was a gift I didn’t have to feel bad if it was not all I expected it to be.

Much to my surprise, they have been everything I could have dreamed and then much, much more. I couldn’t be happier with them. I use them every night when I go to bed to listen to music while I lay down to unwind a bit from the long days. I like to start music on my computer in my bedroom then go out into the living room area to relax with the family on the couch and listen to my favorite tunes instead of listening to the boring TV shows they watch. If I was in school again I would definitely use them while I study or do homework. I can think of so many ways to use these headphones that I don’t know why I didn’t get some sooner. I use them almost exclusively as headphones since I think the headset functionality is more of an extra. It’s nice to know that feature is there if the need ever arises. Just know that all two-speaker headsets (the Pulsar 590A included) can only use one speaker (mono sound) when in headset mode. Still, the Pulsar 590A/590E swap back and forth from music to phone with a push of a button making it less of an issue.

Where and how purchased

I got mine online at ecost.com for $80 you may notice the MSRP is $250 for these and even online the average lowest price I found was near $130 so it was a killer deal. My birthday allowance was $50 as you may remember so the only reason my wife allowed me to get these instead of a lesser headphone set was because I found them so cheap.


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Build & Design

The Pulsar 590’s really excel in all ways when it comes to the design and build quality. The microphone is retractable so it is not in the way when you don’t want to use it. This lets them act more as headphones rather than a headset. The microphone audio quality is very clear. The headphones fit really well and don’t seem to be picky about what kind of head they fit on. It’s an on-ear fit with soft foam cushions and very light too. I have worn them for very long periods of time with no discomfort. In fact, after a while you may forget you’re wearing them at all. They have buttons right on them to control volume, make a track selection, and answer a phone. I don’t have much experience with these controls other than the volume button since I use them as headphones. The buttons are a bit hard to push, but I think this is intentional so they aren’t pressed by accident.


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If I have anything negative to say about the design of the 590A it’s the lights. The lights inside both the adapter and the right side of the headphones are very bright and very functional. However, they have no option to be turned off. At night when I wear them to bed my room becomes a rave zone with blue flashing all over my walls. The flashing lights aren’t ideal for use in public if you don’t like to draw attention to yourself. The lights do what they are supposed to: They let you know when the battery is low or the Bluetooth pairing status. I can’t say I am mad at this part of the design. I just wish that they weren’t so noticeable and bright. In my pictures I made sure to capture the light ring on the headphones so you can see it. It’s red while charging, blue when in use, and flashes from red to blue while pairing. The Bluetooth adapter features the same lights.

Another thing that really stood out to me with the design is that it has multiple charging choices (all of them included) and coolest and most unique of them all is the desktop charge stand. I can sit my headphones on my desk so I know where they are and can keep them safe, and yet charge them at the same time. No other headphones that I have seen so far have that option. The last little thing I want to touch on is the in-flight cable that has a male 1/8" headphone jack on each end. The in-flight cable turns these wireless headphones into WIRED headphones should the need ever arise.

Performance

All those negative opinions about Bluetooth headphones and their quality do not apply here. I have to say the sound quality is on par with my very high-end Audio Technica A700’s. The bass in the 590A is more audible despite the smaller driver size and the music is a bit warm sounding but it’s a good sound and it works well for this type of headphones. I think most people will be worried about bass and these definitely don’t disappoint me. The bass is very much there and goes nice and deep.

I’ve gotten very good range with the included Bluetooth adapter as far as distance is concerned. While I don’t know the exact distance I can say I’ve had zero drop outs or loss of quality when having the adapter in my bedroom while I sit in the living room. That’s probably about 20-25 feet and going through two walls. The Bluetooth connection will drop out if I go outside in the front yard, but that distance includes three walls (one of them is an old, thick cement/brick wall) and I don’t think any kind of Bluetooth signal can go through that.

All I can really say since we have no real way to benchmark the sound or quality of headphones is that to my ears they sound wonderful. Likewise, given the quality, performance, and versatility they provide it was worth every penny and then some.


Conclusion

By now I think you can draw your own conclusion based on my comments: It’s going to be very much up to the individual as to how useful an accessory like this will be and how much the user enjoys it. Considering how popular Bluetooth accessories have become I think these will be a great hit. If you already know you want some Bluetooth headphones I recommend these and since it’s the holiday season right now these would make a great gift. The fact that the Plantronics Pulsar 590A is so versatile and includes an adapter means you know the person receiving the gift can use them in some way and not have to worry about compatibility issues.


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