Top positive review
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Impressive Sound Quality & Innovative Charging Doesn't Come Cheap
on April 24, 2012
I seriously questioned the price point of this Sony headset, and all the hype touting the advanced technology offering a superior listening experience. I watched the videos and read the in-depth product description here on Amazon, admittedly with a tad of cynicism. After all, it wouldn't be the first time a manufacturer over-hyped their design team's talking points. As it turns out, there may be something to it. I have tried MANY bluetooth headsets, and this XBA-BT75 is BY FAR the best with regard to audio quality when listening to music.
A First: I Actually Had to Turn the Volume DOWN!
I like to play my music loud. I also like audiobooks, which can be hard to hear at times. Anyone who has bought a headset of any brand in the past 10 years, has probably noticed that the volume on most of them doesn't go remotely loud enough. No, I'm not talking concert level decibels -- I mean no headset I've personally tried had enough gusto to block ambient noise and pump enough volume to be reasonably heard. This is especially true when listening to audiobooks in noisy environments, like a gym, or waiting for the bus as traffic whizzes by. Normally, I boost my tracks a few decibels with an audio program, but that can be time consuming. Then I found a cool app called Volume+ that I use on my android phone and tablet -- it automatically boosts the audio up to 20 decibels. Most headsets I've tried get shoddy at a 5 decibel boost. But this Sony BT75 held it together, even at full throttle of a 20 decibel boost; that's when my head started pounding, and I opted to drop it down to a more reasonable 10 decibel boost! Whew!
My Unscientific Field Test
My version of putting this Sony BT75 through its paces, was testing the high register with my favorite Native American flutist, Scott August, and checking out how the fidelity holds up while grooving to Michael Jackson. And I have to say, I'm impressed. The clarity and range was great, and I quickly got lost in the music and forgot I was theoretically putting a headset through its paces.
This is where a lot of headsets fall by the wayside. The Motorola S9 is a pain, because the wrap-around band is constantly hitting something and knocking the headsets off my ears. My Plantronics BackBeats lost their fit over time, and wouldn't stay in my ears. Arguably the best fit for me has been my Jabra Sport, which comfortably wrap-around my ears, have a thin pliable cable and can even be worn while dozing and lying on your ear. These Sonys wouldn't be very comfortable if you rested your ears against a pillow or sofa, and the cord joining the ear buds isn't as thin and pliable as the Jabra Sport. But they do plug my ears like a soft silicone cork, and block out most of the ambient noise in and of themselves. I've got my air conditioner running right now, but when I plug these Sonys into my ears, all I hear is my own voice muffled in my head. And that's without even turning the music on. Listening to MJ's vocals intimately enough to hear his voice echo and his lungs fill with air, adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment to listening to his music. On top of that, I swear I can almost hear Scott August's finger tips gently dancing between the holes on his flute!
Cool Charging Case - Wave of the Future? Hope so!
Cell phone manufacturers could learn a little something about Sony's innovative charging/carrying case -- I hate all these new 'smart' phones that do basically everything you could want, but only do it for 2 hours before the battery chokes under normal use. I see nothing smart in that; but those techorexic phones sure do look pretty sitting on your desk, drained and useless. I'll take a chubby extended battery with 24hrs of juice any day of the week; if only cell phone manufacturers were as smart as Sony to create an all-in-one charging/carrying case like the ones for these headphones... but I digress... Form follows function with the nifty little case for this BT75 -- the headsets fit snugly into it for charging, and the case has a battery of its own that can charge the headset on the go; or connect both via the micro USB cable and charge both the headset and the case at the same time. Smart thinking, Sony.
Large LED's Are Just Stupid
... thankfully, Sony is the latest manufacturer smart enough to put a small, understated LED on this headset. With all my little gadgets, and life support systems, I already look like I'm landing from the mother ship! I don't need a huge glowing LED on my bluetooth headset saying "Hey! Look at ME! I'm cool, 'cause I listen to my music wirelessly!" The LED on this Sony is plenty big to get the visual cues needed. It's also a nice touch that Sony put a shiny thin red racing stripe on the right ear bud, so it's easy to tell it apart from the lefty.
Less is more, and Sony smartly combined functions amongst 3 physical buttons. The power button is also the call answer button & the pairing button, and the volume up and down buttons also double as the fast forward/reverse and next/previous track buttons. I hate it when there's too many buttons to keep track of. With these Sonys, at least if I forget how to do something, I only have to start pawing at 3 buttons to figure it out and make something go. I'm more than technically competent; I just don't think every little device is important enough to merit a learning curve.
Ear Hangers Could Be Designed a Bit Better
If this headset has a flaw, it's that the cable connecting the ear buds is too stiff in some respects, and not moldable enough in others. In theory, the wire is supposed to bend around each ear, to create a loop that helps hold the ear buds in place. The problem is, the cord won't lay right between my glasses and my hair that's getting a bit too scraggly. This is where the Jabra Sport fits a little better, but the sound isn't anywhere near as good. And the part of the cord that goes around the back of my neck isn't as pliable as the Jabra's, which adds to the cord not resting in place properly. However, this is a minor inconvenience, since the ear buds stay in my ears rock solid.
Yes, call audio plays in both earbuds. I would say these Sony's are on par with my other stereo headsets, with regard to cell phone calls. I think Sony spent their innovation on the music side of things, and didn't break any new ground as far as how well these double for phone calls. As it is, they're adequate, but nothing better or worse than any other headset I've got.
Is quite good. I haven't exactly pushed the 30 foot range, but this Sony hasn't experienced any drop-outs for me as yet. And the wireless connection has been rock solid.
It's a personal pet peeve -- I'm not fond of devices that don't have a readily obvious name. Acronyms may have a pragmatic use for a product's engineering department, but it makes it much more difficult for a consumer to tell a friend about a great new tech device they've found. XBA-BT75 simply doesn't do this product justice. It needs a name. But sometimes, manufacturers' creativity stops short in the naming department.
Overall, this Sony BT75 is quite impressive. I'd go so far to say that it's the first true audiophile bluetooth headset I've personally encountered; particularly impressive given the compact size. And while I still believe the cost is edging on exorbitant, this may well be a good example that sometimes you really do get what you pay for. The somewhat awkward cord connecting the left and right ear-buds has me on the fence on if this is a 4 or 5 star headset, but overall, the music quality is so good, and the charging system is so innovative, I think docking 1 star for the cord would be unfair. So, all things considered, this is a 5 star headset for me.