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IOGEAR Bluetooth Stereo Headphone Kit with Transmitter

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Reviewed Dec. 3, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The first attempts at Bluetooth stereo headphones didn't wow us in the audio department. Yes, they are trés cool, very convenient and you won't get trapped in a snarl of cords; but sound was about as good as a $15 set of wired headphones. Thankfully, things have improved much, and the IOGEAR headphones (Model # GBMHKIT) offer sound that's certainly as good as Apple's earbuds (folks may dis those but they do sound better than many other sub- $30 earbuds on the market) and are more comfortable since they're lightweight over-the-ear rather than the jam in your ear design.

IOGEAR headphones and iPod

 

The IOGEAR kit is available in three configurations: the GBMHKIT, reviewed here, which includes a wireless transmitter for your audio device, the headphones with plug-in mic and a variety of cables to connect to various audio gear; just the headphones if you intend to use them with an already Bluetooth-enabled device (GBMH201); and just the transmitter in case you got the cans then picked up a non-Bluetooth device such as an iPod (GBMA201).

The one ounce transmitter measures only 2" x 2" and 0.4" thick. The headphones weighed in at 3.4 ounces. The transmitter has an on/off button (hold it longer to put it in pairing mode), and a blue LED that glows solid when happily paired. It uses a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone plug to plug into your iPod or any other audio equipment with a 3.5mm stereo jack. The jack is located dead center on the bottom edge, but you can remove a rubber plug to slide the jack to the right side for use with the Apple iPod mini and 5G iPod Video. The headphones have a blue LED (flashing when looking for a partner, solid when paired and connected to its mate), a power button (press and hold longer to put in pairing mode), volume up and down buttons, and fast forward and rewind buttons.

IOGEAR claims the Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries in the transmitter and headset are good for 6.5 of playback time and that seems reasonably accurate. We noted that they did not sleep in our tests, so if you turn off the iPod, remember to turn off the transmitter and headphones too.

You get a lot of goodies in the box, including a charger with pigtail adapter so you can charge both the transmitter and headset simultaneously, a 3.5mm to stereo RCA adapter if you wish to use the transmitter with your home AV equipment's RCA connectors, a 3.5mm extension cable and a 3.5mm to 1/4" stereo audio jack so you'll be able to use the transmitter and headphones with just about any audio equipment. In addition, you get a short boom mic that plugs into the headphones should you wish to use them with a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone.

IOGEAR Bluetooth kit

The headphones, transmitter, boom mic and adapter cables.

 

 

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Bluetooth

IOGEAR claims up to 66 foot range and we got about 15 to 20 feet in Silicon Valley which is rife with 2.4 GHz pollution. If you live in a location less saturated with 2.4 GHz cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and WiFi access points, you'll likely get better range than do we. The transmitter and headset use a class 2 Bluetooth 1.2 radio and paired well with each other, and the transmitter paired easily to PDAs and phones supporting the headset and/or handsfree profiles and to PDAs supporting A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). IOGEAR makes a range of Bluetooth products, being a tech rather than audio company, so you can rest assured that part of the equation is sound. We tested the transmitter and headphones with the Apple iPod 5G video and it worked perfectly, though volume doesn't crank loud. We tested just the headphones with the Bluetooth enabled HP iPAQ hx2790 Pocket PC using the A2DP profile for MP3 playback in Windows Media Player Mobile and it sounded great and offered massive volume. As a Bluetooth headset using the headset and handsfree profiles we tested the headphones with mic plugged in with the Treo 650 and it offered great in-call sound quality and volume. The headphones support multiple partners and stayed paired with all three devices, no re-paired necessary.

Are they comfy?

The headphones have a behind-the-neck design, with the foam-padded drivers resting over your ears and their connecting band running behind the head with the bits near the drivers resting on top of your ears. It's a very comfy design though eyeglass wearers may have to put headphones on first, then glasses as both rest on top of the ear. They're reasonably light and not too clampy, so ear fatigue is at a minimum after an hours' listening. After a few hours, their considerable mass (by street headphone standards) may give your ears a bit of the pinch. Though they don't grip on like a vise, they manage to stay on even when shaking the head vigorously or running. Good stuff in the ergonomics department, overall, though they could be lighter.

How do they sound?

Frequency range is good and highs aren't shrill, mids have beef (a bit too much) and the bass is strong, though at times indistinct. Don't get me wrong, they're a pleasure for rock and the bass is defined enough for most popular tunes. But when testing with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Overture and Act I, The Christmas Tree, the low strings which make a wonderfully defined rumble that maintain the warmth and fullness of stringed instruments on high end headphones, sound somewhat amorphous as they do with most under $50 headphones. Stereo separation and imaging, something we expect to get better with over-the-ear models compared to earbuds, is reasonably good, but would be helped by even more detailed sound. But these are Bluetooth headphones and are limited by such things as interference and bandwidth limitations. If you're an audiophile, stick to wired headphones and expensive ones at that. If you won't want a tangle of wires or would love to walk away from your desk without the iPod taking a dive because you forgot to put it in pocket first, these are an excellent choice. By Bluetooth standards, they sound very good and audio quality is as good as $50 wired over-the-ear models.

The headphones could use more volume when used with their companion transmitter and the Apple iPod, but are certainly louder than the Bluetake i-Phono Bluetooth stereo headphones we reviewed in Feb. 2005. However, use the headset directly with a Bluetooth enabled PC or PDA that supports the A2DP profile such as the iPAQ mentioned earlier and they get plenty loud.

Though the drivers and ear coverings are a good size with a closed back, the IOGEAR headphones don't block ambient noise very much. Of course, they aren't in-the-ear or noise canceling headphones, so we can only expect so much. At a normal (not loud) listening volume sitting in front of a computer, you can hear the computer humming and buzzing, the clatter of fingers typing away on the keyboard and the like. Those around you can't hear diddly, making them great for office use.

Conclusion

A very versatile and easy to use setup for $179 that works with your iPod, Bluetooth enabled mobile phone, PC or PDA, other portable media players, and your home AV gear. IOGEAR's Bluetooth Stereo headphones sound good by Bluetooth audio standards and are rugged enough to take on the road. They're reliable, and the transmitter and selection of adapters mean you can use the headphones with most any AV gear. Battery life is good and wearing comfort is decent, though the headphone's weight may give your outer ear a bit of the cramp after several hours thanks to their mass.

Price: $179 for the Kit -OR- $99 for just the transmiter, $99 for just the headphones

1 year warranty

Web Site: www.iogear.com

Comparison Shopping: Where to Buy

Specs:

Design: Over-the-ear, behind the head.

Battery: Headphones: Rechargeable 3.7V Lithium-Polymer battery 550mAh; Transmitter: Rechargeable 3.7V Lithium. 6.5 hours claimed play time on a charge.

Headphone Audio Specs: Frequency response 20Hz - 20KHz @ -3dB. Output 7mW @ 32 ohm. Noise level -80dBA, dynamic range -80dBA. THD (total harmonic distortion) 0.047%.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 1.2, class 2 radios. Profiles supported: A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile), Headset, Hands Free.

Package Contents:

  • 1 x Stereo headphones with Bluetooth wireless technology
  • 1 x Audio transmitter with Bluetooth wireless technology
  • 1 x Detachable microphone
  • 1 x Carrying bag
  • 1 x 3.5mm to RCA audio cable
  • 1 x 3.5mm to 1/4" Stereo Phono connector
  • 1 x 3.5mm extension cable
  • 1 x Power adapter
  • 1 x Power cable splitter
  • 1 x Quick start guide and Warranty/Registration card

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