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Bluetake i-Phono BT420EX Bluetooth Stereo Headset
Posted Feb. 2005 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Long have we been waiting for a pair of Bluetooth wireless stereo headsets that will let us listen to music on our mobile devices. You can hear the music with just about any Bluetooth wireless headset, but not in stereo with CD quality music. Salvation is here and it’s called the Bluetake i-Phono. Billed as an entertainment and communication combo headset, the i-Phono BT420EX Bluetooth stereo headset works as a dual mono headset when you are talking on the phone and stereo headphones when you’re listening to music or watching movies. The headset has a built-in Bluetooth radio that will work with any Bluetooth enable cell phone, PDA and laptop. If your device doesn’t have Bluetooth capability (like many MP3 players) or doesn’t support the audio gateway profile, the i-Phono comes with a Bluetooth adapter that can turn your audio device into a Bluetooth enabled device instantly and send the stereo signal to the headset. Very convenient!

The Bluetake i-Phono has a hip back-of-the-head design that allows you to hook the headphones on your ears from the back and not mess up your perfectly sculpted and gelled hair. The collapsible band behind your neck is flexible and it can be folded when the headset is in storage. The headphones are large enough to comfortably cover your ears and block some ambient noise, though it could be a little tighter to give a better seal. On the bottom of the left headphone, you will find a power on/off button, DC jack and an LED light indicating charging status. The right headphone has a foldable mic that can sit flush with the cover when not in use and open up toward your mouth when you are using it on a call. You will also find three large buttons on the right headphone for initiating or ending calls as well as turning the volume up and down. There is a long LED below these three buttons and it indicates Bluetooth and pairing status. For those who like to show their sense of style, the i-Phono comes with 5 color face plates.

As mentioned, the Bluetake i-Phono comes with a Bluetooth Hi-Fi audio dongle that's armed with the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) Bluetooth profile. It will give any non-Bluetooth device the capability to work with the headset and enables your audio device to transfer the stereo audio signal cordlessly to the Bluetake i-Phono BT420 Bluetooth headphones. The Bluetooth Hi-Fi audio dongle is a 2" x 2" x 0.5" square block with a 3.5mm audio jack at the end of a short cord that can be plugged into your mobile devices or MP3 player. The i-Phono package includes a piece of adhesive Velcro so that you can wrap the audio dongle around your MP3 player. For those who jog or bike with their audio and mobile gear, Bluetake also offers an i-Phono pouch that's big enough to store your device and the headset.

Pairing the headset to cell phones and to the audio dongle is a breeze. The i-Phono supports both Hands-Free and Headset profiles. We paired the headset with several mobile devices including the HP iPAQ 6315, the Dell Axim X50v, the Audiovox SMT5600 and the Nokia 3650, and a desktop PC running Windows XP. The headset paired with all devices smoothly. Hold down the call button on the headset until the LED flashes red and blue; discover it from your mobile device and use "0000" as the pass key. You can initiate the pairing from either the audio dongle or the headset when you are pairing the two. Once the headset is paired with your mobile device, it will ring at the when an incoming call rings on your phone. You can take a call from your headset directly even when you are playing music. The sound transfer between mobile devices and the headset has been very smooth and reliable.

The dual mono voice quality through the headset during phone calls has been on par with other Bluetooth headsets we've tested. The headset is on the quiet side for both incoming and outgoing calls. The volume doesn't go too high when playing music on phones or PDAs. However when playing music on a MP3 player, the volume on the headset is pretty high. The sound quality through the headset is definitely better if you play music on an MP3 player compared to a phone or a PDA, when using the same test MP3 files on all devices. A high quality stereo ear bud headset can play fuller sound than the i-Phono when we tested both with a very nicely recorded Martin Simpson fingerstyle guitar piece. But when comparing the i-Phono with a low end ear bud headset, you really can't tell the difference in sound quality when playing the same song on a Pocket PC. Playing MP3 songs on a Samsung Yepp MP3 player, the i-Phono showed more range and depth in sound. Playing music, movie and games on desktop sounded great via the headset. The i-Phono did not work with the Microsoft Bluetooth driver on Windows XP, but Widcomm drivers (commonly included with many PC Bluetooth adapters) worked perfectly. The voice quality on the desktop won't make this headset a replacement for your good quality wired headset as we experienced some static noise while playing games.

The range of the headset is decent. You shouldn't experience voice and sound degradation unless you exceed the 20-25 foot range. Having walls and floor between your wireless headset and your mobile and audio devices will reduce the range and household appliances like microwave ovens will interfere with the Bluetooth frequency greatly.



Above: the headset and included face plates.
Below: a Samsung yepp MP3 player and the i-Phono adapter dongle.

stereo adapter and MP3 player




Both the i-Phono headset and the Hi-Fi audio dongle come with rechargeable batteries. They can be charged at the same time or separately using the included AC adapter and charging accessories. There is also a USB charging cable in the package so you can charge the headset or the audio dongle using your computer. Since there are power on and off switches on both, you can conserve the batteries by turning them off when not using them. The i-Phono headset has about 3-4 hours talk/music time in our tests and the audio dongle lasts much longer per charge.

The package includes the BT420 Bluetooth Hi-Fi Sports Headphone, BT430 Bluetooth Hi-Fi Audio Dongle, extra face plates in 4 colors, Velcro band and adhesive tape, Y cable for charging the headset and dongle at the same time, a USB charging cable, AC/DC charger, a printed User's Manual and a printed i-Phone Exercise Outfitting Guide.


Pro: Now you can use the same wireless headset for your cell phone, PDA, computer and MP3 player, which is very appealing. The convenience and wireless features are compelling. The Bluetake i-Phono has a lot of style. Solid Bluetooth software that works well with a variety of devices. The headset has pretty good range for a Bluetooth peripheral. Good audio quality on MP3 players and desktop/laptop and does decent job on cell phones and PDAs.

Con: Volume on phones and PDAs needs to be louder and sound quality needs to be higher on mobile devices to make this headset perfect. Battery could use longer run time per charge.

Price: $199.99
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