Cardo has a long and well-deserved reputation for designing high-quality Bluetooth headsets, but it hasn’t ventured into the world of stereo Bluetooth until now. The company’s first such headset, the S-2, features a comfortable behind-the-neck design, a host of innovative multimedia features, and an affordable price tag. Although the headset’s design makes it more bulky than standard Bluetooth headsets, the added functionality easily pays off. If you’re an on-the-go business person, you’d be better off sticking with a traditional headset. On the other hand, if you enjoy listening to music on your Bluetooth-capable device but would also like to use it for calls, look no further than the Cardo S-2.
The Cardo S-2’s design is very similar to the popular behind-the-neck headphones that became popular a few years ago. However, the similarities between the Cardo and a regular pair of headphones stop there. The headphones are hinged behind the earpiece, making the otherwise unwieldy device fit easily into a backpack or large pocket. The two earpieces are joined by a rugged band, which can accommodate a variety of head sizes. In fact, the entire device is very sturdy: we were unable to make the plastic surfaces flex or creak- a sign of superb manufacturing. Despite the headset’s fairly indestructible design, the S-2 only weighs around 2 ounces. The light weight is a welcome feature, especially after long hours of listening to music or talking on the phone. The earpieces themselves are two-inch-wide discs, with soft foam coverings on the inside to protect your ears. In addition, the top of each earloop is rubberized to keep the headset firmly secured in place.
The S-2’s functions are controlled from the right earpiece. Using the play/pause button, multifunction button, and volume rocker, you can play and pause tracks, skip between tracks, and adjust the volume. The headset also features a hold switch, but since we turned off the headset before stashing it in a pocket, we rarely found ourselves using it. A LED under the multifunction button lets you know when the headset is charging, fully charged, or out of batteries. The whole control system is chunky and delightfully easy to use, even when you can’t see which buttons you are pressing.
The S-2 has a fairly standard repertoire of features. As mentioned above, you can control all the basic music functions from the headset. Call functions, such as answering, placing, and ending a call, are also performed by the multi-function button.
Pairing the S-2 is a breeze, especially when you consider that it is an A2DP device. Simply hold down the power button for around ten seconds, and the headset will enter pairing mode. We tested the S-2 with a variety of devices (see below) and were able to pair the S-2 with each phone in a matter of seconds.
Incoming call quality was excellent, and hearing our callers in both ears effectively mimicked a face-to-face conversation. Voices sounded much better than through the phone’s built-in speaker, and we noticed no static or distortion. Outgoing call quality was also good, but the lack of a true DSP system meant that our callers did notice some background noise. Given the device’s price, however, this is an acceptable shortcoming.
Music quality- one of the S-2’s main features- was remarkable. We tested the S-2 with The Shins’ Wincing the Night Away, and found that each instrument- guitar, bass, and drums- as well as vocals, was easily distinguishable. The S-2 was somewhat lacking on bass, but the open-air headset design sacrifices deep mids and lows for the sake of comfort.
Cardo is known for making Bluetooth headsets with formidable ranges, and the S-2 is no exception. We were able to get around 20 feet before static started distorting our calls and music.
When working with Apple iPhone
Pairing went smoothly, but the lacks of true A2DP support on the iPhone’s behalf meant we weren’t able to use the music features. The S-2 functioned perfectly as a regular headset, and we were able to get a range of 18 feet.
When working with T-Mobile MDA
Thanks to a recent firmware update for the MDA, we were able to pair the headset quickly and start listening to music immediately. We did find that there was a one-second delay when switching tracks, but all the other functions were executed immediately. Range was excellent- around 22 feet.
When working with Motorola RIZR
We experienced no problems when pairing the Cardo S-2 to the RIZR, but we did notice that sound quality was slightly lower than with the other phones. That said, all music and phone functions worked right off the bat, and we enjoyed a range of 19 feet.