Review posted January 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
2008 was the year of A2DP phones in America. Most smartphones and feature phones that had a remote possibility of playing music came with Bluetooth A2DP stereo headset support. Motorola offered a decent first generation wireless stereo headset, the ROKR S9, and ROKR S9-HD succeeds it with better audio, smoother pairing and a more comfortable form. The ROKR S9-HD also supports multi-point connection (working with two devices) and comes with a Bluetooth adapter to work with the iPod.
Though the form factor looks largely unchanged from the last generation S9 headset, the S9-HD is slightly lighter and it feels more balanced. Weighing 1.12 ounces (32 grams), the S9-HD Bluetooth headset still has the behind-the-head active form but more refined ear tips to fit better inside of the ears. The earbuds feel more comfortable than those on the S9, and the S9-HD package comes with three earbud covers in different sizes. The Music playback controls live on the right arm while the phone call/end and volume controls are on the left arm. The buttons are heavily domed and large enough to press easily. The surface on the side that touches your face and head has a soft rubber inlay that functions like a soft cushion and helps make it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The charging port and the power on/off still live on the back block.
Pairing the Features
The Motorola S9-HD Bluetooth headset supports both mono and stereo Bluetooth audio profiles. Press and hold the power button while the headset is off until the LED flashes solid blue, use your phone to pair with the headset. The S9-HD paired easily with a dozen test phones, and we paired with two phones simultaneously. For phone functions, the Motorola S9-HD can receive calls, initiate calls, and it works well with phones that have voice dialing and voice command. You can even redial the last number using the headset (press and hold the call button). If you are listening to music while a call comes in, the music will stop and the headset will play a ringer while the LED flashes to indicate an incoming call. Once you’ve ended the call, the music will resume playing.
With Bluetooth A2DP and AVRCP support, you can control music playback using the headset. Playback controls on the headset include play/pause, stop (press and hold play/pause button), go forward a track, go back a track, and volume up and down. There is also an option to change audio modes in SRS WOW HD settings. The SRS WOW HD technology enhances the audio with better separation, more powerful bass and definition control. There are two modes: one mode provides more voice clarity and the other mode gives more bass. Press and hold the skip forward button to switch between these audio modes. In addition, the S9-HD comes with a Bluetooth adapter to work with the iPod.
Voice and Music Audio Quality
The last gen Motorola S9 didn’t have exceptional audio quality, and it had a very noticeable “hissing sound” (like loud white noise) when working with many phones. The new Motorokr S9-HD eliminated that problem and generally had very good audio quality with most phones we tested. Another issue we had with the last gen S9 was the headset worked well generally with Motorola’s own phones, but had some trouble working with non-moto phones. The S9-HD smoothed out that issue as well, and worked well with phones in different brands.
The music playback had the best audio quality via the S9-HD with clear audio in all channels and powerful bass. The audio was also very balanced and sounded good in playing different styles of music. The only slight problem we found on the Moto S9-HD was that the bass favors the right side earpiece in quite a few tracks produced by different artists. Using a phone’s EQ settings could fix the problem on some phones. The MOTOROKR S9-HD doesn’t have the level of isolation produced by stereo Bluetooth headsets that cover the ears such as the Samsung SBH500 and the Plantronics Pulsar 590A, but if you are listening to tracks in Rock, R&B, Rap, etc. genres in loud volume, the S9-HD provides more than enough isolation. But if you are listening to chamber music in a less than quiet environment you might notice the surrounding noise more.
The voice quality for calls often pales in comparison to the stereo audio quality on most Bluetooth headsets, and it’s no exception with Motorola S9-HD. The call voice sounded thinner than the music audio but it does come through in stereo. In-call volume was good and call controls worked like a charm.
The ROKR S9-HD has a rechargeable battery and you can charge it with the included AC charger. The charging port is on the back of the headset next to the power button. It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery and the claimed music playing time is up to 6 hours. Our tests showed 5.5 hours of playing time and a week in standby.
Motorola made some good improvements on the S9-HD over the last generation S9 Bluetooth stereo headset, making it a good contender against other high-end Bluetooth headsets in terms of audio quality. The active, in-ear design makes it a natural for those who are on the go or want a discreet listening experience. The S9-HD has good audio quality, eliminates background white noise, plays well with a large variety of phones and the Bluetooth adapter is a big plus for those who wish to consolidate their stereo headsets for phone and iPod. The audio quality for music playback is still lower than over-the-ear models like the Samsung SBH500 in terms of clarity and bass, but it’s getting close. The lightweight design combined with water resistant material makes the headset a great choice for jogging, biking and hiking outdoors.
Pro: Better design than the last gen S9. The headset stays on better and the buttons are easier to find and press. Audio quality is quite good and bass is powerful. Pairing is smooth and can pair with 2 phones simultaneously. Lightweight and easy to carry in a gear bag.
Con: The audio needs a little bit more tweaking as it noticeably favors the right channel. Voice call quality isn’t very good.
Package contains: The MOTOROKR S9-HD Bluetooth stereo headphones, Bluetooth Adapter D650 for iPod, AC charger, carry pouch for the headphones, additional ear buds and printed user guide.
-Supported Profiles: Headset, Hands-Free, A2DP and AVRCP
-Claimed music playing time: Up to 6 hours.
-Weight: less than 1 oz.
-Size: 4.96 x 5.11 x 1.89 inches