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Bluetooth Headset and Car Kit Reviews

Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth Stereo Headset

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Review posted March 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Plantronics has produced some great Bluetooth headsets for mobile devices over the years. You can check out our reviews of them here. The Pulsar 590 Bluetooth stereo headset series is Plantronics’ answer to increasing need for combined phone and music headsets for mobile phone and portable music players. The Pulsar 590 takes Plantronics’ great audio technology and gives it a modern sleek design- the result is an end product that has great sound quality, excellent Bluetooth performance and a look that will turn heads. The Pulsar 590 series offers two packages: the Pulsar 590A includes the headset and a Bluetooth universal adapter which enables devices without Bluetooth to work with the headset; the Pulsar 590E comes with only the Bluetooth stereo headset. The Pulsar 590A lists for a little over $100 more than the 590E. We have the Pulsar 590A for this review. 

Design

Plantronics has a group of industrial designers in house who oversee the design and usability of headsets they make. Their late Bluetooth headset series such as the Discovery models show both elegance and very functional design. The Pulsar 590 has a shiny look that stands out as a headset and it’s very comfortable to wear. For portability, the Pulsar has swing joints which connect the headband and earphones and they allows you to fold the headset for better portability and for storage in the sturdy case that comes with the Pulsar. The tip of the swing joints double as charging port that connects to the desktop charging station - a very clean design.

You can adjust the headband to the desired length. The headset fit very well on several people we’ve tested it with, and the ear cushions are quite soft. The Pulsar 590A is light for a stereo headset and one can certainly wear the headset for long periods of time. All the controls are on the right earphone. You will find the call control button in the center disc along with the multifunction Mute/play/pause button. They are large and easy to use. A ring of LED light circles the center disc and a narrow band of controls (volume up and down, track forward and back) surround the LED. These control buttons aren’t as easy to use because they are narrow and often hard to find without looking at them. The slick looking clear telescoping voice tube looks like a glass fuse, and it picks up your voice for calls.

The Pulsar 590A comes with the universal Bluetooth adapter which is a small disc with a 3.5mm audio cable that can turn most MP3 players, laptops and DVD players into a Bluetooth enabled device.

 

 

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Pairing

The Plantronics Pulsar 590 has a solid Bluetooth 2.0 implementation and supports Hands-Free, Headset, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video, Remote Control Profile (AVRC) and Generic Audio/Video Distribution Profile (GAVD). For stereo sound, your device must support A2DP or use the included universal adapter. We paired the Pulsar with a long list of mobile phones, a couple of popular MP3 players, laptops and desktop computers. The headset paired with everything with an ease except the Apple iMac which lacks support for A2DP. To pair the headset, turn the headset off first, then hold down the call button while slide the on/off button to on position. When you see the LED alternately flash red and blue, you can use your phone to pair with the headset using the default pass code “0000”. It’s even easier if you are using the Bluetooth universal adapter with a non-Bluetooth device. After you plug in the adapter to your audio device, power on the adapter, hold the center button for 7-10 seconds until the LED on the adapter flashes red and blue alternately. You can now pair the headset and the adapter.

The Pulsar 590 supports a basic set of features for using with mobile phone and for playing music wirelessly. For hands-free mobile phones, the Pulsar supports initiating and ending calls, rejecting calls, voice dialing (if available on the phone), last number redial and mute functions. For stereo music devices with A2DP and AVRC, the Pulsar 590 offers track back, track forward, play/pause and mute. If you are listening to music on a phone when a call comes in, the Pulsar will gracefully fade out the music and switch to call audio, and when you have finished the call, the music will fade in and resume from where it left off. Switching between phones call and music is smooth and reliable.

In addition to working with mobile phones, MP3 players and other mobile devices, the Pulsar 590A also comes with a set of in-flight cables that allows you to connect the headset to the audio jack commonly found on airplanes. This is a great feature if you spend a lot of time in-flight, and it will save you some money since many airlines charge for a headset. When you plug the headset into the in-flight cable, the telescope voice tube and all headset controls are disabled. You will need to use the controls on the plane for volume and other functions.

Voice quality

The Plantronics Pulsar 590 has great audio quality for both voice calls and music playback. It had the best sound quality among Bluetooth headsets and the range is quite good. The Pulsar 590 generally adds more powerful bass. Please note your phone must have the A2DP Bluetooth profile to play stereo music via the Pulsar.

Sony Ericsson K800i (Bluetooth v2.0)
Playing music through the Plantronics Pulsar stereo headphones is a joy with the K800i. The sound quality does decrease a bit (more muffled) compared to wired headphones, but the bass has more boom and the large earpads on the Pulsar blocks out more noise which produces a more immersive music listening experience. The range between the K800i and the Pulsar reached at least 25 feet which is very good.

Treo 750 (Bluetooth v1.2)
Bluetooth range and sound quality are greatly improved on the Treo 750 and 680 compared to prior Treo models. We got crystal clear sound and very good volume with the Plantronics Pulsar. Music playback is excellent with great sound quality and responsive controls via the Bluetooth headset. The range between the headset and the Pulsar reached 20 feet. That might not sound very impressive, but for a Treo this is very good.

Cingular 8525 (Bluetooth v2.0)
The Pulsar works quite well with this Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone, not only for making calls and playing music but also streaming system sounds. The music streams well to the headset from Windows Media Player Mobile on the 8525. While sound quality isn't quite as good as the included wired stereo headset (a bit less bass and separation), it will likely please most folks. Range with the Pulsar was an impressive 30 feet-- if you go out of range the music stops and once you get back in range the music pipes through again (as with the Windows Mobile Treo 750). The AV controls also work well.

LG Chocolate VX8500 (Bluetooth v1.1)
The LG Chocolate phone is billed as a music phone and the Pulsar did a great job of streaming music from the Chocolate. The sound quality was great and volume very loud. The music sounds full with powerful bass. The range is also quite good reaching over 20 feet.

iPod and the Zune
Since most MP3 players don’t have integrated Bluetooth, the Plantronics Pulsar 590A is a great solution if you don’t want to use a wired headset. We tested the included Bluetooth universal adapter with the iPod nano, iPod video as well as the Zune. Pairing is easy and the wireless works flawlessly. The sound quality is very good when working with both the iPod and the Zune. The Pulsar 590 adds more bass compared to the iPod OEM wired headset, but is otherwise comparable to the wired headsets bundled with these devices.

Battery life

The Plantronics has a built-in Lithium Ion Polymer battery that’s not user replaceable. The talk time and the music playback time are quite long by Bluetooth headphone and headset standards. The claimed talk time is 10 hours and music play time is 12 hours. Talk time in our tests was shorter than the claimed time, but we easily get 8 hours of talk time. Music playback via the headset seems right on target. The claimed standby time is 130 hours. You can turn off the headset by sliding the power on/off button when not using it.

Plantronics Pulsar 590a

The Pulsar 590A has several charging options. It comes with a stylish desktop charging stand; you can bend the swing joints on the Pulsar to plug into the stand when charging. The package comes with both a USB charging cable and an AC wall charger that has two connectors that can charge the headset and the Bluetooth universal adapter simultaneously. When you are charging the headset, the LED on the Pulsar will flash red; it will turn solid blue when fully charged.

Conclusion

The Plantronics Pulsar 590A has a great feature set that can take care of your phone and music needs. It looks uber-cool and sleek too—and looks do count when you’re talking about something you wear on your head. We’ve reviewed several Bluetooth stereo headsets over the years and the Pulsar 590 is the best we’ve seen and heard so far. If you’re no fan of wires, this is the headset for you. It’s a bit pricy but it’s worth it.

Pro: Great looking headset that’s comfortable to wear. Solid Bluetooth implementation that works with a wide range of mobile devices. Very good sound quality and good range. Good battery life and ample charging options. The in-flight cable is a nice touch and should please those who spend lots of time flying.

Con: The volume up/down and the Track Forward/Back buttons are a bit hard to find when you are not looking at them.

Package contains: the stereo headset, universal adapter (with only 590A), desktop charging stand, in-flight cable, AC charger, USB charger and travel case.

Technical Specs:
-Bluetooth v2.0.
-Profiles supported: Hands-free, Headset, A2DP, AVRCP, GAVDP.
-Claimed talk time: Up to 10 hours on a charge, music play time up to 12 hours.
-Claimed standby time: Up to 130 hours.
-Range: 33 feet.
-Headset weight: 3.45 oz. (97.7 grams).
-Battery: Lithium Ion Polymer.
-AC adapter: 100-240v.

List price: $249.95 for the Pulsar 590A; $139.95 for the Pulsar 590E

Web site: www.plantronics.com

 

 

 

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