Peony Bluetooth MP3 Headphone
A handful of manufacturers has marketed one-piece MP3/FM headsets in the past, but the Peony Bluetooth MP3 Headphone is the first we've seen that combines those features with the capabilities of a hands-free Bluetooth cell phone headset, plus those of a two-way PC headset. Unfortunately, as appealing as the affordable Bluetooth MP3 Headphone's ($129) Swiss Army Knife assortment of features sounds, the device has numerous limitations that may prevent you from using it as intended.
The Peony Bluetooth MP3 Headphone has a wraparound design with foam-covered ear pads that rest on top of your ears. Although the headset is comfortable enough for sedentary applications, it's a bit bulky for active pursuits, such as jogging. Since the earpieces have a depth of nearly 1.25 inches each, they stick out quite a bit from the side of your head. Also, the memory card protrudes approximately 0.25 inch from its slot on the rim of the right-side earpiece. Style-conscious users should take note of these aesthetic drawbacks. Unfortunately, the headset isn't collapsible for easy storage. In addition to the headphone/MP3 player combo, Peony includes a USB cable, an outlet charger, a printed quick-start guide, and a CD-ROM with a full version of the manual.
The Peony Bluetooth MP3 headset's controls, USB port, and SD/MMC card slot are all located on the right earpiece. On the outside of this same earpiece, you'll also find a small but adequate 1-by-0.5-inch text display that's used for navigating device features and music. The intuitively arrayed controls comprise volume up/down, skip forward/backward, and mode buttons, as well as a play/pause key that's used to receive incoming cell phone calls. The headset doesn't offer any additional cell phone control capabilities, such as redial. The mode button toggles between the device's four main modes, which include MP3/WMA playback, FM radio, Bluetooth phone, and Bluetooth audio.
As a portable audio player, the Peony Bluetooth MP3 Headphone is no-frills. MP3/WMA navigation is limited to browsing by filenames or the directories in which files are stored. The headset ships with a 64MB SD card, which has only enough capacity to store approximately one CD's worth of 128Kbps MP3 files, and there's no internal memory. It's also worth noting that the Bluetooth MP3 Headphone isn't compatible with DRM-protected WMA files such as those purchased from Internet music stores, including Napster and Rhapsody.
Because the Peony Bluetooth MP3 headset is recognized by Windows XP as a USB mass-storage device, you can simply drag and drop files that are compatible from the Windows-desktop environment to the player. The USB 1.1 device's glacially slow transfer speeds of approximately 6.5MB per minute could be especially irksome if you mate the Bluetooth MP3 Headphone with a larger-capacity memory card.
Battery life approaches 10 hours for MP3 playback but is reduced to around 6 hours if Bluetooth is simultaneously active. According to Peony, the battery life for PC streaming is approximately 4 hours. However, we were unable to test this claim--nor the unit's A2DP audio-streaming performance--as the headset refused to be paired with any of our test systems. Call us picky, but when we're pairing Bluetooth devices, we like it when they simply work.
As far as its stand-alone MP3 player performance is concerned, the Peony Bluetooth MP3 Headphone works as advertised. The headset sounds better than average, outputting fairly robust bass, plus clear treble and midrange. Things go downhill from there, however. Unlike the, the Peony unit proved incompatible with our common Siemens S66 cell phone. Compatible phones are limited to Sony Ericsson's T610, Z600, T630, K700i, S700i, and P910i; Nokia's 6230, 6260, 6600, 6820, 7600, and 7610; Motorola's E398, E680, A768i, V3, V80, V501, V600, V600i, and V780; the Siemens S65; and the Pantech G800. If you're looking for a Bluetooth stereo headset that will work with your phone, as well as a stand-alone MP3 player, check out the instead.