The Q-Bean ST is a wireless headphone system ($130) that uses high-frequency radio waves to help you break free from your computer, home theater, or MP3 player. The system is bulky, however, making it not nearly as elegant as Bluetooth headphone solutions such as the Logitech FreePulse or Etymotic Ety8.
The Q-Bean ST system comes in two parts: a square-shaped transmitter that measures 2.5 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch, and a bean-shaped 2.5-inch by 2-inch by 1-inch receiver. The transmitter runs off three AAA batteries or an included USB power adapter, and it is connected to an audio source using an included 4-foot cable. The wireless receiver, which requires charging over a USB connection, features controls for volume and power, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Although the Q-Bean ST system comes bundled with a pair of earphones, the receiver is capable of being used with any set of headphones you like. We're happy that the supplied earphones have above-average sound quality and sport a stylish metal finish similar to the V-Moda Vibe. In order to create a snug fit in your ear, the Q-Bean earphones use removable rubber tips similar to the Sony MDR-EX71SL. Unlike the Sony earphones, however, the Q-Beans do not include any extra fittings--so if you're disappointed with how the earphones fit, you'll just have to buy a different pair. Because the Q-Bean ST receiver is meant to be worn around your neck using a supplied rubber necklace (or clipped to your shirt), the earphone cable is kept at a tidy 1.5 feet in length. For those of you who are too modest to be seen with a blinking plastic bean around your neck, the headphone-cable length is unfortunately too short to allow the receiver to be concealed in a pocket.
The Q-Bean's wireless range is rated at 100 feet. Our unofficial tests found that you can expect a range of 50 feet around an office environment. Even with the range falling short of the 100-foot claim, 50 feet is much better than the 30-foot distance we commonly see with Bluetooth wireless headphone products, such as the Logitech FreePulse or Etymotic Ety8. Another asset the Q-Bean ST has over its Bluetooth competitors is improved sound quality. Because the Q-Bean ST system uses an analog high-frequency (2.4GHz) radio transmission, it doesn't have to be subjected to the degradation of Bluetooth A2DP digital audio compression. Although we don't like the overall bulk and toylike design of the system, we have to admit that the Q-Bean ST delivers high-quality audio performance.
Ultimately, the appeal of the Q-Bean ST system is determined by how much you want to spend, and how little you care about integrating a blinking, plastic, bean-shaped receiver into your wardrobe. Unfortunately, since no one has created a perfect wireless headphone solution for under $150, the Q-Bean ST may be a compromise you'll have to live with.