Sony DR BT160 review: Sony DR BT160

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MSRP: $129.99
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Sony DR-BT160 Active Style Wireless Stereo Headset allows for wireless audio streaming and music playback control with a compatible Bluetooth device. Sound quality is good.

The Bad The Sony DR-BT160 Active Style Wireless Stereo Headset is pricey, and the neckband isn't adjustable, which can cause fit and comfort issues. Call quality is only so-so.

The Bottom Line The Sony DR-BT160 Active Style Wireless Headset is a good option for gym rats who want to cut the cord between themselves and their wireless music devices, but business-minded users who are picky about call quality should steer clear.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0

Fitness-friendly headphones come in a variety of shapes and styles--from earclip to behind-the-neck--and finding a pair that stays put on your head while you're active can take some trial and error. Once you get past fit issues, you may find yourself wanting some more advanced features, and built-in Bluetooth technology often tops that list, as it eliminates the need for cumbersome wires tethering you to your MP3 player. The latest pair of active-style earphones to hit the market is Sony's DR-BT160 Wireless Stereo Headset, which comes in two models: the $130 BT160AS, which includes just the headphones, and the $180 BT160IK, which also throws in an iPod adapter. It's a pricey solution, but those who can get a good fit will be rewarded with good wireless sound quality.

About fit: the Sony DR-BT160 headphones are not adjustable, so it is going to be an issue for some users. This reviewer, with her abnormally small ears, certainly had a problem getting the headset to feel secure and comfortable. Other testers had better results, though. The DR-BT160s have a pretty typical behind-the-neck design, with a band that loops over the top of the ear and earbuds that are inserted within. The Bluetooth power and control modules are somewhat triangular in shape and rest behind each ear. The left contains the battery and a port for charging, and the right houses the controls: a pairing button, a call-answer key, and a joystick that adjusts volume and skips tracks. The joystick may also be pressed in to play or pause tracks; this particular control is a bit awkward, but other than that, we found the toggle handy and responsive.

Setting up the Sony DR-BT160 headset couldn't be easier, just be sure to fully charge the unit first. Then, put your audio device--a BlackBerry Storm, in our case--in Bluetooth search mode, press and hold the headset's pairing button, and select it from a list on your device. Once you start playback from the handset's media player, you can access complete control from the headset. When a call comes through, music playback is paused in order to let you answer the phone (should you so choose).

On the sound quality front, the Sony DR-BT160 headphones fair very well. We were able to walk more than 25 feet away during testing and not experience any dropouts or decrease in quality, which bodes well if you want to keep your music player far from your flailing arms while you workout. Music sounds good, with nice mids and good clarity, with a reasonable amount of high-end detail. The Deftones' version of "Ordinary Love" came through as rich, deep, and encompassing (provided we pushed the earbuds in some to get a proper seal). Bass response is not thumping, but there is a present low end. Call quality is only so-so: callers on both ends complained about the metallic, digital sound of the others' voice, and the landline caller could hear feedback from the cell phone. So, while the Sony DR-BT160 headphones are a good choice for wireless music, they aren't the best mobile headset.

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