Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Bluetooth headset
Though Bluetooth has been a part of the cell phone world for a few years now, it's only been in the least few months that stereo Bluetooth has become a common feature in many handsets. It's a welcome change, to say the least, particularly in phones that boast robust digital music players. And just as it has done with its music-friendly mobiles, Sony Ericsson has stepped up to the plate by introducing quality stereo Bluetooth headsets for making calls and listening to music. One such headset, the HBH-DS970, offers great audio quality, user-friendly controls, and a wealth of features. On the downside, its around-the-neck wearing style can be a bit clunky, but it promises a satisfying user experience overall. At $135 it won't come cheap, but it should be worth the price.
We've grown accustomed to not associating wires or cords with anything Bluetooth, but the stereo HBH-DS970 is an exception. A durable cord extends from the headset's control pod to form a lanyard worn around your neck with the pod hanging against your chest. The twin earpieces connect to the lanyard via two short wires. Though we got used to the wearing style eventually, the arrangement can get a bit cumbersome, and it was only comfortable if we weren't moving around much. In other words, this isn't a headset for the gym. Also, the location of the call handling button just below the left earpiece was rather awkward.
On the upside, the length of the lanyard is adjustable, and the earpieces fit comfortably just inside the ear. Three sizes of rubber eartips are included, so we were able to achieve a secure fit. And despite the fact that the HBH-DS970 is rather conspicuous when worn, we liked its attractive black and orange color scheme.
The HBH-DS970's control pod measures 2.9 inches long, it's very light (one ounce), and it includes a selection of user-friendly controls. A dedicated power button sits on the top end of the pod, and a volume rocker sits on the right spine just above a small switch that toggles between single- and multi-device modes. For music play, there's a play/pause button on the front face of the pod, and there's a switch for changing tracks on the left spine. All the controls are tactile, and we had no problems finding them when wearing the headset.
The control pod also features a nifty display that shows the headset's battery life, the volume level, and the status of the active Bluetooth connection. It also supports caller ID and shows the name (but not the artist) of the current track when listening to music. A bright backlight keeps the display visible in dim environments, but the backlighting time is not adjustable.
We tested the HBH-DS970 with the Sony Ericsson K790a Cyber-shot. We had no trouble pairing the devices and were ready to go in no time. Calls came through loud and clear, and callers said they had little trouble hearing or understanding us. In noisier environments, audio quality faded just a bit but the headset's automatic volume adjustment worked rather well to combat any changes. The HBH-DS970 also features adaptive frequency hopping for minimizing interference and digital audio processing (compression and noise cancellation).