Ten Technology NaviPlay Bluetooth Stereo Headset Kit
Since the introduction of portable music players, consumers haven't been given many options in the realm of cutting-edge headphone technology. Sure, there are high-end vs. low-end debates, meticulously designed in-ear bud and wraparound designs, and even a recent influx of high-definition studio monitor headphones. However, we've seen relatively few portable wireless stereo headsets, forcing us to contend with a mess of restrictive and tangle-prone cords. This is no longer an issue for Ten Technology and its NaviPlay Bluetooth stereo headset kit for Apple iPods. The NaviPlay won the Best of Show Award at this year's Macworld Expo in San Francisco and with good cause--it performs superbly. Of course, this comes at a price, as the NaviPlay will set you back $200. The kit consists of two separate units: a Bluetooth base unit adapter for your iPod and a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones. The base unit's two arms firmly grasp the sides of the iPod and connect via the dock connector. To ensure a perfect fit, Ten Technology includes seven plastic insets that allow you to use it with almost all recent versions of the MP3 player. The rear of the adapter houses a syncable female port that allows simultaneous charging of the base unit and your iPod. The adapter weighs in at a slight 4 ounces, and it adds about an inch of rounded plastic to the bottom and less than half an inch to the width of the iPod. That said, the combined iPod and adapter is still very slimming and definitely won't weigh you down.
There is also a flip-down stand that allows the iPod to sit upright on a flat surface. The headphones are of the small ear-cup variety and feature very comfortable padding on the ears as well as dual padding on the band that encircles your head. While sets such as thefeature the clumsy wraparound design that puts unnecessary weight on the ears, we experienced absolutely no discomfort while testing these, even after hours of active and dormant listening.
The right earpiece of the headphones houses a series of navigation controls. While this wasn't a problem for us, we can imagine how southpaws might find this requirement a nuisance. The controls are situated in a four-way circular pad consisting of volume and track-shuttle keys with a button in the middle that acts as play and pause. In addition, the ear pads rotate up to 90 degrees horizontally to accommodate different-size heads.
Setting up the NaviPlay to work with our iPod was incredibly easy. Plug the iPod into the adapter, press one button on the bottom of the adapter and one on the side of the headphones to sync the units, and that's it--cord-free listening. There's also an embedded microphone right below the controls on the ride earphone for Bluetooth cell phones. In our lab tests, we successfully paired our Treo 650 with the wireless headphones. The connection required a few basic steps and went off without a hitch. Now, when we're listening to music, we can hear the phone ring through the earphones, answer the call, hang up, redial, and even switch to call waiting, all without even taking out our Treo. This is a huge bonus for users with Bluetooth-compatible phones and boosted our personal wow factor with the device. The receivers of our phone calls reported the sound to be slightly muffled but definitely "high quality." Since the microphone is built into the bottom of the right headphone, it also picks up surrounding noise.
We tried to connect the earphones to our Bluetooth-enabled laptop but were unable to establish a connection.
When using wireless technology, short battery life is almost an inevitable issue, but since the adapter houses its own lithium-polymer battery instead of drawing from the iPod, we were able to get a solid 9 hours of operation out of the adapter at full volume. In our tests, the batteries for the headset lasted a bit longer and died out at 10 hours. There is no LCD; as a result, the battery indicator is simple and uses blinking amber lights to indicate low life. There is no way to tell how much time remains on the charge. Another downside to having a separate headset and base unit is that the headphones and the adapter must be charged separately via proprietary cords: an iPod charger for the iPod/base unit and a USB cord for the headset.