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Hip to be square

Etymotic's new Bluetooth stereo headphones may be square looking but they sound great

Ever since Engadget posted some not-so-pretty FCC photos of Etymotic's funky-looking, new, Bluetooth stereo headphones, the ety8s have been getting a bad rap. Engadget called them "the wireless abomination whose name shall not be spoke."

Well, the folks from Etymotic dropped by to show us the real McCoy, which should be shipping in a couple of weeks. The fact is the ety8's offer one of the most distinct headphone designs ever created, and when you see them you realize there's a fine line between really cool and wireless abomination. They surely lend new meaning to the phrase geek chic.

Love 'em or fear 'em, one thing is sure (and by "sure," we don't mean Shure, Etymotic's competitor in the high-end earbud world): The ety8s sound really good, especially for Bluetooth headphones, which for the most part, haven't impressed us so far. They're also comfortable, and when you jam their foam or rubber earpieces into your ears, you get a really snug fit that blocks out sound as effectively as Bose's vaunted Quiet-Comfort line of noise-cancelling headphones. We haven't gone out running with them yet, but it appears from a little in-place jogging that they stay on pretty securely, though they're decidedly un-athletic looking.

The ety8s will come in two models. One is just the headphones--they're joined by a cord that you hang around the back of your neck--while the other comes with a Bluetooth dongle that connects to the bottom of your iPod (sorry, no dongle for other MP3 players). The models cost $200 and $300, respectively. Battery life for both (charging is accomplished via a USB cable) is rated at 7 hours, and you can control the volume on your iPod and skip back and forth between tracks by pressing the buttons on the outside of the right earpiece.

Allegedly, the headphones will connect to just about any Bluetooth-enabled audio device, such as a cell phone or a PDA (preferably the device offers stereo audio). We also plan on giving them a whirl with the PS3, which has built-in Bluetooth. We'll let you know how that works out next week.