Featuring a two-way stereo Bluetooth headset and a wireless transmitter module that connects to virtually any device with an audio output, the Anycom BSH-100 Bluetooth stereo headset merges the worlds of communications and music. With the transmitter module connected to your non-Bluetooth MP3 player, for instance, you can wirelessly stream audio from the player to the headset. Because you can wirelessly connect the headset to the transmitter module and a Bluetooth cell phone at the same time, you can take any calls that come in while you're listening to music. Additionally, you can pair the headset with any Bluetooth-enabled computer for applications such as VoIP and online gaming. The multifunction concept of the BSH-100 ($199) is excellent, but its implementation is spottier than we'd like.
The BSH-100 has a lightweight, folding-neckband 'phone design and soft leatherette pads that sit on top of your ears. We wore the headset during a one-hour workout on a cross-trainer machine and found it perfectly comfortable. The removable mic is approximately 1.5 inches long and plugs into the USB port, which is located on the headset's right earpiece. With a diameter of approximately 2 inches and a height of around 1.75 inches, the circular transmitter module is reasonably small, but it's nonetheless an extra component you may not welcome having to carry around with a portable MP3 player. The module has a stereo minijack input, and Anycom supplies a cable for connecting the device to the headphone jack of your MP3 player.
Anycom provides two identical removable rechargeable batteries. One snaps onto the outside of the headset's left earpiece, while the other snaps onto the transmitter module. The headset and the transmitter module can be charged either via the included USB cable or with the included power-outlet charger, but there's a catch: neither the power-outlet charger nor the USB cable can simultaneously charge both components. So if the headset and the transmitter module both need recharging, you'll have to charge one at a time or connect one to the USB cable and the other to the power adapter. In our tests, the power adapter charged a battery in around 3 hours, but the USB cable took nearly an hour longer to finish the job. While mostly listening to music, we got approximately 9 hours out of the batteries (rated play time is 12 hours; standby is up to 200 hours). After unseating the battery from the headset, we had to reseat it a few times to get the headset working again. Our best advice is to avoid removing the battery altogether.
The headset's controls largely consist of a multifunction button that establishes Bluetooth connections, mutes and unmutes music, answers calls, ends calls, and redials. In addition, the headset has volume buttons and a power button. All the controls are mounted on the right earpiece and arrayed logically enough that the headset becomes fairly easy to operate once you acclimate to it. In theory, if used with a Bluetooth MP3 player that incorporates a compatible control protocol, the headset's buttons should allow you to play, pause, and skip tracks; however, we know of no such player available at this time.
The Anycom BSH-100 uses the Bluetooth A2DP protocol to deliver stereo audio. With music, the overall sound quality was marginally acceptable despite noticeable wireless crackling. What's more, the headset couldn't play very loud without distorting. With the transmitter module in our pants pocket or set in the cross-trainer's cup holder, dropouts were fairly rare. On average, they occurred a couple times per hour but lasted only a second or two before the connection was reestablished. The headset successfully paired with our Siemens S66 cell phone. Voice quality on the headset was good, but one caller on the other end said our voice sounded like it was coming through a speakerphone. When we clicked the button to answer a call, we consistently experienced a delay of a couple seconds between the time our cell phone answered and the time we could hear the caller through the wireless link.
In the final analysis, the Anycom BSH-100 is a cool product that's nonetheless hampered by enough minor kinks that we might sit this one out and wait for a next-generation device.