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BlueAnt Wireless is an Australian company that has made considerable inroads in the Bluetooth headset market in the United States with devices like the X3 Micro and the V12 with LCD. But while we liked them, they didn't quite stand out from existing Bluetooth headsets in the market. The new BlueAnt Z9 may change all that, with a stylish and comfortable design coupled with an advanced noise cancellation technology that claims to preserve the natural voice. Though there are other Bluetooth headsets with audio enhancement technologies, few come cheaper than the BlueAnt Z9 with its $99.95 price tag.
The BlueAnt Z9 has a lovely cutting-edge design that is both minimalist and stylish at the same time. Clad in black plastic, the Z9 measures about 1.61 by 0.68 by 0.44 inches in a simple rectangular shape. There's a small silver square in the top-middle position with the BlueAnt logo on it--this is the Z9's multifunction button. Though the multifunction button seems almost flush to the surface, it's actually a little recessed, which provides some texture for pressing by feel, and it's easy to press. The multifunction button also has a LED underneath that flashes blue or red depending on the mode. On the right spine sits two volume buttons, which are quite raised above the surface, with clear texture differences between the two. However, they felt a little stiff when pressed.
On the back of the headset are the earpiece and the flexible ear hook. The earpiece sits just inside the ear, but does not fit deep in the canal. Because of this, it doesn't feel very secure, and we would not suggest wearing the Z9 without the ear hook. Also, we found the earbud size to be a little larger than other headsets, so it may feel a little uncomfortable to those with smaller ears. Thankfully, the plastic ear hook is extremely flexible and is able to fit either ear with ease. BlueAnt also provides two additional hooks in case the first one breaks. We found that we could wear the Z9 all day without much discomfort. A charger sits on top of the earpiece and there's a small clip on the back, so you can wear it clipped to your shirt if you wish.
We tested the BlueAnt Z9 with the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 and the Apple iPhone. We were able to pair the headset with both phones without a problem. We experienced some minor feedback and static during calls, but overall it was quite loud and clear. Voice quality was enhanced thanks to the Z9's built-in Voice Isolation technology, which has two settings: Standard and Max. Voice Isolation Standard is for use in normal environments; it offers mild noise reduction and an emphasis on a natural-sounding voice. Voice Isolation Max is for much noisier environments; it features heavy noise reduction and a slightly less natural voice. You can switch between the two modes by pressing on the multifunction key during a call.
Our experience with the Voice Isolation settings proved BlueAnt's claims to be true. In the Standard setting, our callers heard us just fine, and reported a very natural-sounding voice with little background noise. We tried out the Max setting in a very windy environment on the sidewalk, and callers could still hear us quite well, but thought our voice sounded a little robotic. We definitely appreciate the choice of the two different modes for different noise environments.
Other features of the Z9 include the typical answering, ending, and receiving calls, plus call reject, last-number redial, voice-dial support, transferring a call from the headset to the phone and vice versa, call conferencing, call waiting, call mute, and the ability to turn the LED on or off. You can also pair up to three different phones and switch connections between them with a series of clicks. Rated talk time is 5.5 hours and rated standby time is 8.3 days.