Creative CB2530 Bluetooth headphones
Over the last year or so, a number of headphone manufacturers have adapted Bluetooth wireless technology for their portable models. And when you stop and think about it, eliminating the wires from portable headphones makes a lot of sense--no more tangled, dangling, or broken cables. Creative's Bluetooth entry, the CB2530, lists for $150, which is at the upper end of the price range for this type of headphone, and it comes in black or white finishes.
The plastic Creative CB2530 headphones weigh 7 ounces and feel like they're ruggedly built; the ultrasoft vinyl ear cushions are almost large enough to completely cover our ears. However, we found the CB2530 only moderately comfortable after an hour of listening, mostly because the headphones squeezed our ears with a bit more pressure than we would have liked. The right ear cup conveniently houses a combination volume and muting control. The CB2530 doesn't fold for compact storage, and Creative doesn't supply a carry pouch.
The Creative CB2530 is powered with a total of three AAA batteries: one in the Bluetooth transmitter and two more in the headphone's left ear cup. Creative quotes a 7-hour life expectancy when using alkaline batteries, and we found that claim to be fairly accurate. Just be aware that you'll have to change batteries often; a rechargeable model would have been better in this case. The Bluetooth transmitter isn't a whole lot bigger than its battery and comes with a 7-inch-long cable, terminating with a 3.5mm gold-plated miniplug; we were disappointed to find Creative doesn't include a 6.3mm home adapter. The cable was too long for our tastes, plus it just dangles there, leaving us wondering where to put the transmitter after we plugged the cable into our iPod or MP3 player. The CB2530 uses Bluetooth 1.2 technology; its range is quoted as 32 feet, but our sample conked out around 20 feet.
To use the Creative CB2530, you must first pair the Bluetooth transmitter to the headphones. It's a simple enough procedure: just hold down the transmitter's power button until its blue LED indicator lights up, then flick on the headphones' power switch. The headphones' red LED illuminates, followed by the Bluetooth's blue LED, then the sound comes on. Or at least it's supposed to--there were times when we had to repeat the steps a few times before we got sound. When you're finished listening, simply turn off the headphones, and the transmitter automatically shuts itself off.
We were underwhelmed by the Creative CB2530's sound quality. Treble detail for guitars and cymbals was in short supply, and bass definition was muddy compared with what we heard from($130), which produced a clearer sound. A brief shoot-out with Ultrasone's wired iCans headphones ($129) was even more dramatic, its vivid sound and punchy bass smoking both Bluetooth headphones. More gripes: Even with our iPod's volume cranked all the way up, the CB2530 never got that loud. The wireless sound was static-free, but the music was frequently interrupted with sputtery noises for up to 20 seconds at a time. With Logitech's Bluetooth headphones, sound dropped out only occasionally. We weren't able to do a side-by-side test with our favorite iPod-only Bluetooth headphones, the .
The sound was better at home, when we plugged the Creative CB2530's transmitter into an Onkyo TX-SR504 A/V receiver's headphone jack. The first thing we noticed is that we could get a lot more volume out of the Creative headphones. The King Kong DVD's ferocious soundtrack roared to life, and the bass seemed deeper and tighter than what we achieved over the iPod. We still felt the treble lacked sparkle and clarity. The best part of the CB2530 is its wireless technology--just keep your expectations for sound quality low.