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Gennum Zen Bluetooth Headset review: Gennum Zen Bluetooth Headset

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The Good Decent sound quality; user-friendly controls.

The Bad Mundane design; somewhat loose on the ear.

The Bottom Line The Gennum Zen offers great audio quality, but its comfort and fit are disappointing.

6.0 Overall

Gennum Zen Bluetooth headset

Although Gennum refers to its Bluetooth headset as the Zen, the device's style and design aren't exactly soothing. The color is acceptable--black or gray, depending on your model--but the headset's large size and boxy form factor make it rather conspicuous while worn. On the other hand, it is extremely lightweight (0.7 ounces), so you won't feel weighed down when you're on the go.

When we tried on our first review model of Gennum's Zen Bluetooth headset, we thought we weren't wearing it correctly. It barely hung on our ear, and the flexible arm that's attached to the earpiece was not nearly lithe enough. In fact, it fell off several times. Even after we consulted the instruction manual, the result was the same. Although the Zen is designed to hook over the top of your ear, then wrap behind it, the small plastic hook is so small that it pinches, and the plastic ear loop doesn't conform to your ear shape. Likewise, the flexible earpiece is designed to wrap around your ear, but we were unable to position it to our liking.

We were glad that Gennum improved the fit somewhat with the second model it sent us. The earpiece felt more flexible and fit more securely, but it still seemed a little shaky at times, so you should try it on before buying. You also get rubber ear tips in four different sizes, and you can position the Zen for either ear.

Fortunately, the Gennum Zen performs better if you can fit it on your ear and get past its ho-hum styling. It has user-friendly controls, so we had no problem pairing it to our Motorola V600. A large button on the earpiece manages calls, while a smaller control nearby transfers calls to your phone and mutes the audio. And if your phone supports a hands-free profile, you can place calls via voice dialing directly from the headset. A small scrollwheel controls the volume, and a tiny LED shows the phone's status.

Overall sound quality was good with clear conversations, but because the earpiece rested so far from our ear, the volume was a bit low on our first try. We also detected a whining noise from time to time. Our second model, however, had an adaptive background-noise-reduction feature that worked admirably in breezy conditions. Gennum has packed in a new feature called LEAP, which is supposed to amplify face-to-face conservations so that you don't have to take the headset off. We didn't notice much of a difference, but it might give you peace of mind. In CNET Labs' tests, the Gennum Zen Bluetooth headset met the promised eight hours of talk time and a little more than four days of standby time.

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