Giro TuneUps Wireless
Much like Oakley, Giro's main focus is not consumer electronics. Nope, this company's main product lines consist of protective helmets for skiers, snowboarders, and cyclists. But a couple of years ago, Giro realized that tearing up the slopes can be a lot more fun when you have tunes along for the ride and created the TuneUps II, a useful set of headphones integrated into earpads that could be interchanged between compatible Giro helmets. Oh, and they worked as a cell phone headset too. Now, Giro has taken it a step further with the TuneUps Wireless, cutting the cords and adding stereo Bluetooth capability. You'll pay a premium--$200 sans helmet--for these handy 'phones, but you'll be rewarded with a user-friendly pair of headphones that provide great sound quality and a handy, modular design--all without the wires.
Once you get your hands on them, it's obvious that the TuneUps Wireless are just distantly related to their predecessor. The design is dramatically different. Rather than earpads with integrated headphones, the TuneUps Wireless kit comes with a set of speaker pods. These can either be snapped into the included DJ headset, which has a padded headband and full-size cushioned ear pieces, or into a compatible Giro helmet--the Omen, Fuse, G10, and Nine.9 models--which must be purchased separately. We found both items to be sufficiently comfortable after brief periods of wear, and the helmet definitely will keep your head nice and warm.
In addition to the DJ headset, Giro includes an iPod-compatible Bluetooth transmitter, which is actually a NaviPlay unit made by Ten Technology. This transmitter also makes up one part of the Ten Technology NaviPlay Bluetooth headphone kit, an Editors' Choice winner, and as expected, it works very well and pairs seamlessly with the speaker pods. It also includes a pass-through syncing port for the iPod. The pods themselves have an array of controls: the right piece features a large, backlit play/pause button, and twisting the outer ring of the pod serves to shuttle through tracks; the left side has a call-answer button, and twisting the ring controls the volume. Oddly, the Omen helmet that came with our review sample had improperly labeled earpads that reversed the pod controls--a bit counterintuitive, as we then had to twist backward to go forward through tracks and vice versa. And unfortunately, we couldn't switch the pods because the cable is connected in such a way that makes this impossible. Hopefully, this quirk will be addressed in production models of the helmet.
As mentioned, pairing the TuneUps pods with the included NaviPlay transmitter was a completely painless procedure--we didn't even need to look at the instructions. You can also pair the pods with a Bluetooth cell phone for taking calls wirelessly. In addition, if your phone has A2DP (essentially, stereo Bluetooth) you can listen to music that's on your phone. Initially, we tried pairing the headset to a Treo 700p, but calls were not ringing through. Swapping in a Treo 680 solved the issue, though.
Unfortunately, call quality was pretty poor in testing, with both ends suffering from a fair amount of static, hiss, and echoing. The landline caller also complained that she could barely here the responses given by the headset-wearer. However, when put to the music test, the Giro TuneUps Wireless headphones really hold their own. We noticed no background hiss during music playback, and tunes sounded rich, clear, and encompassing, with ample bass response. Quality remained consistent across many genres of music--we tested hip hop, rock, electronica, and jazz.