Plantronics Pulsar 590 Bluetooth Stereo Headset review: Plantronics Pulsar 590 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

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The Good Functions as both a hands-free headset and stereo headphones; solid sound quality and battery life.

The Bad Small volume buttons.

The Bottom Line Plantronics's Pulsar 590A Bluetooth headset is a great choice for mobile power users who don't want to sacrifice quality for convenience.

7.0 Overall

Plantronics Pulsar 590A

The ability to privately listen to music or spoken word via headphones wherever you go is one of life's great luxuries. Making mobile audio even sweeter, however, is the $199 Plantronics Pulsar 590A headset. Operating on the new Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile protocol, the Pulsar 590A is essentially a wireless audio device that lets you hear stereo audio without the usual hassle of cords. In addition, the Pulsar can function as a hands-free cellular headset, allowing you to answer calls without touching your mobile phone.

The Plantronics Pulsar 590A comes in two basic parts. The main section is a futuristic over-the-head-style headphone unit constructed from silver and black plastic. The right ear cup sports call answer, mute, and volume up/down buttons along with a telescoping microphone tube. Backing this up is a circular universal Bluetooth adapter, which is about the size of a bar of hotel soap. Also bundled is a small, flat cradle and an AC power cord to charge the headphones' and adapter's rechargeable batteries. Once charged, indicator lights on both devices glow a steady blue. You can charge with just the AC cord sans cradle if space is critical.

The Plantronics Pulsar 590A is very easy to use. First, we followed the simple directions laid out within the manual for pairing the adapter to the headphone unit, then the headphones to our Bluetooth-capable cellular handset; you'll need to do this procedure only once. With this done, we connected the adapter to our MP3 player using its standard headphone jack. With all devices involved powered up and linked, we casually tossed the MP3 player, the adapter, and the cell phone in a bag and walked out the door. While walking the streets of NYC, we were able to groove to tunes in stereo with surprisingly solid audio quality. The two volume buttons, however, are small and tricky to depress. When a call came through, the Pulsar automatically cut out the music and chimed an alert. We simply answered by pressing the Call Answer button once. Once our chat was over, the Pulsar resumed music playback. In our anecdotal tests, callers said we sounded reasonably clear, but they could tell we were using a cell phone. Battery life also proved to be good in cursory testing. We played audio through the Pulsar 590A continuously over a period of about 11 hours without having to recharge. This is not bad, but a word of warning: It's a pain to recharge a device such as headphones when you're not used to doing so.