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Sound ID 400 Bluetooth Headset review: Sound ID 400 Bluetooth Headset

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Though Sound ID isn't as well-known as Jabra and Plantronics in the Bluetooth headset world, its headsets have stood out because of their comfort and sound quality. Indeed, Sound ID boasts a deep understanding of the science of hearing because of the company founder's otology roots. Its first headsets (the SoundFlavors and the SM100) were very expensive as they were designed more for those who are hard of hearing. The company's more recent efforts, the Sound ID 200 and the Sound ID 300, are geared toward the everyday user.

8.0

Sound ID 400 Bluetooth Headset

The Good

The Sound ID 400 is a slim, lightweight headset with excellent call quality, three personal-listening sound modes, multipoint technology, and a comfortable fit. It has an environmental awareness mode that lets you hear your surroundings without taking off the headset. It is also compatible with Sound ID's Remote Microphone.

The Bad

The Sound ID 400 has skinny buttons and we would've liked a dedicated volume rocker. The environmental mode has a bit of a buzz in the background.

The Bottom Line

The Sound ID 400 is a comfortable headset with excellent sound quality and plenty of features.

The Sound ID 400 is its latest and greatest headset yet, with several noise-reduction and clarity-enhancement technologies we've seen on previous Sound ID products, like "Personal Sound" modes, an "environment-awareness" mode, and of course noise-canceling. It is also compatible with an optional Sound ID Remote Microphone, which works like a single-focus hearing aid when placed near a desired sound source. With all its features, the Sound ID 400 is most importantly comfortable with very good sound quality. The Sound ID 400 is available for $129.99, and the optional Remote Microphone is $79.99.

The Sound ID 400 looks practically identical to the Sound ID 300 and the Sound ID 200. Measuring 2.1 inches long by 0.6 inch wide by 0.3 inch thick, the Sound ID 400 has a very slim stick design and it's wrapped in a rather nice matte-black soft-touch plastic. The design is overall quite boring, but it's good if you like the minimalist look.

On the front surface is a tiny LED dot that acts as the status indicator. The multifunction call key is on the top and the volume/Personal Sound key is on the left side. Both keys are terribly skinny and small and are a bit hard to access when worn; we had to reach in the folds of our ear to get to them. Still, they're easy enough to find by feel since they're raised above the surface.

As we said, there is only one volume key, so you have to cycle through several volume levels to get to the right one. The Personal Sound modes (which we'll get to later) do reduce the need to adjust the volume as much, but we still would have preferred a separate volume rocker.

When you flip the headset around, you'll find the charger jack at the bottom and the earpiece at the top. The earpiece is covered with Sound ID's own Real Comfort Ear Loop. Made out of rubber, the earbud is tapered to a narrow point like a spout so that it fits snugly in the ear. Attached to the earbud cover is a round loop so that it fits in the ear without the need for an ear hook. Still, the Sound ID 400 comes with a regular earbud cover and an ear hook if you prefer that style instead. There are also two additional Real Comfort Ear Loop sizes for different-size ears. We're definitely fans of the Real Comfort Ear Loop; it is really amazingly comfortable and secure at the same time. The ear loop can be swiveled to fit either ear.

If you hold down the volume button during a phone call, you will switch the headset to a different Personal Sound mode. There are three Personal Sound modes; Normal, Moderate, and Strong. Normal mode indicates a more natural-sounding voice without as much background noise reduction, while the Moderate and Strong modes have much more aggressive noise reduction at the expense of natural voice quality. There's also an additional Demo mode that shuts off the noise-canceling altogether so you can hear what it's like without any noise reduction. Like with the volume, you have to cycle through all of these modes to get to your desired one.

If you hold down the volume button in standby mode, you will activate/deactivate the Environmental mode. This essentially amplifies the surrounding noise around you when you're not on a call. The idea is that you don't need to take your headset off during a face-to-face conversation. While we think it's a neat idea, we didn't think it was absolutely necessary. Also, when the Environmental mode is on, there was almost too much amplification, resulting in a little bit of background buzz.

The Sound ID 400 is also compatible with Sound ID's Remote Microphone. It acts almost like a hearing aid, especially when you're having a conversation with someone in a very loud environment. Simply pair the two devices, place the remote microphone next to a sound source, and you will hear the sound without much background noise. You could also place the microphone next to the television so you don't have to raise the volume, or you could put it next to a speaker in a lecture if you're a little hard of hearing.

Other features of the Sound ID 400 include the normal answering, ending, and rejecting calls, last-number redial, automatic volume control, a low-battery indicator, and the ability to transfer calls from the headset to the phone and vice versa. It also has multipoint technology, which lets it connect up to two devices at once.

We paired the Sound ID 400 with the Apple iPhone 3G. We were very pleased with the sound quality overall. The Personal Sound modes combined with the noise-canceling Noise Navigation technology results in crystal clear sound on both sides. On our end, we heard our callers loud and clear for the most part. Whenever we encountered particular bad background noise, like in the train station for example, we would simply switch to a different Personal Sound mode to reduce the background noise a bit. This works quite well, though remember that the stronger the Personal Sound, the less natural the voice.

On their end, callers heard us very clearly as well. There was a bit of static and echo at times, and not all environmental sound was blocked, but it was good enough for everyday situations. Call quality was even quite good in wind noise, which we tested by talking in front of a fan. Callers could still hear us, though they said we sounded a bit muffled at times. We also did a test with the Noise Navigation turned off completely, and the sound quality was audibly worse than when it was enabled.

The Sound ID 400 has a rated battery life of 7 hours talk time and eight days.