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It appears there's an app for everything these days, including Bluetooth headsets. The BlueAnt Q1 was the first with an Android app, and now the Sound ID 510 is the first with a custom iPhone app. Though the Q1's Android app is mostly for reading incoming text messages, the custom iPhone app for the Sound ID 510 is designed for enhancing the headset experience; it does everything from fine-tune the audio quality to add a unique headset-locator feature.
And let's not forget the actual headset. The Sound ID 510 is the latest headset from Sound ID, and it boasts three microphones for optimum noise-canceling, an environment-awareness mode, and multiple ear fittings to assure ear comfort. That, combined with the iPhone app, makes the Sound ID 510 one of the best headsets for iPhone owners. Sound ID will release apps for Android and BlackBerry users later in the year, along with A2DP functionality via a firmware upgrade. The Sound ID 510 is available for $130.
The Sound ID 510 looks very similar to previous Sound ID headsets, such as the Sound ID 400. Measuring around 2.1 inches long by 0.6 inch wide by 0.3 inch thick, the Sound ID 510 is so slim and skinny that it looks like a stick of gum. It comes in both black and white, and is encased in a hard plastic shell. The overall design is rather plain, but it does have that sleek minimalist appeal.
On the front surface is a round multifunction call button with a tiny LED indicator dot above it. The button has a curved dome surface, so it's easy to find by feel. The rest of the headset's front surface is home to a touch sensor volume control--you slide your finger up and down it to adjust the volume. This worked well for the most part, but we tend to prefer physical controls so that there's no danger of accidentally increasing or decreasing the volume.
On the left side of the headset is the power toggle, which we like since it makes it easier to power the headset off in order to conserve battery life. The charger jack is on the top. On the back of the Sound ID 510 is the earpiece, clad in one of Sound ID's soft Real Comfort ear loops. The ear loop is tapered down to a spout for a nice, snug fit in the ear. You don't need a hook to wear it, but the headset does come with an optional ear hook for a more secure fit. We found the fit to be quite comfortable and snug, and didn't get tired of it even after hours of wear. The ear loop can be positioned to fit either ear, and Sound ID provides three different sizes for a more customized fit.
Previous Sound ID headsets had special features like Personal Sound mode and Environmental sound mode. All of those controls are now housed within the iPhone app, called EarPrint. The EarPrint app is free to download from the iTunes Appstore, and works only with the Sound ID 510. Similarly, these special features are only available with the iPhone app, and not on any other phone at the moment.
There are four separate components to the EarPrint app. One is a Sound Level indicator, which lets you know how loud the surrounding area is by measurement of decibels. Another is the Personal Sound mode, which acts as a personal audio equalizer that lets you fine-tune incoming audio. The Personal Sound interface is that of a grid, and depending on where you tap your finger, you can adjust the volume and tone of the audio. We found this to be a great tool, especially since not all our callers sound the same. Still, we wish a lot of this were more automated, since we didn't feel like fiddling with the Personal Sound tool all the time.
The EarPrint app also has a Tools section, which lets you toggle the in-call status indicator, a noise reduction demo, and the "Environmental" mode. The Environmental mode essentially lets you listen to the surrounding noise when your headset is plugged in. You can have it set for either Surround or Focused (Focused would be if you want to listen to only the person next to you, for example). We're not huge fans of the "Environmental" mode--why not just take off your headset?--but we can see how it could come in handy.
Also in the Tools section is a Find My Headset locator, which is very useful. Say you happen to lose your headset somewhere; you can just tap that locator button, and the headset will begin to squeal an alarm that is soft at first, and then gets louder. Finally, you can check out your headset's battery life using the EarPrint app as well.
Other features of the headset include the usual answering, ending, and rejecting calls, last-number redial, and the capability to transfer calls from the headset to the phone and vice versa. It also has multipoint, which lets it connect to up to two different devices simultaneously. Even though it doesn't have A2DP at the moment, Sound ID promises a firmware upgrade later on in the year that will have that as a feature update.
We paired the Sound ID 510 with the Apple iPhone 3G. We were very pleased with the call quality on the whole. Thanks to the Sound ID 510's capability to fine tune the incoming audio quality with the iPhone app, we managed to get the best possible incoming audio from our callers.
Similarly, the Sound ID 510 has very good outgoing call quality, thanks to the three microphones and Sound ID's 3x Noise Navigation. Callers could hear us clearly for the most part, though they did detect the occasional static. Their one complaint was that we sounded a tiny bit soft sometimes. When we turned off the noise cancelling for demo purposes, they said they definitely heard a lot more background noise, especially when we were in a crowded restaurant, so we think the noise-cancellation works as promised. It performed admirably during windy conditions as well.
The Sound ID 510 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 5.62 days.