Sound ID SM100 Bluetooth headset
We were very pleased with the SoundID Personal Sound System SoundFlavors Bluetooth headset from a year ago, but we felt the price was a little too prohibitive for most people. The SoundID SM100, however, is much more consumer-friendly at a more affordable price point, without sacrificing quality. Manufactured with a thorough understanding of the science of hearing--the founder of SoundID is an otologist from Stanford University--we have to say that the SM100's audio quality was indeed amazing. We were impressed with the headset's noise reduction technology, and it has quite a comfortable fit as well. It's still fairly expensive at $129, but the quality and performance is worth the price.
Though not the most stylish headset we've seen, the SoundID SM100 is still a supremely tiny and compact device, measuring only 1.75 inches by 1.0 inch by 1.2 inches and weighing a very lightweight 0.4 ounce. Its body is egg-shaped, with a tiny boom mic jutting out the bottom. A large multifunction button sits on the front and is suitably raised enough above the surface so it's tactile and easy to press. On the left spine is the volume rocker as well as a Personalized Program button to switch between different sound amplification modes (more on that later). All these side buttons are a little on the skinny side but are still easy enough to press.
On the back of the headset is a rubbery earpiece that's tapered to a narrow point, for a deeper fit in the ear. It has a flexible rubber ear loop attached to it for additional security. The SM100 comes with a couple of other rubber earpieces (one small and one large) to fit different size ears. When inserted properly into the ear, the headset feels very snug and comfortable, and we could see ourselves wearing it for long periods of time. Also, you can add an over-the-ear hook for additional stability. The earpiece can be swiveled to fit either the right or left ear.
The SoundID SM100 comes with multiple modes and functions to better optimize the audio performance. For example, there are three Personalized Sound modes or Hearing Enhancement programs--Normal, Moderate, and Strong--and you can toggle through these modes by hitting the Personalized Program button. As the names suggest, these modes toggle through normal sound clarity to strong sound clarity, depending on your hearing needs.
There's also something called Environmental mode, which amplifies the sound around you when you're not on a call. This is because a lot of Bluetooth headsets sometimes act like earplugs, blocking outside sound when you're wearing the headset. Well, with Environmental mode turned on, the surrounding sound is amplified so you can better carry on a face-to-face conversation while still wearing the headset. While we commend this feature, we often found this to be less than ideal--for one thing, when the Environmental mode is turned on, there was almost too much amplification of surrounding sound, resulting in a constant background buzz. We would just rather take off the headset to have a conversation. If you want, you could also turn off Environmental mode by toggling through the Personalized Program button.
Another neat feature is One2One mode, which is available only if you have another SoundID SM100 lying around. If you do, you can pair them with one another and activate a kind of ad-hoc two-way radio communication.
We tested the SoundID SM100 Bluetooth headset with the RIM BlackBerry Pearl, and the pairing process went smoothly. Call quality was exceptional. Callers could hear us just fine--they reported some background noise in especially windy environments, but even then they could hear our voice just fine. We also tried making calls with an automated voice service without a problem. Though we weren't too pleased with the Environmental mode because of the background buzz, we do think it's better to have that turned on than to go around half-deaf because of the headset. We liked the three different hearing enhancement modes for better clarity, and we certainly love the headset's noise compensation technology that alters the sound level depending on environmental noise.
Other features of the SM100 include the typical answering, ending, and rejecting calls, call-waiting support, voice-dial support, call mute, and a battery life indicator. The SoundID SM100 Bluetooth headset has a rated talk time of 8 hours and a standby time of 3 days. With the Environmental mode turned on, the standby time is 24 hours.