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10/27/2005
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Review: IOGEAR Bluetooth Kit

IOGEAR's Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset Kit is a surprisingly competent Bluetooth system for wirelessly listening to not only MP3 players, but also home stereos, home theaters and even Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. Unfortunately, like so many Bluetooth audio devices, the range is far less than advertised.

I haven't yet fully jumped on the Bluetooth bandwagon, so I didn't expect much from IOGEAR's Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset Kit. But I found a surprisingly competent Bluetooth system for wirelessly listening to not only MP3 players, but also home stereos, home theaters and even Bluetooth-enabled cell phones.

In particular, I've had doubts (and, to some extent, still do) about Bluetooth as a technology for listening to high-end audio. However, for minute-to-minute use, the IOGEAR headphone and adapters provided surprisingly good sound. The kit is expensive and has a few other gotchas, which I'll discuss later, but overall, IOGEAR did an excellent job of delivering on the promise of Bluetooth.

As with similar products such as the Logitech Wireless Headphones for iPod, IOGEAR includes a wrap-around headphone and a wireless adapter that you plug into small devices such as MP3 players and the headphones. Unlike the Logitech system, however, this one also comes with a series of adapters and cables for use with other equipment.

Set up is trivially simple. First, you use the double electrical adapter to charge both the headphones and the adapter, a process that took just over two hours. Then, you plug the adapter into the device, and then turn it and the headphones on. While they are creating the connection, a blue light on each blinks; when the connection is made, which took about 10 seconds, the lights stop blinking and you're ready to go.

I used the kit with two MP3 players and, using the extra adapters, with my television and home stereo. In each case, once the connection between the headphones and adapter was completed, all worked more or less as expected, with little difficulty. The kit also comes with a boom mike for connecting to Bluetooth-enabled phones. In my tests, the kit performed at, or even slightly better than, the rated six hour battery capacity.

To backtrack a bit, though, there I did run into a couple small difficulties. For some still-unexplained reason, when I plugged the adapter into my Creative Zen Touch audio player, the IOGEAR system wouldn't transmit the right-side channel. I didn't have that problem with other headphones or with my other MP3 player. The system only worked properly with the adapter plugged about two-thirds of the way in the Zen Touch, but that isn't a very satisfactory solution since it was easy for the adapter to slip out.

Another area in which the device didn't quite perform up to IOGEAR's claims was in transmission distance. I tried the system outside with no impediments -- the greatest distance the system functioned at was 53 feet, not the 66 feet the company claims. Inside, with walls and other obstructions, the best distance I got was 30 feet before audio break-up started.

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