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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.
The behind-the-head style of headphones isn't my preferred form factor -- I've never found them to be altogether comfortable and these were no exception. But that's a subjective issue and, besides, given the slightly greater weight of the Bluetooth gear in the headphone, that style probably provides the best stability. Still, particularly after an hour or so of listening, I became very aware that these headphones were hanging on my head.

Design-wise, the headphones are a mixed bag. They have a decidedly cheap plastic feel and pushing the on-board control buttons-- it has buttons for volume, muting and for switching to the next or previous track on devices that support this function via Bluetooth -- felt mushy. However, one thing I did like is that the headphones are foldable, making them a good travel companions.

The most important thing about headphones, of course, is the sound quality. Despite the cheap feel, these headphones produced surprisingly strong sound, particularly in the mid-ranges and the high end. Bass was adequate.

The phones have a reasonable frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz. Separation was strong, making for a brighter, clearer sound than I expected. Overall sound quality was just a notch below my everyday portable Sennheiser PX 100s, although they weren't in the same league, not surprisingly, with my higher-end Grado headphones, which I use with my stereo.

There was, however, one sonic drawback: A moderate level of hiss and whine, which seems to be the norm with Bluetooth headphones. It was mostly, but not completely covered up at average volume but was clearly audible at lower volumes but it was there nonetheless. This wasn't a major drawback, but it was a drawback.

Overall, IOGEAR's Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headset Kit is a boon for anybody who wants to listen to music without being tethered.

But there are some drawbacks, some of which are relatively minor. First, the included documentation stinks. More thorough documentation is available on-line, but the written assistance that came with the kit could best be described as a brief pamphlet -- it wasn't very complete. Another drawback -- more of an annoyance, really -- was that the power adapter cord for charging the adapter and headphones was only three feet long, which was not nearly long enough to conveniently put on any horizontal service that I own. So, I had to charge the units on the floor beneath the electrical outlet.

A slightly more serious complaint was that the inevitable weight of the Bluetooth radio in the headphones made it uncomfortable after an hour or so of use. Not much can be done about that, I suppose -- at least until Bluetooth technology becomes even more compact. But I thought I'd mention it.

A more major complaint is its range. I found the kit invaluable for sitting at my desk, getting up for a cup of coffee or poking my head outside without missing any music. And, perhaps better still, it enabled me to listen to music on my stereo while on the sofa without the need to stretch a cord all the way across the living room. But I couldn't wander anywhere I wanted throughout the house.

Another qualm is the price: $179 is a lot of money for above-average headphones and a handful of cables and adapters. If you already have a Bluetooth adapter, you can buy the headphones alone for $99. But while expensive, this system works well, produces excellent sound quality and enabling use on a wide variety of items.