Bad things can happen to us all once in a while and for me this time around it was the loss of my Shure SE530 Sound Isolating Earphones. They were the best earphones I have ever purchased for regular every day use. Fortunately, I had them for nearly 3 years, so it wasn’t like I didn’t get my money’s worth out of them. I was going to get another pair in about a month but seeing how the iPhone OS 3.0 software is around the corner along with a new iPhone, I decided to wait until I have that new toy in my hands. In the meantime, I desperately require something other than these horrid white Apple earphones in my ears. My pick as of this very moment of June 1, 2009 is the Motorola MOTOROKR S9-HD A2DP Stereo Bluetooth Headset.
I know that the iPhone 2G doesn’t offer A2DP (Stereo) but that’s not why I’m getting them now. My travel time is usually spent listening to podcasts not music. I save the latter for the iPhone speakers or for when I can really be engrossed with my music as I like to be, hence the need for another pair of those Shures. In the meantime, I wanted something different that allowed me to be mobile, still answer calls, sound decent and isolates sound (NYC trains are just too loud to enjoy anything fully). The S9-HDs appear to be very nice and previously listened to the original S9s so I know they sound good for a bluetooth headset. Once I get them I’ll add my thoughts so stay tuned.
I finally got my hands on the Motorola MOTOROKR S9-HD Bluetooth Stereo Headset. As soon as I could I plugged it up to charge and wasted some time viewing the included contents of the package while eagerly awaiting for the headset to charge up. The package of the S9-HD as you can see is a nicely designed box with the headset and bluetooth transmitter (D650) in full view. Inside there’s a miniUSB charger, a large cloth case for the headset, 2 extra sets of ear pieces and a manual. All standard boring stuff so let’s get on to the fun part.
In order to use the S9-HDs with the iPhone for your music listening enjoyment you need to use the included Bluetooth transmitter. Regular handsfree calling on the other hand is accomplished by the usual pairing of the headphones with the iPhone itself. The good thing is that both operate in tandem with each other. When a call comes in the S9-HDs act as any other standard handsfree set to take the call. When done you can go right back to where you left off with your music.
The sound quality is very good for a bluetooth headset. Music and podcasts sounded both clear and full with no distortion. Motorola seems to have been hard at work to improve the sound over their original S9 Bluetooth headset by incorporating SRS Labs’ WOW HD Technology into this second generation headset. The WOW HD has 2 settings you can toggle between by pressing the >>| (Track Forward) button until you hear a tone. Which one actually sounds better is up to the user and their listening preference but having a choice to begin with makes the S9-HDs an even better value than some the other competitor’s offerings. If you have a discriminating ear or are a self-proclaimed “audiophile” you’re not going to use these as a replacement to the excellent sound you get from a good pair of wired headphones. What you will appreciate is the higher quality of sound offered through this bluetooth connection. As a handsfree device call quality is equally very good. Clear and balanced sound devoid of extraneous background noises.
Like any bluetooth device the question of signal strength always comes up. The bluetooth connection seems to be very good but you must take in account both devices. I have only connected the S9-HD to my iPhone as both handsfree and for listening to music at the same time. During those occasions the iPhone has been in 3 separate locations. A front jacket pocket and both front and back jean pockets. Each time giving a steady signal as long as both devices were pretty much in line with each other. This seems to be the normal limitation for all bluetooth devices. The maximum distance I was able to walk away from the iPhone in a straight line while listening to music was about 45 feet. At that point the sound would sometimes begin to break up. Also interference from other devices have been a none issue so far.
The fit of the S9-HDs also seems to have been improved. While it is still limited by the shape and size of an individuals head the S9-HDs are pretty comfortable. Getting use to the S9-HD took no real effort on my part outside of the usual trying on the earbuds to see which one I prefer. This headset is very light but won’t fall off your head or pop out of your ears while walking or running. The only issue some may have are when wearing glasses depending to the shape (such as Oakley) as these loop over your ears where glasses normally sit. The earbuds themselves sit just outside the ear canal which doesn’t do a lot for sound isolation but it is sufficient enough to enjoy whatever you are listening to. If the earbuds were turned inward to face the ear canal a bit more they would provide an even better listening experience. There are also only 2 sizes of earbuds. Two of the sets are large and one is medium which also limits who can wear this headset comfortably.
Operation while wearing the headset is excellent. Motorala altered only the button styling but did not their locations making it easy for anyone upgrading from the original S9 headset. I found these buttons much better than the original S9 setup as each on is now raised instead of just the center buttons. This made them easier to find and more confidence when pressing buttons without looking. The buttons also require enough pressure to activate that you won’t make accidental presses when touching or handling the headset.
All in all I am very pleased with this headset thus far. The S9-HDs sound very good, are quite comfortable, easy to setup and use and stay in my ears. While the S9-HD is not perfect, they are a worthwhile upgrade path from the original S9 headset. Motorola has done an excellent job with this headset and hopefully future versions will continue improve and build on this solid design they now have. If you are in the market for a Bluetooth stereo headset then the Motorola S9-HDs should be on your short list of ones to try. At a retail price of $99.99 for the bundle (S9-HD + D650 (bluetooth transmitter) this set is a good value for the money.
Note: sound quality and volume was based on listening to various podcasts, music encoded at 320-bit AAC, standard CD recordings and riding the NYC transit system.