With Bluetooth headsets becoming more commonplace in the market, and music phones starting to be pushed by almost all the manufacturers, it seems just about right for that technology to evolve to what most of us would think to be the next logical step – Bluetooth stereo audio. Plantronics thinks that it has the answer with the Pulsar 590A Bluetooth stereo headset.
The new acronym you’ll have to learn today is A2DP, or Advanced Audio Distribution Profile. This new profile is one of several included in the Bluetooth 1.2 spec, and it enables (as you can assume by the scope of the review) stereo audio to be transmitted over a Bluetooth link.
In the box:
– The headset itself
– Charging base unit
– Bluetooth adapter for 3.5mm jacks
– 3.5mm jack straight-thru adapter for headset
– USB Charging cable
– Carrying case
Plantronics knowing that this is a potentially sought after feature for many audio users, has put in a lot of effort making sure that their new Pulsar 590A headset is of high quality. When you first feel the headset you’re greeted by a weighty feel (97.7 grams) that makes you think of it as a high-end component rather than a cheap plastic headset. The headset is of the “full-on headset” style and forgoes any of the newer variations on headsets by straddling squarely over your head.
The controls for the headset are located on the right side of the unit and include functions to skip tracks forward and back, adjust volume and accept/hang-up a call or mute the line. Some of these functions may not be supported by all your devices (such as the track skipping feature) but over-all the controls are relatively easy to use. Also located on the right headphone are the power button and the microphone tube. Opting to use a hollow plastic tube that telescopes out of device instead of a standard mic lessens the chance that you’ll break off an expensive boom, and if you do break the tube a replacement part is included in the package.
Included with the headset is a charging base that is used by flipping the headphones around and plugging them into the two holes on the base unit. This eliminates the use of any wires to connect the unit and makes it pretty functional, but it does make the overall construction of the unit not as smooth looking as it could have been.
Also included is the real selling point of this package. Plantronics has wisely throw in a Bluetooth adapter that can connect to any device that uses a 3.5mm headphone jack and then transmit that audio to your headset using the aforementioned A2DP protocol. This essentially allows you to use this headset with any MP3 player (iPod) or laptop and not worry about wires. The adapter is in the form of a puck, and is a little large (28.4 grams) compared to some of the tiny MP3 players out there nowadays, but it gets the job done.
If you think this is going to double as a gaming headset, or for use on your PC, you’re wrong. This is strictly for audio playback and mobile phone use. The included Bluetooth adapter does not offer any microphone input jack to transmit your mic signal. If you had a third party Bluetooth adapter, it may work, but I did not have one to test with.
Using the headset in everyday situations is quite simple and effective. Pairing the device with a cell phone is an easy process and affords a stereo sound experience for your phone calls, while also pairing with the “puck” attached to your MP3 player. When listening to music (which sounds surprisingly good) you are notified via a tone and the music stops when a call comes in. To accept the call you simply press the button on the right headphone and you’re off to the races. When the call is finished the headset begins playing the music stream again.
One of the new routines that you’ll have to get into the habit of doing with one of these Bluetooth headsets is remembering to charge it every few days or so. With the Pulsar 590A I was able to get about 11 hours straight of audio played through the device before it died. It took about 2 hours to get back to full charge.
Bluetooth audio is definitely the way things are going to be going in the future, eliminating one of the last bastions that cables had a hold on. But for early adopters hoping to use this headset with their new music phone, be forewarned that although this headset supports A2DP, most cell phones right now do not, even the Motorola E1 ROKR or the Sony Ericsson W800i.
– Very easy to use and pair with cell phones and other Bluetooth devices.
– Surprisingly good sound quality and volume.
– Battery life is acceptable
– Listeners my have a hard time hearing you speak during a call, adjusting the mic boom usually fixes this
– Having to charge your headphones
– Looking a little goofy due to the way it’s been designed to allow for charging
The Plantronics Pulsar 590a sells for US $249.
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