Review: Motorola S9 – Bluetooth Active Headphones

s9

I remember owning only one Motorola Mobile phone. That was back in 1997 when mobile phones were pretty basic. A time when a Backlit greyscale screen, monotone sound and text messaging was considered a luxury.

Fast forward to 2008. Mobiles phones now do everything. My current phone, an Nokia N95, features GPS, 5 Megapixel camera and amongst over things Bluetooth. Amazing really, but the Bluetooth feature is what I am most interested in at the moment. The Nokia N95, like most Mobile Phones has a built in Music Player. Its no iPod killer, but it plays music and sometimes with Album Artwork. I could use a pair of wired headphones, but as the phone features Bluetooth (Version 2.0 + EDR) I thought I would try out some Bluetooth Headphones and take the wireless route.

Motorola is a name synonymous with Mobile Phones, but it appears that they are also taking on the likes of Sony and Logitech with various sets of Bluetooth headphones. I decided to try the middle of the range model, the Motorola S9.

Features of the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones

  • Call Management Features
  • Switch from music to calls with the press of a button
  • Integrated touch sensitive controls
  • Lifestyle Features
  • Compatible with Bluetooth Stereo Adapters – PC850 & D200 PC Adapter; Adapter for     iPod® ; DC800 for the home stereo
  • Behind-the-head wearing style helps provide a comfortable and stable fit
  • Water and sweat resistant

 

 

Technical Specifications

  • Enjoy up to approximately 6 hours music listening, 7 hours talk or 6 days standby time from a single charge
  • 180 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Compact 1.3 cm speakers help provide comfort and a snug fit in the ear
  • Version 2.0 Bluetooth wireless technology for better call quality, less interference and faster connections
  • Supports Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution (A2DP), Audio Video Remote Control (AVRCP), Hands-free (HFP), and Headset profiles
  • Class 2 Bluetooth wireless technology range up to 10 m (33 ft)
  • Mini USB connector for charging
  • 126 mm x 130 mm x 48 m

The Headphones come with 3 different types of headphone plugs, soft carrying bag, manuals, CD-ROM and a mini-USB charger. Top marks for Motorola for using Mini-USB. While you can use the included USB charger, you can also charge the headphones using a standard Mini-USB to USB cable connected to your computer. Which is great.

The first thing you notice is how light and good looking the headphones are. The headphones have controls on each side thanks to the Bluetooth AVRCP profile. On the left side are volume (+ and -) and a Phone button. On the right side are Track (Forward and Back) and Play/Pause.

The headphones require at least a 2 hour charge before use. There is a light near the headphones in the centre near the USB connector and this starts off Red, changes to Yellow when the battery is 25% full and then to Green when 100% full.

Once charged you are then ready to pair the headphones. According to the manual, you press and hold the power button until 3 blue lights flash. I did this and Paired them with the Nokia N95 with the usual ‘0000’ passkey associated with bluetooth devices. It was simplicity itself, so top marks to Motorola for this.

When I first tried the headphones, I really didn’t know how to put them on, because they do seem quite odd but don’t worry they will soon become like putting on a pair of shoes. The headphones fit my ears and head perfectly and I like how you can control music using the controls on each side. It works rather well. It may be the first time I have worn a pair of headphones and I have actually looked in the mirror to see how cool myself and the headphones look. To coin a phrase, “They are pretty fly”.

I guess you are all thinking, “How do they sound?”. My initial impressions weren’t very good to be honest. Using different genres of music, they sounded harsh and bass was non existent. Seriously, I thought they were terrible. I left them to run in for about 8 hours and the sound improved massively. Gone was the harshness I first heard and this was replaced by a sound more open and sweeter than before. There was even a hint of bass now. The bass does appear to be Taut and tamed rather than loud and thumpy. If you are the sort of person who has a craving for more Bass, you are in luck. Remember I mentioned Motorola provide 3 type of ear plugs? Well, the smallest plugs do nothing and sound like the stock plugs but the larger plugs are far better. They provide more isolation than the stock plugs and provide a gargantuous amount of bass. Great for those who like lots of bass or want to use these to watch movies but not exactly the most accurate sound.

I tried to listen to music while moving away from the Nokia N95 and got to about 10 meters before the sound started to break up. When I got to anything over 12 meters the sound went completely with the odd sound bite now and again.

As I use Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.5.2 (which supports A2DP) on a daily basis I thought I would try and use the Motorola S9 with each of these OS’s. Like with the Nokia N95, the headphones paired without any issues and worked great. I did notice one small problem through. When playing Video in Windows XP and Mac OS X, there is a slight sync delay between the sound and the video. If you use VLC, you can adjust the sync delay to counteract this.

Battery life is good for a set of Bluetooth Headphones and I seem to be averaging about 6-8 hours. There is power management which turns off the headphone when they are not used for 1 hour, but personally I think this is too long. My advise would be to turn them off if you plan on not using them for a short while.

My Verdict

+ Very stylish
+ Excellent integration with other Bluetooth devices
+ The ability to charge via Mini-USB
+ Minimum hiss

– While the sound is good, it seems to verge on the extreme depending on the plugs used. Too much bass or virtually no bass
– Wired headphones sound better
– Battery life could be longer
– Slight Sync issue with Video when used in Windows or OS X, which can be corrected by using VLC and adjusting the audio delay (-290 in OS X and -245 in Windows)

My Score

6 out of 10

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