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Review of Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 stereo Bluetooth headset
Sony Ericsson has always been much interested in Bluetooth headsets production – in fact the company is one of the leading manufacturers of such gadgets. So it is not a secret why its first music stereo Bluetooth headset HBH-DS970 has attracted so much attention. There aren’t so many headsets with similar functionality available on the market, and this product has become the first one to hit the mass market. The headset has been created to support the company’s music-optimized in the first place, that’s why it has Walkman logo on the body. I have to mention, that it can be used with any Sony Ericsson’s handset equipped with Bluetooth, and for music playback – with all devices having A2DP profile. The most of the Sony Ericsson’s portfolio meets this requirement: we tried the headset with Sony Ericsson M600 and also with Sony Ericsson W850i, Sony Ericsson K800i. The choice of the handsets isn’t accidental, as all of them support A2DP profile, and formally have similar Bluetooth specifications. In reality however there are obvious differences between Symbian smartphones and ordinary devices in the sense of Bluetooth implementation.
The headset has something in common with the latest models of Walkman MP3-players - the design concepts are somewhat similar. The black and orange combination has been around for quite a while and doesn’t create any negative emotions. Fingerprints stay on the glossy plastic of the casing, but in the end they might stay unnoticed for your eye. The headset weights 27 grams, which isn’t too much taking into account the way of wearing. The D970 will hang around your neck with a woven strap that is interlaced with a wire. Unfortunately the ear-phones of the headset aren’t removable, they can’t be changed to the own ones; there is no 3.5 mm audio jack on the D970’s casing.
The headphones are made in bud-style (in some ways similar to the HPM-70), the sales package includes ear-plugs of different sizes, which allows you to find something specifically for your tastes. Running a few steps forward, I should notice that the sound quality provided by the earphones is one the best for such headsets, the sound is penetrating, basses are well audible (not for all devices). Judging the headphones alone, we can rightfully say they live up to the Walkman brand on them. Nowadays there are no products that could match the D970 in the sense of sound quality (among small headsets, whereas some large devices produce the same quality of the sound). Roughly speaking the sound is a bit better than that in the HPM-70, the difference is quite minor, though (used the same tracks for comparison).
A good thing about the DS970 is adjustable length of the strap, so that you may increase or decrease the distance to the head-phones. One of the head-phones retains the pick up key that doubles as redial button.
The headset’s body retains a single-line inverting display; there you can see information about caller, contact’s name, if there is an appropriate record in the phone book. During music playback it displays track’s title that will be scrolled through in case it’s too long.
And that’s the point where differences between devices start popping up: Sony Ericsson M600 and Sony Ericsson W850i make a perfect track-titles transferring to the display, whereas Sony Ericsson K800i refuses to do that at all (only the playback icon appears on the display). Other distinctions include extremely quite sound volume of Sony Ericsson M600i, which is not enough in most cases. Yet the sound is quite or even exceedingly loud with the other devices. Headsets with first versions of firmware might sound quite on all devices without exception – should you stumble upon that, make sure you updated the firmware.
Heterogeneous headset’s performance with various devices results from different release dates of the phones that we tested out – basically, the manufacturer not always had been able to create the appropriate software. The Walkman-branded products, though, support it without any limitations. If you are hesitating over purchasing the DS970, check the efficiency of the headset with your handset.
The casing houses the dedicated music key (playback, pause), which allows starting up music playback outright (either the last played track or the whole playlist).The side plate retains Next/Previous rocker key, enabling you to navigate through playlists. But due to the single-line display the headset can’t show the entire list of the tracks at once. There is no fast forward feature available in the DS970.
The sound volume can be also adjusted with a shortcut button that also allows for cutting the headset’s microphone off during the call.
To the interesting features of the device we can refer variety of available modes and also a special shortcut key (point – point, point – number of points). The first profile makes the headset pair with only a single handset that will be used for all ways of sound transferring. But while in the second profile, the headset can be coupled with up to 10 devices and only one will be used in the given moment (the last activated or the one with enabled Bluetooth, for example PC). The best thing about such solution is that you can listen to the music from your PC, and when somebody calls you, playback will be paused and the caller will be put through. The ability to work with several devices should not be undervalued - it’s the DS970’s very unique feature.
The charger socket is placed on the body; the sales package includes a standard charger. All you need to do is plug in the pin and wait for about 2 hours, which is full recharging time for the DS970. The headset can provide 6-7 hours of music playback time - it’s not bad at all. Battery status, indicated on the screen, works pretty bad: the full charge keeps being shown on the display for about 60% of time, and then the rates decreases dramatically and the headset turns off.
Voice commands with the headset don’t cause any troubles (Magic Word function is disabled). Once you have set ring tones, as well as personal tunes for contacts, on the handset, they will be automatically transferred to the headset (works not with all software versions for Sony Ericsson K800i). If you listen to the music and somebody phones you, the playback stops and you hear the ring tone. After the call the playback continues automatically. On outgoing calls the headset sometimes doesn’t continue the playback, or the sound gets muted (but the headset keeps on indicating that everything is fine). You can get over that by switching the track.
The headset doesn’t work properly with BlueSolei on PC (sound doesn’t get beamed to it), we strongly recommend that you use Widcomm drivers.
The full list of supported profiles:
The headset is based on the TI’s chipset – BRF6150.
Taking account of how poor this segment is, Sony Ericsson DS970 doesn’t have any credible competitors. Having the price of 90-100 Euros the headset is a bit cheaper than Nokia HS-12W (105-115 Euro). However Nokia product’s strengths are metal casing and FM-radio, embedded in the headset itself. But the sound quality of the similar non-removable headphones is worse. The purchase of the DS970 headset is justified for using it with Walkman-branded products in the first place – in this case compatibility is topping out, while possible problems are few. Also the headset can be paired with Sony Ericsson K800i but then you will encounter certain shortcomings (missing track title for example). It’s remarkable that Sony Ericsson M600i is the only device showing off insufficient sound volume in music playback mode with the headset, whereas Sony Ericsson P990i/W950i doesn’t have such issues. By the way, Sony Ericsson P990i’s sales package frequently includes this headset
The conclusion is simple enough. The headset has turned out to be an interesting one and the lack of the significant competitors makes it worth buying.
Eldar Murtazin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published 13 October 2006
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