Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sony DR-BT10CX Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Headphones review

The Sony DR-BT10CX Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Headphones set is a recent gadget that I acquired. It is actually a gift from Jennifer. So let's see how it fares.

It comes in a typical Sony packaging with environmentally unfriendly plastic on the front and recyclable paper card box forming the backside. The content includes the Bluetooth headset itself, a charging cradle, AC charger that connects to the cradle, replacement earbuds, European guarantee document and manual. I found it odd to receive a cradle with such a device when almost all manufacturers are cost cutting by excluding such a useful peripheral. Kudos to Sony for doing something right here.

The wireless Bluetooth headset is made up of two parts. The main body which contains the Bluetooth 2.0 receiver and lithium polymer battery. It supports A2DP profile as well as the headset (HSP) and hands-free (HFP) profile. The second part are the in-ear phones itself which looks like is based on a mid-range passive noise-cancelling Sony Fontopia MDR-EX71 with 9mm drivers. The earphones are connected to the receiver with a short 11 inch cable and is none replaceable. Yep. If the cable happens to break, swapping the earphones out for a new one is not an option. Unless one is willing to solder in a new one, the BT10CX is disposable. Sony should have done the decent thing and equip the receiver with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The receiver is huge (around the size of a small Creative DAP) but very light. On the front (where the tacky chrome line exists) is a multi function button that controls various call functions, and two status indicators. A microphone hole exists on the edge of the front. The volume buttons as well as the power buttons are on the top of the unit. On the back is a slightly fiddly clip which angle can be adjusted. Unlike some more expensive Sony Ericsson A2DP headsets, the BT10CX does not contain a LCD display for displaying among others caller ID and track titles.

Getting it to work is easier than I anticipated. The following example is based on Windows Mobile 6 with Microsoft Bluetooth stack, but is a similar process to other A2DP devices by Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Just press the BT10CX power button down for a couple of seconds until both status lights are blinking. Then navigate to the Bluetooth application on whichever device you want it paired to. In the case of Windows Mobile just go to 'Settings -> Connections -> Bluetooth' and 'Add new devices...'. Follow the instructions and make sure 'Wireless Stereo' profile is selected. Once that is done a headphone icon will appear on the status bar indicating that the device is successfully paired with the headset.

The sound quality is excellent. Not on par with listening through good quality wired 'phones like the Sennheiser CX300 but still beats listening through cheapo headphones. I booted up Windows Media and the dreamy Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack of Dragon Quest VIII was streamed perfectly. Similarly watching Mononoke-hime on CorePlayer exhibited no hissings or hangups. In real world situations stuttering does affect playback through Windows Media but that is more to do with a device's processor limitation than the headset itself.

Personally listening to music sans-wires is a slightly overrated, though it does have some positive scenarios where it may prove handy. For example I can tuck my phone into somewhere more discreet and safe while listening to music on the Tube. A driver can use this to listen to both music and have a hands free kit ready. And a keen cyclist like me can finally listen to music without having to worry about dangling cables that could get me killed!

Despite its size and the lack of neck loop, I love the freedom it gives me (up to 10 feet away until it breaks off). The sound quality is better than I expected and the battery life seems to be pretty good (Sony quotes 11 hours). There are drop outs during real world usage (which I have to stress is a problem with the host device and not the receiver) but after I fiddled with the bitrate the drop outs became a rarity. Sound fidelity isn't a problem with these type of activities as background noises often mask any imperfections. The BT10CX is currently being discontinued to make way for newer Sony Bluetooth headphones so you should be able to grab yourself a bargain now.

Update: I switched from the default Windows Media 10 player to HTC's Audio Manager and found no more skipping despite playing the very same files. Similarly when playing Ogg files via the freeware GSPlayer produced no such skipping. Me thinks the Windows Mobile team should attempt to optimise the default media player because it, in its current state, sucks.

The BT10CX is available here


Unknown said...

I just made my BT10CX a million times better. The right earbud broke, and I'm already broke. Thus, instead of buying a new bluetooth, I snipped the earbuds off below the plastic bud and exposed some wire. Then, I soldered on a 1/8th inch stereo female headphone jack and reinforced the wire with some heatshrink tubing. I was worried that the little bluetooth pod wouldn't have enough power to drive the signal through the jack and a bunch more wire, but it works beautifully. I can plug in cheap earbuds of a kind that doesn't bother me when it breaks, or I can plug in nice earphones or even a speaker system. These things are a billion times better with a jack.

Unknown said...
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