Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800
The main attraction of the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 headphones is their teensy size. Weighing less than half an ounce, these headphones rely on a slender strand of cable to connect the two earbuds. Such luxury and convenience don't come cheap, though: The headphones list for $200.
In general, the headphones delivered great-sounding tracks, with crisp vocals and warm (but not overwhelming) bass. Phone call quality was mostly good, too. Unfortunately, the headset's controls are minimal: You can use the action button to turn the headset on and off; to initiate, accept/reject, and end a call; and to play or pause tunes. But you can't use it adjust the volume or skip forward or backward through tracks.
If you're willing to sacrifice some phone and music controls for an ultrasmall headset with dependable audio quality--and the hefty price tag is no barrier--the Sony Ericsson package has got the goods.
For an in-depth examination of the new generation of wireless stereo headphones, see "Next-Generation Stereo Bluetooth Headsets." For a comparison chart of the five stereo Bluetooth headsets I reviewed, see "Stereo Bluetooth Headsets Offer a Range of Strengths and Weaknesses."
LG Electronics HBS-250
Earbuds are not everybody's choice. If you want to avoid inserting doodads in your ears, check out the $80 HBS-250 from LG Electronics. The headset consists of two ear muffs and an adjustable wire that connects them.
The HBS-250 headphones may not be stylish, but they're padded and comfortable. And the music experience was quite good, with great bass and warm tones overall. Phone conversations sounded fairly good, though voices sometimes sounded choppy.
Some of the headset's controls are small and hard to find by feel. I had to fumble around the top of the headset (or take it off and look at the thing) until I got a feel for where the buttons were located. Consider the HBS-250 if you want a headset whose earpieces to sit against your ears--not inside them--and deliver reasonably good audio quality.
Motorola MotoRokr S9-HD for iPod Wireless Stereo Headphones
If you're comfortable with a sturdy headband hovering above the back of your neck, then the $130 Motorola MotoRokr S9-HD headphones might tickle your fancy. I found them clunky to wear at the outset, due to the headband's relative stiffness.
Overall, my tunes sounded impressive over this headset. The S9-HD delivered a rich stereo experience, including great-sounding bass. Call quality was up and down, though. Most of the time, voices came across loud and clear to me; but on a few occasions, words became stuttered. Background noise proved very distracting, too.
After a couple of hours of wearing the S9-HD, my ears felt as though they were being dragged down. I also found that the S9-HD restricted my head movements somewhat, so it worked better for me when I sat at my computer than when I was buzzing around in the car or running.
Altec Lansing BackBeat 906
When I first donned the $130 Altec Lansing BackBeat 906 headphones, I couldn't get them to sit comfortably. The earbuds are attached to a wide ear hooks that come down over the top of your ears. The buds sport a beak-shaped eartip, which you use to anchor the headphones in your ear. These buds were too large for my ear canals--and unfortunately, the company does not provide other bud sizes.
Music sounded pretty good, though not as rich or as warm as it did over other headphones I tested. Phone calls sounded fine, and I was particularly impressed with how the BackBeat handled background noise. Callers could hear only faint traces of music emanating from my nearby stereo, for instance.
The BackBeat 906 bundles a Bluetooth adapter for the iPod and other MP3 players. If you want a set of headphones and an adapter to let you listen to your tunes on your iPod cord-free, the BackBeat is well worth considering.
I was not a happy camper when I wore the Samsung SBH700 headphones ($100). I couldn't arrive at a comfortable fit. For starters, the earbuds were too big--the package does not provide alternative bud sizes--and the squarish hooks didn't sit properly over the curve of my ears. In addition, the SBH700's headband, which wraps around the back of the user's neck, felt heavy and imparted a sagging sensation. After wearing the headset for a while, my ears simply felt fatigued.
On the plus side, my tunes sounded good, with nice overall brightness and adequate bass. Phone conversations over the SBH700 came through loud and clear on my end. The parties on the receiving end said that they could hear me just fine, but that I sounded a tad muffled.
The red-and-silver unit looks stylish and sporty, but its good looks and satisfactory audio quality are outweighed by its subpar comfort and design.