NuForce BT-860 Stereo Bluetooth V2.1 Headset review

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews, Speakers and Headphones

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Provides: Bluetooth audio/mic
Developer: NuForce
Minimum System Requirements: Computer/device with Bluetooth support
Review Device: iMac 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 13” Macbook Pro, iPhone 4, iPad
Price: $79.00
Availability: Out now

My experience with Bluetooth audio has been limited to ear pieces that give you sound in tinny mono, adequate for phone calls in the car but not much else. So, when I hooked up the BT-860 headphones, I was amazed by the stereo sound quality: rich sound, good bass, and the ability to watch video with few or no sync problems. The headphones, which also work as a headset for phone calls, are stylish and comfortable, and give you an excellent listening experience, free of cables.

BT-860 Bluetooth headphones

The headphones feature five buttons on the right side: track forward/back, volume up/down, and a power button that controls all the other functions: on/off, pairing mode, pausing music, and answering/hanging up. Syncing is painless, simply hold the power button down until it flashes red/blue and pair it using your device. The 860 automatically tries to sync with the last device it paired with, but I was able to switch it between my iMac, Macbook Pro, iPhone, and iPad quickly; the only time I had any problem it was quickly solved by simply putting the headphones back into pair mode.

As headphones, the BT-860s are great. The sound is very rich (especially when compared with Apple’s earbuds), with good bass. When playing music, they do a good job of blocking outside noise without leaking sound themselves. Listening to podcasts or other spoken word tracks, however, you’ll notice more outside noise, especially on crowded or noisy situations like a bus ride.

The five buttons are easy to navigate; simply find the raised power button in the center of the right earphone, and the other four are arrayed around it: forward and backward a track on top, volume up and down below. You can answer calls (or activate voice control) by pressing the power button, but when used as a phone headset, the 860 switches to a different Bluetooth protocol (and activates the built-in microphone). The sound and voice quality drops noticeably from the stereo setting, by which I mean it sounds like your typical Bluetooth headset, and the microphone has that familiar voice-activated effect where a tiny portion of the beginning of words are cut off. But as I say, it sounds like a typical Bluetooth headset: it’s only bad because the stereo is so good. And since it’s Bluetooth, it works with all my devices: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and both my Macs. And if my wife needs make a hands-free call on her Bluetooth, it works with that, too.

NuForce advertises eight hours of battery life while playing music, my usage put it at about 7 hours. They recharge using an unconventional cable that’s USB on one end and a long prong on the other (also included is an adapter for plugging the cable into a wall socket). So, be careful not to lose it. The headphones are comfortable to wear for long periods, and unlike other Bluetooth headsets I’ve used, it worked well even while watching video. Netflix and iTunes movies played with no syncing problems, though YouTube videos could be hit-or-miss.

After years of using Apple earbuds (and cheap ones that I grabbed in airports to replace them), and watching movies on my tiny Macbook Pro, I’d grown used to bad sound. With the BT-860, I can get great sound quality at an affordable price, the ability to control my iPhone wirelessly, and I don’t have to untangle cords.

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BT-860 Bluetooth Headset review

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