Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth Headset Review

Finally getting round to this post which to be fair I should have done nearly a month ago but I’ve been having the worst kind of writers block recently that’s rendered me almost incapable of writing anything beyond the few characters allowed for a tweet on Twitter. This thankfully seems to be lifting now and so I’m getting down to polishing off some things I really should have done, one of which obviously being this review.

So without further ado, I was sent a set of the Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth stereo headphones to have a play with for a fortnight. Here’s what they look like:

nokia 905 bluetooth headset

Not small and decidedly classical in form factor is probably the best description. Definitely not designed to be unobtrusive while wearing either and certainly not lightweight. Which incidentally in my case are nice and attractive attributes.

These things aren’t cheap either at a quid shy of £200 but they are quality which explains the price tag. I get quite finicky about build quality on almost everything I buy. Nothing irks me more than the feeling something I’ve purchased feels like it’s been knocked out on the cheap to improve a company’s profit margins and I haven’t got a problem with paying that bit extra to get something of quality. That’s why my garden fork is over 40 years old, has a fork made from a single piece of properly forged British steel and a hardened ash wooden handle. It’s as tough as the day it was made and not one of those rubbish welded fork section with handle that’ll break if you use it too much £10 jobbies from B&Q.

The BH-905 headset is up there in the quality stakes so it gets a thumbs up on that count. Well constructed, feels solid, no squeaky bits of plastic that I noticed and unlike my old Panasonic headphones, I don’t see the padded ear cushions breaking up and peeling either.

Bits in the box:

Usually when you get a new device or whatever sort it is, there’s a few extras included, maybe connector cable and charger but two thing I did like about the headset wasn’t just that it came with adaptors and connectors for almost all occasions but the box itself or should I say case. Here it is:

Nokia-bh-905-case

Here’s the case open with all the bits and bobs in it too:

nokia-bh-905-case-open

I’m not sure what the exterior of the case is made from but again the quality feel comes through. I’m going have a guess at it being leather as opposed to some sort of vinyl coating. I could be wrong but I don’t think Nokia would have appreciated me taking a knife to it to find out. Either way, it’s lovely and I liked it.

The important stuff, actually using it:

A product can look lovely, exude quality but if it performs badly at what it’s supposed to do then it’s pretty much worthless. Equally, in the case of something like headphones any appraisal is highly subjective as the facets being analysed aren’t readily reproducible through the medium of text and pictures so you’re at the mercy of the background knowledge of the person assessing it.

For the record, I used to do sound engineering, it was a long time ago but I think I know the odd thing about how things should sound.

Wearability: (not an actual word in the English language but it should be)

They’re not a light headset at 175grammes so you definitely feel that you’re wearing them. There’s also a slight weight imbalance in them with the left being heavier than the right. I presume this is as the battery is on the left hand side. (must be the battery but happy to be corrected) It’s not a problem, they don’t slip down on the one side because of it or anything like that but it is noticeable (just about). In practical terms it’s irrelevant though. There’s plenty of adjustment settings to fit different sized heads and they sit quite comfortably and firmly in place. Contrasting this to my old Panasonic headphones the BH-905 is great in term of staying where it should and not slipping off.

The padded ear pieces sit nice and comfortably on the ears. They don’t encompass the ear area completely, (and I have relatively small ears) they do let in some external sound around the tragus so we’re not talking passive noise cancellation here which is not so much of a problem as they have an active noise cancellation system. More on that in a bit.

Battery:

I charged it twice in the fortnight I had it and it saw me through plenty of commuting and generally knocking around and using around the house. From a purely user perspective I call that fairly good. The only gripe I would have is that when the battery gets low and music is being played over bluetooth there is a noticeable deterioration in the quality. It simply going dead when it hasn’t got the juice would probably be better from an end user experience.

Sound Quality:

Obviously the most important aspect of an aural related device. I tested it across a wide range of music from classical through to heavy rock and it was very good. I don’t personally go in for music with really heavy bass so I didn’t test it to the extreme in that area but as far as I did test it on bass it performed well. Having a bit of an ear for it, I can tell the difference between music being played back over bluetooth as opposed to a straight wired connection. I’ll be honest on this one, I couldn’t tell the difference with the BH-905, apart from when the battery was running out of course. Overall, very good across all the frequencies that I have the ability to modify on my not so posh hifi.

Active Noise Cancellation:

This is the only headset I’ve ever used that has this so it was a bit of a first and obviously I can’t compare it to anything else in terms of its performance so purely from a subjective point of view I thought it was good. It didn’t cancel out absolutely everything (as in lorries going past me at the bus stop, although it got dangerously close). It did annoy Mrs Penguin as I couldn’t hear her talking to me; I will leave that up to the reader as whether it’s a plus or minus point. However I did enjoy having it on public transport. I will don my grumpy old git hat here but there is nothing more irritating than being forced to listen to the incomprehensible shite that passes for music of da yoof played through pisspoor tinny mobile phone speakers on the bus. Especially when you’re trying to listen to your own music with headphones on and you can still hear theirs. The least they could do is buy a Nokia 5800XM, the music may still be crap but at least it would sound reasonably good on its rather impressive external stereo speakers. Old git rant over. For this alone I really liked the BH-905 headset.

Controls:

All bar the active noise cancellation switch are located on the right side of the headset. They’re easy to use, functional and do the job. Really there’s not much more to say. Good tactile feedback from the clicks but took me a bit of getting used to. I’ll put this down to although being ambidextrous, I tend to favour doing controls with my left hand, just personal preference but I’d hazard a guess the focus of the design would be on right-handed people as they make up the majority.

Criticisms or lack of functions:

I can only really come up with two areas that I would criticise the BH-905 for. When I did a review of the BH-214 bluetooth headset I liked the nifty way it had a 3.5mm audio-out jack meaning it could be plugged into external devices and used to stream content elsewhere. Given the BH-905 is the top of the range, an extra audio-jack socket would have been good. The second criticism I have is the audio-in jack. This is handy because if the battery dies, it can still be used with a direct cable connection although obviously the active noise control doesn’t work then. So I have to ask, why a 2.5mm socket? I can understand them having been used in handsets where space is an absolute premium although almost all now have 3.5mm sockets but it just seems wrong to have a 2.5mm socket on a headset. Apart from that minor point, I enjoyed the headset overall.

Conclusion:

Top notch quality from a build perspective, very good on all the audio fronts and connectivity. I realise I didn’t do a specific section on the bluetooth connectivity but suffice to say, it just worked. Plenty of extras in the box for all occasions. Would definitely suit grumpy old buggers like me who use public transport.

Nokia BH-214 Bluetooth Headset Review

This is the first of what may become a series of techie reviews. The upshot is, I’ve done a few reviews in the past on books, bits of technology that have either been things I’ve bought myself or those that have been sent to me from companies like Toshiba but Nokia have agreed to send me various bits of kit to play with and generally say what I think ‘which is nice’. (That’s an in joke between me and an old Finnish mate, who coincidentally also works for Nokia).

The deal is, just so everyone’s clear. I don’t get to keep anything, get paid for writing nice things and anyone who has been reading my blog in the past knows I’ll give credit where it’s due but not hold back on criticism or where I think things are lacking.

So here is the little unit in it’s box which is the first area I’d like to comment on.

I know most manufacturers have gone down the road in recent years in reducing packaging which is a very good thing and there’s plenty of recyclable card and plastic in the packaging for the BH-214 but looking at what’s in the box, it’s clear that it’s not the unit itself that takes up the majority of the volume but the charger.

I think there would be a good argument in shipping this device without a charger unit which could really save space and packaging.

The charger in question is a box standard Nokia charger with the small 2mm jack. Odds on anyone purchasing this device already has one of these, I’ve got three, I think.

A better solution would be for the unit itself to have a Micro-USB port that can be used to charge either via PC or the new generation of standardised chargers and ship with a simple adapter cable like came with my N900 to convert between an old 2mm jack charger and Micro-USB.

This could also open up the possibility of extending the function of the device to not only what it is but also allow it to be used as a Bluetooth dongle for a computer, which could be quite handy at times.

With the wishlist out of the way, we come down to the unit itself which is a two tone white and light grey moulded case, clip on the back for attaching to lapels, power button on the top with indicator LED’s, volume control on the side and navigation/call option button on the front.

It comes with a default set of in-ear headphones of the rubbery ear plug variety that seem to come with everything these days.

The headphones are detachable and has a standard 3.5mm audio jack which makes swapping them out for any other earphones easy. I’ll not here, and it’s not a criticism of the produst but I just simple don’t like these rubbery in-ear headphones. Not just the set that came with the BH-214 but all of them. I accept it may just be me and I have funny shaped/small ear canals but I can never get the damn things to stay in.

However as this is a review I persisted with the default headphones for the duration and dropping out aside, the sound quality was particularly good.

Connectivity was flawless in all the devices I tested it with (Nokia N97, E90, 5800 and N900) with no interference of drops in playback with music or calls.

All the functionality worked on the handsets barring the N900 which doesn’t support everything (yet, I hope), but I already knew and expected that.

I had the device for a fortnight and although I didn’t do any specific battery strength tests on it, I did only charge it twice in that time and it still had plenty of juice left after the second charge.

The one thing I did enjoy doing with it was hooking it up to my hifi via the audio jack to aux sockets making it perfectly possible to live stream music direct from my mobile phone which surprisingly lost very little in audio quality compared to a fully wired connection.

This was however a bit of a problem when I got a call and ended up conducting it through the speakers of my hifi which probably felt a little weird to the delivery guy on the other end.

In conclusion the BH-214 is a very nifty little bit of kit. Does what it says on the tin and does it well. Good battery life and offers a few options in connectivity to play about with. For the price it’s not a bad alternative for using to live stream music around the house and turn the concept of a home media server on its head.

The only criticism that I would lay at the device which to be fair is understandable given it’s small size; is the inability to remove the battery (at least I couldn’t figure out a way to remove it). The environmentalist in me likes the ability to change over elements of hardware that will eventually degrade over time which in most electronic devices is the battery so that would have been nice.

(This post was written entirely on a Nokia N900 using WordPress for Maemo 0.5.4a)