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