REVIEW: Anycom Blue Stereo Headset BSH-100

Anycom was very kind to send us in their latest Bluetooth product, the "Blue Stereo Headset BSH-100" along with its audio gateway. The headset is a stereo headset through the A2DP profile but it also supports the AVRCP, Handsfree and Headset bluetooth profiles. Read more for our review.

The Anycom BSH-100 comes in two flavors: without the audio gateway for $119 or with an audio gateway for $199. We received the latter along with two mini-USB charging cables, an international-capable power adapter, a mini-USB microphone, two manuals and of course, the actual BSH-100 headset. We found the manual complete and easy to read.

The headset is pretty small compared to most behind-the-ears headset designs and it's very easy to place it around one's head. Some complain that behind-the-ear headsets are painful on the top of the ear after a few minutes but this headset has proven to be very good in terms of comfortability and stability. I started having a small pain on the top-back of my ear after hours of using it. One very interesting feature is that it has hinges that "break" the headset making it consume less space when not used (fits well on a bag). The headset has four buttons on the right earphone and one button on the left one. The right earphone's buttons are for Vol +/NextSong, Vol -/PreviousSong, Play/Pause/AcceptCall and Stop/HungUp/On/Off. The sole button on the left earphone is used to eject the replacable battery.

And speaking about its 300 mAh battery, this headset seems to have the best battery life of any other Stereo BT headset on the market today. It claims 12 hours on 50% volume but we managed around 10 hours in one go, which is still pretty extraordinary. My other BT headset barely does 6 hours with its two non-rechargable AAA batteries. I think a great insight from Anycom is the battery choice for their Audio Gateway. It uses the exact same battery as the headset does, so if you are using the headset with an A2DP-capable device (e.g. a PocketPC or a music phone) and you don't happen to need the Audio Gateway for that moment, you can exchange their batteries and extend your headset's battery life from 10-12 hours to 20-24 hours! Isn't this amazing?

Maybe one area that battery life could have been better is in its standby time which has a claimed time of 200 hours, which is pretty low compared to most phones today that do between 300 and 400 hours (it's nice to have related products that kind of match their standby time).

Pairing the headset with either the Audio Gateway or another device is a bit tricky at the beginning, but after you "get it" it becomes easier. You basically need to press at once the Vol+ and the On/Off button while the headset is OFF in order to put it in pairing/discovery mode for 3 minutes. In these 3 minutes you must be swift and pair the headset with either your Audio Gateway or your phone/PPC device. A small dissapointment was the fact that while the Audio Gateway and the Headset were part of the same product did not come paired together (my other BT headset+gateway came pre-paired). The device has a limit of 10 paired devices, which is a rather steep limitation given the fact that some users might need to re-pair with some of their devices until they learn how to do that correctly. I also managed to... crash the headset twice while trying to connect to my phone. Removing the battery momentarily brings the BSH-100 back to life.

When using the headset with the Audio Gateway (connected to an iPod or another Hi-Fi system) it has the best quality and the best range than when used with my PocketPC or phone. When I move to the other rooms I lose a bit of the signal but the Audio Gateway is able to send data more effectively than my other two devices (all devices discussed here are Class 2, meaning that they can send data up to 10 meters on open space and about 6 meters between walls).

If it is one thing that bothers me in the whole deal is the actual audio quality of the headset though. I am very sorry to say this but the audio quality is similar to $15 headphones. Basically, there is almost no tremble, no matter if I used the Audio Gateway, the PocketPC or my A2DP-capable Linux smartphone. Surely, the Bluetooth hardware and R&D involved can not be responsible for the rest $105 of the overall price of 119 USD MSRP... And speaking about quality, when using the headset with my phone as a stereo headset, quality is even worse than when using it with the Gateway or the PocketPC. Also, for some reason the headset and the phone didn't produce the expected audio quality -- quality was even worse than when used with the Audio Gateway or the PDA (please note that my phone, the Motorola E680i, does support A2DP and the profile was loaded while connected to the headset).

On the plus side there is the fact that the BSH-100 works as a headset for mobile phones. It supports both the Headset and HandsFree profiles and for devices that support it, the AVRCP profile -- which is responsible for carrying out remote control operations on music (stop, pause, next song, previous song). Using the included mini-USB microphone you can accept a call by clicking the Play/Pause button and start talking like you would use any other Bluetooth Handsfree headset! Transmitting microphone quality was good and seemed to be some noice cancelation in place which is good. What's even cooler is that you can be connected to more than one device at the same time, meaning that you can listen to music from your mp3 player using the Audio Gateway and when your phone rings the music stops and you can take the call and then continue the music after you have hanged up. This is also amazing not to mention practical!

Overall, this is one of the best A2DP headsets out there today competing head to head with Motorola's HT820. There are many non-standard A2DP devices on the market today (because of the A2DP standard being on a flux) and yet the BSH-100 manages to work with them easily and deliver on the expectations. There is still room for improvement though and we will hopefully see a new model soon fixing the remaining few issues. In any case though, if you need a Bluetooth stereo headset today, this one is definitely one of best such products out there!

Pros: replaceable battery, good build and design, compatible, AVRCP support

Cons: dissapointing audio quality, price, other small nitpicks

Rating: 8/10

Comments

hey man, do they also work as usb headphones?

No, USB is only used for charging. At least when used with my Apple Powerbook.

BTW, you can buy the Anycom USB bluetooth dongle that supports A2DP for WindowsXP and use that, but if you want to use the headphones as USB wired headphones, I am not sure you can.

I use it via Anycom USB tranceiver and they run well with Winamp 5, Skype and even with my V500.

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