REVIEW: Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

Plantronics were very kind to send us in their Pulsar 590A Bluetooth stereo headphones for this review. The headphones support the A2DP/AVRCP and HSP/HFP profiles and this specific model also comes with an audio gateway. Dig in for more info!

Maybe we should not be judging books by their cover, but the actual Plantronics box has so many accessories included in it that it places the product up there, with one of the best Bluetooth products we have ever seen. The headphones and audio gateway come with a USB charging cable, a splitted A/C charger (so you can charge both the headphones and the gateway at the same time), a 3.5mm-jack cable, a case where you can fit everything in and take them with you while on the go, a replacement telescopic microphone, a beautiful and solid charging cradle and get this: a double-sided velcro!

Plantronics Pulsar 590A For most consumers, the cradle is what would ring "cool", but for someone like myself who has reviewed almost a dozen of such products, the big positive surprise is the... velcro. You see, many such products come with audio gateways with a male 3.5mm audio jack, but these gateways are hanging away from the audio jack and they feel that they don't belong to the audio source (e.g. to an iPod). Using the velcro to glue the audio gateway to the HiFi system or iPod or PDA and so it doesn't look like it's hanging from a tree, is a great feature. This small detail just shows how much thought and care was put in the design of this product.

The headphones themselves are one of the most good-looking over-the-head headphones we have seen. Their industrial design is marvelous and we found the headset pretty comfortable and very stable. The headphones can be condensed to take less space when not used, while in condensed mode they can fit on the cradle and charge. The cradle is heavy and solid, so the headphones stay put when on it. The cradle has an input where the user can use either the USB cable or the A/C adapter to start charging. The headphones themselves don't require the cradle to get charged though: they have an input jack where the user can use the charging cables directly, which is rather convenient when on the go.

On the left headphone you will find the on/off button and the 3.5mm jack. It is amazing that Plantronics have thought of you for these situations that no wireless is allowed at all (e.g. on some flights) and so you can turn off the device, plug in the 3.5mm-jack cable and use the product as normal wired headphones. On the right headphone you will find the Vol +/- button, the Play/Call/Hangup button, and then Mute/Pause button. Depending how you press these buttons they can carry out a different function: e.g. Call reject, voice dialing, next/previous song etc. For sure, anything that you want to do via such a device can be done with the Pulsar.

Plantronics Pulsar 590A

We found the pairing procedure very easy, and the headphones paired and worked successfully with our HP PDA, our Motorola A2DP-capable phone, its own audio gateway and an iPod, and Windows XP itself (using an Anycom Bluetooth dongle). Both the handsfree and stereo audio functions of the Pulsar worked perfectly, although the mic quality could have been better when the microphone is in its condensed mode (the microphone can be used both as small boom and an extended one). Also, adding 'echo cancellation' wouldn't hurt.

Reception was also pretty good, it managed to send the data up to 8 meters in open space and about 4 meters between wooden walls. Battery life was astonishing: it managed about 11 hours in our tests of high volume audio with its 300 mAh 3.7V battery. However, stand-by time is not that great, measured at around 130 hours by the manufacturer when competitive products can do 200 hours.

So far so good. However, nothing is perfect in this world and surely, there is one major problem with this product: its stereo audio quality. We found the audio quality way below par compared to other wired and bluetooth headphones. The sound is just not crisp, there is almost no treble! And no, it is not Bluetooth's compression to blame, because even when used the headphones with the wire (with Bluetooth completely OFF), we got the exact same low audio quality. Bluetake's bluetooth headphones offer twice the sound quality than the Pulsar does.

Despite the above described problem, this is the best stereo Bluetooth headset today out there. It is a well-thought product, it offers a lot of accessories and it's well-designed. If Plantronics updates this model and offers better audio quality, better standby-times and maybe a bit better mic quality, they would have a "10 out of 10" product. No one would be able to beat it in the marketplace. But until that day comes, here is the current showdown:


- Excellent battery life

- Cradle, case, other accessories

- Good looking and comfortable

- Exceptional compatibility

- Good reception

- Wired ability


- Disappointing audio quality

- Low standby times

- Mic quality could be better

Overall: 8.5/10


Not bad... but I won't be buying before audio quality is upgraded though.

I am getting a pair. Seems to be a more mature product than other similar bluetooth stereo headsets.