Review: Logitech Wireless Headphones
Pros: iPod-matching wireless headphones that work from a distance of 30 feet, available at a price comparable to other wireless iPod options. Includes rechargeable batteries for both the transmitter and headphones, and track/play/pause controls, limited volume controls.
Cons: Headphones aren’t comfortable and can’t be resized; sound quality is only okay, lacks auxiliary features included in each of its competitors.
At this point, iPod-specific wireless headphone technologies are nothing new; Bluetake started it with i-Phono (iLounge rating: B), Macally improved upon it with the BlueWave (iLounge rating: B+), and TEN Technolgy’s naviPlay (iLounge rating: A-) worked best, letting iPod owners use wired or wireless headphones at a 20+ foot distance from their iPods. In fact, Hewlett-Packard has been selling naviPlay-compatible wireless headphones for months at a price of $99, and bundled with naviPlay for only $50. They’re over-the-ear headphones with a hard plastic band that runs behind your neck, staying in place on the sides of your head by wrapping the band over the tops of your ears. Soft foam pads cushion your ears against the headphones’ internal speakers.
As it turns out, HP’s headphones were developed by Logitech, which today makes its second foray into the iPod accessory market with Logitech Wireless Headphones ($149.99). Apart from pricing, HP and Logitech’s products are almost identical; their differences are three in number. First, the new ones from Logitech are white and gray in color rather than black; second, they come with their own iPod-specific transmitter; and third, they aren’t being marketed as Bluetooth-compliant parts in any way, although they are.
Each Wireless Headphones package includes a collection of parts: one set of headphones and two replacement foam earpads; a wall charger; the iPod transmitter and a matching peg we’ll explain later; and a black “pigtail” adapter that lets the transmitter be used with older iPods, the iPod shuffle, and non-iPod audio devices.
The cosmetic differences make the Wireless Headphones slightly more iPod suitable than their HP predecessors, but they’re not a big deal. Gray is the dominant color of the external earpieces and headband, with silver and white endcaps outside and black foam speakers inside. Silver is used for a ring of buttons on the right earpiece, and a matching but functionless ring on the left. These buttons give you the ability to adjust the earphones’ volume up and down, and switch tracks forwards and backwards; a white button with Logitech’s silver logo in the center acts as play/pause and power for the earphones. One multicolored LED light flashes blue to indicate synchronization with the iPod, or red to indicate failure.
Matching mini power ports on the bottom of the right headphone and left side of the iPod transmitter let you recharge the internal batteries of both units at once, while matching and adjacent red lights on each unit indicate that they’re charging. A wall power adapter is included, and like most cell phone chargers is legitimately small enough to be easily carried around. Two and a half hours are required for full charging of both units, and once charged, the headphones and transmitter can run for around eight hours before requiring rejuvenation.
Logitech’s white glossy plastic iPod transmitter is largely routine in execution, except for one little thing. It’s a rounded rectangular block with a multicolored status LED on the front left, and a small button immediately underneath. The transmitter glows red when it’s not synchronized with the headphones, but indicates “pairing” with alternate flashes of red and blue, and successful synchronization with a solid blue light. Its interesting feature is in its iPod connector: the headphone port actually slides from the center to the right so that the transmitter centers properly on top of a a full-sized or mini iPod, and a small plastic peg can be inserted to lock the headphone port in one place.
Fit, Features and Performance
As headphones go, Logitech’s aren’t the most comfortable we’ve tested - they’re frankly pretty old-school in execution, but worse: the one-size-fits-all headband can’t be adjusted for different sized heads, and uses pressure plus the aforementioned top-of-ear pieces to maintain its grip. The design reminded us of Sennheiser’s PMX60 earphones (iLounge rating: A-), which for $30 were more comfortable than these - lighter weight and softer on the sides of the head.
That’s not entirely surprising - Logitech was challenged to fit more hardware inside of its casings than Sennheiser, including wireless receiving equipment, controls, a small amplifier, and a battery pack. However, TEN Technology and Macally both handled that feat in smarter ways - TEN by offloading the extra equipment into a naviPlay box you could wear or carry, and letting you wear whatever headphones you preferred; Macally by using comparatively more comfortable cushioned earcups. Logitech’s headphone design is like Bluetake’s i-Phono; a bit clunky and uncomfortable, with less opportunity for sound isolation. The Wireless Headphones are less unusual-looking on your ears, but don’t fold up for portability, a somewhat surprising omission.
More significantly, they also don’t include the microphone found in either i-Phono or naviPlay, which means that you shouldn’t expect to pair the Wireless Headphones with a cellular phone for wireless telephony. Though all of these devices use Bluetooth technology, Logitech has consciously opted not to market the Wireless Headphones as a Bluetooth product, and doesn’t promise that they can be used with anything other than the iPod. The more complex explanation is that their AD2P stereo audio profile won’t necessarily work with all Bluetooth-enabled devices and computers, so people buying them should expect to use them as iPod wireless headphones, and be pleasantly surprised if they pair with something else.
The good news is that they work pretty well as wireless headphones. We were able to use them at a distance of 30 feet before their signal started to break up - no static or noise; songs just begin to lose a split second or second of audio before disappearing entirely. As with the other wireless headphones we’ve tested, walls can cut the Wireless Headphones’ receiving capability down significantly, depending on the density and number of walls you’re dealing with.
As for sound quality, the tracks we tested sounded reasonable, not spectacular. In direct testing, the aforementioned $30 Sennheiser PMX60s sounded better than the Wireless Headphones, with more dynamic range and detail, though we acknowledge that the comparison isn’t entirely fair: you can’t detach the PMX60s from your iPod and walk 30 feet away while still listening to music. So even if Logitech’s solution isn’t high-fidelity, it gets a bit of a pass because of its wireless functionality.
The buttons also worked well so long as we could fully hear our music. Little audio cues such as pleasant beeps let you know if the system is connected and that the right-side buttons are working, which was useful when we wondered why, despite the beeps, the volume wouldn’t increase after reaching a relatively low level. It turned out that the headset’s volume controls don’t control the iPod’s volume, so you’ll need to set the iPod at a fairly high level and then ratchet it down with the headset, rather than the other way around.
Is it fair to compare the $150 Logitechs against the $199 MSRP naviPlay and $249 MSRP i-Phono - both of which are available for $160-175 street prices? Even assuming the answer is no, when compared against Macally’s similarly priced BlueWaves ($130 and up, street price), the Wireless Headphones are still missing something. Macally included an audio-out port on the BlueWave headphones to let iPod songs broadcast directly to a distant stereo, using an included stereo cable. Logitech’s headphones lack this feature, which enables a BlueWave-equipped iPod (or a naviPlay-equipped one, for that matter) to act as a stereo remote control.
BlueWave is admittedly missing two things found in Logitech’s headphones: track and play/pause controls, along with the rechargeable batteries found in these headphones. You’ll need to decide for yourself whether these features outweigh the fact that the BlueWaves are more comfortable, isolate better, and otherwise perform about equally well. As suggested by the differences in these products’ respective grades, however, we’d personally shell out the extra $20 or so for the naviPlay, which offers most of the benefits of all of its competitors and lets you use whatever earphones you prefer, besides.
Logitech’s Wireless Headphones are a slightly better than okay offering - they work as promised to deliver adequate stereo sound wirelessly from an iPod, but they’re far from the most comfortable or best-sounding headphones we’ve heard, and definitely not in the league of listening devices we’d typically consider for the $150 price tag. We could live with the audio quality if they were more comfortable, but today’s fully wireless Bluetooth headsets - not necessarily tomorrow’s - require some size compromises that render them less than ideal for style and comfort-conscious users. TEN wisely worked around them with the more fully featured naviPlay some months ago.
We’d recommend the Wireless Headphones to a limited audience - those who need a short-term way to achieve a thirty-foot distance from their iPods, and refuse to have wires as any part of the solution, even from ears to necks as with naviPlay. Given our needs, there are other options with similar ranges, comparable prices, and better features (audio-out, microphone/telephone functions, broader headphone compatibility) that we’d choose first.