Every new iPhone-compatible Bluetooth monaural headset we test leads us to a clearer understanding of the category’s “ideal:” a small, neutral-looking unit with noise cancellation, excellent sound quality, good run time, and great comfort. Included car and home chargers — and/or an aggressive, sub-$100 price point — would merit bonus points. On paper, Gennum’s nX6000 ($140) seemed like a strong contender, but when we actually used it, it missed that ideal mark by a wider margin than most of the competitors we’ve tested.
Tick off its features: like several of the better headsets we’ve tested, the nX6000 uses the newer Bluetooth 2.0 wireless standard, which lets you talk on the phone for roughly 6 hours or stand by for 90 hours before a recharge; it also connects with the iPhone automatically and almost immediately after it’s turned on. Gennum also includes dual microphones and “Frontwave Extreme” digital audio processing, designed to cancel out ambient noise from the audio you’re sending during iPhone telephone calls.
From a physical convenience standpoint, it’s up there, too. nX6000 comes with car, wall, and computer mini-USB cable chargers, as well as two plastic ear loops and three silicone rubber ear buds designed to make it fit on and in your ear. Teardrop-shaped, around 11 grams in weight, and roughly 1” by 1.5” in size, it’s not big, heavy, or odd-looking, either. Three buttons control power, volume, call initiation and ending, and an alternating blue and red light next to its mini-USB charging port indicates charging, power and connection status.
Left to Right: Apple, Aliph, Bluetake, Gennum, and Argard Headsets
The devil’s in the details. Like Aliph’s Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, which offset outstanding noise cancellation technology with an uncomfortable ear mounting design, we couldn’t get the nX6000 to fit properly on our ears. We tested both ear loops, neither of which would mount the unit’s angled, silicone-tipped ear bud properly in our ear canals; we found nX6000 even less stable than Jawbone overall. Unfortunately, removing the ear loop isn’t an option here; nX6000 isn’t built to stay in your canal without it.
Our B rating of the Jawbone was an attempt to reconcile its outstanding noise-filtered sound with its high price and its unstable mounting. By contrast, nX6000’s price is higher, and its outgoing sound quality markedly worse. During direct comparisons, callers described the nX6000 audio as being a C+ or B- relative to Apple’s iPhone Bluetooth Headset (B), Plantronics’ Voyager 520 (B+/B), and the Jawbone (B+), noting that its sound was surprisingly similar to the considerably smaller, cooler Argard M10. Under normal usage conditions – little to no ambient noise—nX6000’s only saving grace was that its dual-microphone audio presented our voices with less of an echo than the M10 and Apple solutions, but not enough to compensate for other deficiencies in its sound quality relative to them. When confronted with wind or other, more significant ambient noise, it wasn’t as strong of a filter as we’d expected, or seen from the Jawbone.
Incoming sound quality and reception are both good but not fantastic. Though fine at normal volumes, audio had a somewhat harsh edge at higher volumes, and small popping sounds in the audio were fairly common even when no other Bluetooth devices save the iPhone and nX6000 were powered on. Gennum’s biggest positive here is its range; though the unit struggled to maintain relative clarity at the edge of its 30-foot broadcasting distance, it didn’t become markedly worse at 10- or 15-foot distances like some of its competitors.
Overall, assuming that you find that it fits your ear, Gennum’s nX6000 offers decent overall performance by Bluetooth wireless headset standards; if, like us, you don’t find that it fits your ear, there’s little to recommend it over Aliph’s Jawbone, or most of the other solutions we’ve tested. For its steep $140 asking price, we would have expected markedly superior sound quality and comfort, though we did appreciate that Gennum included multiple charging solutions, a good battery, and both easy pairing and stable broadcasting with Bluetooth 2.0 technology. Our hope is that its better features will be preserved or enhanced in a more comfortable, less expensive successor.
Company and Price
Company: Gennum Corp.