the A2DP and AVRCP profiles. A2DP, or Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, brings the stereo love while
AVRCP, or Audio / Video Remote Control Profile gives you the device control. If all you want is stereo audio, then A2DP
is all you need.
So as you probably guessed, the BTH-820 headset supports both AVRCP and A2DP. However, the
BTA-830 gateway goes A2DP, only. Those of you paying attention go get yourselves a cookie since you already realized
that the headphone remote won't allow you to control your media player no matter how hard you push the buttons. That
is, unless the device supports AVRCP natively, dig? Regardless, the BTH-820 will still control the volume which
isn’t all bad, right?
Hey, that audio gateway looks a bit like a Griffin PowerMate
, and it's almost the same
Hey, we likey this Y-charger. Messy, but effective. Performance
Let’s start with audio quality which is
largely down to personal preference once it exceeds some unwritten, but generally agreed threshold of crap. Some of us
found the quality achieved by the included earbuds to be comparable to that of the buds shipped with one's portable
audio player. Especially when used outside the Engadget Mansion’s sound studio where ambient noise is an issue
(unlike where we record the Podcast). Others found the slight, but audible baseline fuzz to be unacceptable. Your
mileage, as they say, will vary. Most found the audio quality acceptable and simply enjoyed the novelty and freedom of
untethered stereo audio.
As expected, the devices paired easily via a 6-second press-and-hold on each
unit’s power button. They could then be used to enable stereo audio on any device which could muster a 3.5mm
jack. It should work with any stereo audio device with good results, with one (discovered) caveat -- inexplicably,
there was a very slight but very noticeable delay in the transmission of the audio when connected to a Mac. No problem
if you are just listening to music, however once we started a movie the delay was quite obvious with lips and audio
clearly out of sync. No problems from a XP laptop however.
While on the topic of using the device with a
Macintosh we should also note that we simply could not get the BTH-820 headset to pair with the D-link DBT-120 Rev. 3
adapter on our G5 PowerMac running the latest OS, updates, and firmware. No problem on the XP laptop. GlobalSat was not
able to sort the issue although they still claim the headset is Mac compatible.
And as you can tell,
GlobalSat’s headphones aren’t completely wireless, which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus,
you don’t have to wear big
or thick droopy
behind the neck since the Bluetooth radio is in the remote which clips onto your kit. Besides, you want that
remote anyway, right? The disadvantage of course is wires and the occasional fashion conundrum of where to clip the
remote since the cable is not long enough to reach both your cuffs and ears without turning you into a gimp.
Not to knock GlobalSat too much for the following, since it seems that all Bluetooth headset manufactures suffer
from the same deluded idea -- let’s be clear, we're not huge fans of our Bluetooth headsets flashing. We already
feel goofy enough having lumps of plastic bolted to our heads, we don’t need yet another badge-o-geekdom drawing
even more attention to (y)our wares. The GlobalSat lights blink 4 times in rapid succession every 2 seconds until death
by battery or harikiri. The incessant flashing of the two devices reached such an annoying pitch that we finally had to
cover the units with tape before we could peaceably enjoy a film in a dimly lit home theater. Seriously, not good.
While the range does indeed extend to 10-meters and occasionally beyond, the signal is easily interfered with
by the human form. For example, when adjusting the volume on the remote, the mere presence of the hand in front of the
unit while adjusting decibels was enough to cause the sound to drop completely, regardless of whether we were 10-meters
or 10-centimeters from the Gateway. So no dancing, ok folks?
The battery operated as advertised giving us
about 5.5 hours on average of good strong music playback. The biggest problem was keeping all three devices (headset,
gateway, and media player) charged once we started using these for day-to-day listening. That might not be a problem
for you Mr. Order-n-Sunshine but in our chaotic life of battery drudge it sometimes seemed to be a bit, say,
While our main goal was to review the stereo audio capability of these units, it should be
noted that the BTH-820 headset also supports the Bluetooth Headset and Handsfree profiles. So we went and paired the
headset with our cellphone and indeed, music was muted (not paused -- no AVRCP remember?) and the headset switched over
to the call. However, we received regular complaints about the quality of our mic like, "Dude, you eating tin
As an interesting side-note, GlobalSat also dropped in
their little $19 BTA-806 Bluetooth 2.0 dongle, which gave us a chance to test the BTH-820 headset on a laptop. Now even
though XP supports Bluetooth natively, additional software from Widcomm or IVT BlueSoleil (included) is required to add
the required Bluetooth AV profile. The software worked fine on the PC, but it’s far from intuitive. However, we
did finally manage to get the BTH-820 recognized as the default Windows audio source, resulting in stereo audio with
the fine bonus of controlling Windows Media Player to skip tracks, pause, etc. Nice. And when installed in the Mac
(without additional software) it paired with every Bluetooth device we could find including a Bluetrek G2 (mono)
headset but we just couldn’t get the damned thing to pair with the BTH-820 headset. Go figure, this thing hates
our Mac. Conclusion
While the system works and provides good
stereo sound free of wires you have to consider the cost. We don’t mean the $115 for the pair of devices, rather
this solution means that instead of just one device to obsess over regarding fingerprints, scratches, storing, and
keeping charged, you’ve now got three -- with one of those swingin' like a wrecking ball from your MP3 player.
Can you deal with that? Ultimately this setup just proved too cumbersome for us on a day to day basis -- but
we’re minimalists and a bit freaky too. Bottom Line
If you absolutely, positively must have 10-meters of Bluetooth stereo audio for your legacy, non-Mac device then the
GlobalSat BTH-820 Bluetooth Headset and BTA-830 Audio Gateway makes for an acceptable solution.
you have the funds and patience, then you’d be wise to hold out for both a media player and headphones / remote
that support A2DP and AVRCP natively
. Think Sony Ericsson W950i Walkman phone
stereo Bluetooth headset
-- that's how we'd roll given our druthers.