Though it was once a rare find in music phones, in the last year stereo Bluetooth has become a common feature. That's a good thing, even if the wireless music quality isn't always reliable, as we like being able to walk around a room while we're listening to our tunes.
To help you get the most out of that functionality, several
mobile phone manufacturers -- Samsung among them -- have introduced stereo
Bluetooth headsets. However, just because you're good at one thing,
that doesn't mean that you're good at another. The Samsung SBH500 Bluetooth stereo headset is available now for around £40.
At first glance, the SBH500 looks promising. The foam padding around the earphones is soft to the touch and the controls are large and well designed. It's also quite light at 74g and the band connecting the two earphones seems sturdy but flexible.
In the centre of the right earphone you'll find a multifunction control for pairing the headset and placing and ending SBH500's calls. It's slightly recessed so you can locate it easily when you're on a call and it's surrounded by a circular status light.
Surrounding the multifunction button are the music controls, which include a play/pause button, a skip control and a rewind button. They're also large and easy to use. The volume rocker rests on the rim of the earphone. As it always faces 'up' when you're on a call, we had no problem finding it even on the first try.
The power switch and the charger port are located on the left earphone. The former is hard to locate when you're wearing the SGH500, but to be honest we doubt you'd be using the power switch during a call. The charger port has a sliding cover. It's a nice touch, but it's not totally necessary.
Sound good so far? Well, we thought so too. The bad news is this: the SBH500 is extremely uncomfortable, so much so that we couldn't leave it on for more than a few minutes. It has a behind-the-ear neck design so the problem wasn't with the connecting band, but rather with the way the SBH500 rested against our ears.
On either side, protruding ridges on the connecting band dug into the backside of our ears so sharply that it was almost painful. Even though its design is flexible enough to accommodate larger heads and the foam padding on the earphone is nice and soft, we had to fiddle with the SBH500 constantly to secure an even remotely comfortable fit.
But to be honest, finding such a state was near impossible. Even when we did get it almost right, the connecting band would then rest against the back of our neck. We're not sure what Samsung was thinking when it designed this one.
We also have to mention how you look when you're wearing the headset. Though the earphones are only about 44mm in diametre, the behind-the-ear design makes you look as if you're wearing earmuffs. Either that or just you look like Princess Leia.
On the upside, the SBH500 offered respectable call quality when we tested it. The volume could be louder, but the connection remained strong and the voice quality was good. Music quality wasn't quite as sharp. There was a slight hissing sound at times and some music was rather bass-heavy. On the upside, we liked that the SBH500 makes a sound to reflect when the phone is vibrating for an incoming call. As with most headsets, the music pauses automatically when you get a call.
The Samsung SBH500 stereo Bluetooth headset has a rated battery life of 12 hours talk time, 11 hours music time and 8.5 days standby time.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday