MOTOROKR S9, wireless – sounds OK, looks dorky

UPDATE 10/29: Lindsay has been selected as the winner. Email confirmation sent. Congrats Lindsay!

Motorola is trying their best to make a niche for themselves in the mobile entertainment arena with the ROKR (rocker get it?) line of cellphones & accessories.

MOTOROKR S9

Sprint / Motorola sent me Motorola’s latest, the MOTOROKR S9. Although I admit fascination for anything Bluetooth, the MOTOROKR S9’s behind the head wireless design was a bit of a turn-off. Regardless, I put the headphones to work with a Samsung Upstage, Apple iPhone, and Mac OS X.

Supports A2DP? Well that is just swell

The MOTOROKR S9’s performed as expected with the Samsung Upstage. Not surprising considering the handset supports the Stereo Bluetooth Profile A2DP. Sadly, audio quality was flat and distant. This would have be "acceptable" had the headphones been of the standard Bluetooth wireless hands-free headset variant, but they weren’t. They are supposed to play two roles: 1) Bluetooth stereo headphones and 2) wireless hands-free headset.

Audio quality aside, controlling phone calls or audio playback is done with controls conveniently placed on the headphones above both ears. Phone controls – answer / end & volume – above the left ear, audio controls – play / pause & skip-forward / back – above the right ear. Answering / ending a call, or playing / pausing audio is done so by buttons with a resounding click. Increasing / decreasing volume, or skipping forward / back is much subtler with touch sensitive controls.

Functional handsfree headset for non-A2DP supported devices

Excited with the prospect of being able to enjoy wire-free stereo sound with my iPhone (as I did with the Samsung Upstage), I was sadly disappointed and reminded of the fact that Apple neglected to support the A2DP Bluetooth profile. Why Apple why? Was it to conserve battery life? Is it a "feature" for a future iPhone release?

ROKR S9 by Motorola

A2DP stereo Bluetooth sound or not, the MOTOROKR S9’s functioned like any other basic Bluetooth headset. Strangely, the S9’s – when paired as a standard handsfree headset – only output sound through one ear bud. Whether or not this is normal for Bluetooth headphones during normal voice calls is beyond me (drop your comments below of your A2DP stereo headphones output sound through both ear buds during a voice call).

During voice calls, audio quality for anyone on the opposite end of the call reported somewhat muffled sound and complained of excessive background noise. Not at all surprising considering the microphone is integrated into the left ear bud.

Similar feedback was reported while using the S9’s for VOIP calling via iChat audio / video & Skype. For anyone interested in getting the Stereo Bluetooth profile A2DP to work with Mac OS X Tiger, check out this helpful article by David C.

Likes

  • USB charger – charge the headphones from your computers USB port(s).
  • Fairly lightweight and unobtrusive if your head fits.
  • Convenient phone and stereo function (controls) separation – communication on the left-side, stereo on the right-side.
  • Increase / decrease volume & fast foward / skip controls are nearly touch sensitive.

Dis-likes

  • Uncomfortable. I found the MOTOROKR S9’s too narrow, larger heads will definitely feel the squeeze. On top of the firm plastic frame, the included earbuds are also uncomfortable and difficult to position for thorough sound output.
  • Unattractive. This probably goes for any wireless behind-the-head headphones. My co-worker asked if I was from the future immediately after putting them on.
  • Terrible pairing / setup process. As cool and "convenient" as it may seem to be to limit functions to a single button, it doesn’t hurt to have a single pin-hole button dedicated to pairing.

On a related note, Apple iPhone users should check out Ultimate Buds. The third-party service mates the popular Etymotic ER6i earphones with Apple’s own. Ultimate Buds sells the conversion outright, or conducts the operation on your own Etymotic & Apple earphones [that you supply]. Look for feedback regarding the conversion when my "Ultimate Buds" arrive.

Want these MOTOROKR S9’s?

Want to score a free MOTOROKR S9? Use the comments below to convince me why you need the wireless A2DP Stereo Profile Bluetooth headphones. One lucky reader will receive the MOTOROKR S9 headphones free of charge – I’ll cover shipping via UPS anywhere in the continental US. International readers, we’ll have to work something out.

Discuss - 19 Comments

  1. Indraneel says:

    I recently bought a MacBook and starting using Skype to talk to family members. I have, up until now have been using the internal microphone to talk. I really want a integrated headphone/microphone system; wireless only sweetens the deal.

    Hope I win!

  2. Woahh.. I was just looking at a pair of these. They seem cool at first but after reading a bunch of reviews (and now yours) I can tell that these aren’t very good. Especially not for jogging, they say its not water proof and your sweat will clog up the button. May I reccomend cardo s2? The cardo is much cheaper, also has a built in mic, and has gotten better reviews.

    http://www.amazon.com/Cardo-Systems-Bluetooth-Stereo-Headset/dp/B000T1RU3A

    Or if you just want to listen to music try logitech freepulse, even cheaper and comes with a bluetooth transmitter.
    But since you are giving it away, i will happily take these of your hands. =D
    Now to convince you…ummm, I will use it a lot. I am about to sell my mp3 player and use a phone + mp3 player instead. Generally these phones don’t have a headphone jack so I’ll be needing a pair of BT headset. Well thanks for reading my comment sorry it’s so long.

    Btw on a side note, stupid rss reader, I haven’t been getting your latest post. Sucking up always works right?

  3. Jay says:

    I need ‘em cause I like to look dorky! ;)

  4. beth says:

    I would never put anything resembling those headphones anywhere near my head.

  5. Raz88 says:

    Hey Derek,

    Sorry to hear that the Motorokr S9 didn’t live up to your expectations. When I had first seen these featured on G4’s Attack This segment I had hoped for the best too. Now on to my story, well about 3 months ago I was waiting at a crosswalk while talking on my cell. Little did I know a friend of mine was approaching me from behind and thought it might be funny if he startled me by flicking my ear. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice that I had my bluetooth headset in that ear and knowingly flicked it off my ear into oncoming traffic we it met its untimely demise. My friend apologize and said he would by me another but since then he has had a run in with debt. I did use my headset constantly but since then I’ve been without one. After this happen I remember sending you a twitter about what bluetooth headset you would recommend.

    Anyway, I could really careless how I look with them on as long as I don’t have to commute everyday with my cellphone glued to my head. :D

    Oh and I love your website!

  6. Roma says:

    I like the fact that s9 is water resistant. So suitable for sweaty activities like jogging, hiking or gym.

  7. Eric says:

    I would use them to pick up chicks. Chicks dig dorky guys.

    Cheers,
    Eric ;)

  8. Eric says:

    Oh and the wireless nature of the S9 will allow me to both emotionally and physically pick up ladies while using both hands. It’s safer all around.

    Cheers (again),
    Eric ;)

  9. Ville says:

    Hi

    I just read your review and I thought it was very informative. I almost bought these already but then decided to read more and found this page. Now I’m not so sure any more, but on the other hand I haven’t found anything better. As you said there is a problem that you look dorky but again this is the problem with all the similar bluetooth headphones. I especially liked the link to David Connolly’s blog. That’s useful.

    So why I need these?

    I am a college student and don’t have money.
    I need these for watching movies from my mac as my roommate don’t appreciate the noise coming out of my computer. Also these could be handy in gym and maybe jogging if I ever manage to get to track and run. Furthermore I believe that I don’t have a big head.

    Ville

  10. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”51139″]I need these for watching movies from my mac as my roommate don’t appreciate the noise coming out of my computer.[/quote]

    You did catch the part in the review about OS X not supporting the stereo bluetooth profile without a little finagling right?

  11. Ville says:

    Yes I did. I think I can manage to do the trick David introduces in his blog. The new panther should be also right around the corner with this support included.

    V

  12. Chris says:

    since your in a delima and cant decide on who should get them ill be more then happy to take them off your hands

  13. Jonathan says:

    I could use them because my sony earbuds have died on me and I want to try out some wireless ones. I had my eyes on this one and I could so use it.

  14. Brummer says:

    I am training to run a half marathon. I am raising money for cancer research as a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training, where we raise money and run for an honored teammate who is fighting one of these diseases. I am also 4 months postpartum, so the training is HARD! I would love these in order to be wireless while I am running for this awesome cause!

    http://www.active.com/donate/tntdms/brummer

    ~Lindsay

  15. Eric says:

    Lindsay’s need/want for the MOTOROKR S9s is greater and more benevolent than mine. I’d like to retract my request for them and vote her up :)

    Eric

  16. this stereo headphone is not dory says:

    First of all, if any of you have ever seen the first releases of bluetooth stereo headphones back in 2004 or 2005, you’d guys would eat your words about calling these headphones dorky. I’d rather wear these, than look like princess leia with those huge buns on the older bluetooth headphones. I’ve bought bluetooth headphones in the past and have been scouring years looking for a decent one. So far the ROKR S9 has been the best yet. The next closest ones are the Bluetake iphono mini. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit me ears very well and because they are more like headphones, while at the gym, it was hard to hear the music even with the bluetooth headphones on max, and my DAP on max. I do own the ROKR S9 and my only criticism is I wish they made the ear part bendable or some sort! Not everyone’s heads are uniform. I’m going to try heat the plastic up and see if I can warp it to my own fit!

  17. Brian Ferguson says:

    Honestly, because they would be free as in not cost anything and that is what everyone here is hoping for.

  18. ME says:

    these headphones look awesome… i’ve gotten so many compliments on them and how good they look. the sound is also amazing for such a little device. you must have gotten a lemon because i love my headphones…

  19. JM says:

    I do allot of freelance work, and I’m dependent upon my mobility. I HATE wires, I’ll probably die from cancer due to all of the wireless technology streaming in the air around me, but it keeps me sane. I bought the Motorokr S9-HD a few months ago and I love it. Your review of its connectivity being difficult is way off. The initial set up requires the pass code, then after that I have direct connectivity every time, may it be to my computer, my cell phone, or PS3. I have found 0 issues with connectivity, and it has great wireless range. Not to sound mean, but read the directions carefully, not only to the Motorokr, but to the device it’s connecting to, and there will be ease of connectivity. The only thing I wish would be different, is switching from my computer to an incoming phone call. If i could pair it with multiple devices simultaneously, and switch between on command I would probably never take the damn things off. As for the looks of them, they are very nice looking, they look better than a regular set of headphones. I like the wraparound for the ears for running, they stay on very well, and the new design for keeping moisture from damaging them was another reason I bought this version vs the older ones. As for comfort, I have a larger head (not freakishly though), and they are flexible enough that they are still comfortable. As far as comfort for the ear buds, they come with larger, or smaller bud cover replacements to meet your comfort needs. If they aren’t put on all the way / improperly I can see the discomfort. One other thing I would change is the availability of replacing the rechargeable battery when it dies. When mine dies, i will dissect it and attempt to fix it, and if i can’t or I mess it up, oh well it’s dead anyway and will have needed to be replaced regardless. Overall I would give them a 9 out of 10.

    Easy to use & pair with devices
    Comfortable
    Looks Great