MOTOROKR S9, wireless – sounds OK, looks dorky

  • September 23rd, 2007

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.