29 December 2008

Insignia Bluetooth Headset - One Year Later

It's been nearly a year since I acquired my Bluetooth headset.  In that time, the headphones have served me well.  Unfortunately, on a recent trip, the headphone finally succumbed to the abuse they've endured; the plastic that connects the two ear phones snapped -- likely twisted a bit too far in my laptop case.  However, over the course of the year, I learned a few things I thought others would find useful:

  1. The connection to my laptop required two profiles: one for the headset functionality (mono) and one for the headphones (stereo).   This was very much true in Windows XP, but a little different in Vista.
  2. I had to disable the headset services in Vista to get the stereo headphone functionality to operate consistently.  On my Dell, this was done by opening the BlueTooth service in the Control Panel (or from the System Tray).  I selected the Insignia device and picked Properties.  In the Properties dialog, there's a services tab that showed what BlueTooth services were available from the device.  On my computer, the services listed were: audio sink, headset and remote control.  The audio sink is the service required for stereo headphone operation and the remote control is required for controlling Windows Media Player through the controls on the headphones.  Headset functionality provides mono sound and microphone services (for things like Skype or gaming).  By enabling and disabling the services I needed, I could get the functionality I wanted consistently.  A few people have e-mailed or comments about trouble they had hearing sound or getting the microphone to work.  From my experience, having the right services selected was key to getting everything working.  
  3. Based on the service in the Bluetooth profile you've selected, up to two audio devices would be displayed in the sound setup in Vista - either stereo headphones or a mono headset.  The headset device was also tied to a recording device - the microphone.  I would select one or the other device as the "default device" to enable use of a specific function.
  4. I would have to occasionally connect my headphones to my computer, select the service in the Bluetooth configuration and then select the right device in the sound properties to get everything work.  In addition, I would sometimes have to cycle the power on the headphones in the event that the right connection didn't get established immediately.  I found that if I had all services enabled on the headphones, the mono headset service took priority over the stereo mode.  Although I could listen to music, it was not the best experience.

In all, I am and was very happy with the headphones.  In fact, I recently returned to Best Buy to get a replacement set.  However, I was a bit distracted by a pair of Samsung Bluetooth headphones (don't remember the model), which looked a little nicer and with a similar battery runtimes.  I tried them out for a few days and although they seemed to "get" automatic switching between profiles (the device figured out that I wanted to listen to music vs. using Skype), had better ear cups and were generally a bit nicer, they were $10 more expensive and required you to charge the headphones using a dedicated AC adapter, which I though was kind of silly.  In addition, I didn't have the best experience using them with my mobile phone (oddly also a Samsung), so I returned them.

At this point, I'm not sure sure if I'll simply get a replacement set of Insignia headphones or find another brand.  That said, I would still recommend the Insignia set if you're looking for a decent quality, wireless headphone.

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