The evolution of the headset mirrors virtually everything else in the world – it has become more technologically sophisticated and a lot smarter. Case in point is the Sound ID SIX Bluetooth headset, a technological marvel which continues to impress me and the more I use it, the better it seems to get.
A lightweight carbon-fiber design actually allows you to raise and lower the volume by just sliding your finger on the headset, no buttons needed. An on/off switch, single multifunction button and Micro USB connector round out the package, making it elegantly simply to operate while being aesthetically pleasing.
When I paired the phone it suggested I download the associated free Ear Print 3.0 app onto the iPhone which I did. From there I was literally amazed at all the things which could be done with this headset. There is a find function which plays louder and louder alerts to the headset so you can find it – in a messy purse or bag perhaps. The concern of course is what happens if the headset is off. I had such a situation arise where I dropped the box containing the headset in a dark room. The headset was off to conserve battery so finding a black gadget the size of a few pieces of gum turned out to be a headache. The good news is as I learned later - standby time according to the company is 75 hours. So there was no need for me to turn it off. My informal testing later showed a battery drain of 10-20% in 16 hours of standby use making the company’s claim pretty believable. While on the topic, the company says talk time is four hours after a full 2.5 hour charge.
Its worth noting you can connect to two A2DP devices meaning you can listen to music through the headset - not in stereo though. This is a great benefit as with typical bluetooth headsets you can’t listen to podcasts or satellite radio. Moreover, you can alternate to listening to videos on a tablet and audio on your phone or the other way around. There is a personalization setting (pictured above) allowing you to drag your finger around the screen to change the equalization level of the music. Sliding to the right makes the higher frequencies louder while sliding it up makes the low frequencies increase in amplification. I found the setting best when slid to the top right about an inch from the corner – it gave the best combination of bass and treble and brightened the overall sound in a pleasing manner. If the bass level increased too high I began to detect distortion.
There is also a sound meter function which can be used to determine how loud your surrounding area is and if it can cause harm to your hearing. You can also customize the headset to blink a light when you are on a call to alert others. There is noise reduction and a Pass Through mode which amplifies the sound in the area so the ear with the headset gets a sense of the surrounding noise. I found this to work best in the Focused Mode as opposed the ever-defaulting, Surround. You see there are too many noises for the device to accurately amplify and it just doesn’t have the dynamic range to do justice to it all. Examples include an office air conditioner, blowing fans in a car, chimes and music. Basically, Focused mode tries to amplify less ambient noise which makes it a better solution. This is not the fault of the headset - even the most expensive speakers you can buy with the most advanced amplifier will never sound exactly like a piano. Point being, the larger the drivers (speakers) and more powerful the amplifier, the better approximation you get to the original sound. This is an over-generalization but you get the idea.
VoiceMenu may be the slickest of the tested features as it gives you an option to choose from five separate actions whenever you press the single button on the headset for two seconds. You can determine the order of the menu options, you can choose what the options should be, you can choose the speed the menu is read to you and more. As you can see from the pictured menu above, after it starts being read, if you press immediately after the first option, it redials. After the second option, it activates Siri and so on. If you select battery status it tells you if the battery is good or not – it does not tell you a specific percentage.
You also get to program a few phone numbers such as home, work, spouse, service, etc. and if one of these numbers calls, the headset will alert you specifically to who is calling. You alternatively can use one of the 5 menu items to automatically call one of these numbers with two simple button presses.
The coolest part of the headset is the way you increase and decrease volume – you just slide your finger on the clear carbon of the headset repeatedly. I did notice however that some music and sound in general didn’t get as loud as I would have liked. Perhaps this is a headset limitation or a way to protect the hearing of users.
Also, you press and hold the center of the headset for two seconds to mute and unmute but it took me some time to get the hang of exactly where I needed to press to activate this function.
The company says there are three microphones used to ensure good sound quality by eliminating background noise such as wind. I did come away impressed at the not only the sound coming out of the headset but the accuracy of Siri when I used the microphone – it was much better than a competitive headset I had used previously.
The default earloop is very comfortable and stays in the ear incredibly well for a wide range of reviewers – starting with young children all the way up to me. Loops of other sizes are included if you want them as well as an over-the-ear loop if this is your preference. The company can also make a custom ear piece for you if you like. As someone who has difficult ears to fit, I was very happy with how this headset stayed glued to my ear – giving a "just right" feeling. The only challenge is when I pressed the headset button, it felt uncomfortable as it pressed into my ear on the first few days of use. By day three, I acclimated to the sensation.
Other technology which works behind the scenes is automatic volume control which raises the sound of the headset as it senses the surrounding background noise increasing. This is a typically a feature on some high-end performance cars and if performed well, can reduce a lot of hassle for the user. I didn't notice this working during my testing.
In terms of comfort, I have worn the headset for a few hours at once and it was fine. The Focused Pass Through mode kept me from the typical feeling of deafness in the ear with the headset and the lightness of the unit made it easy to forget I was wearing the headset at all.
If I had to suggest improvements it would be the box that the headset comes in – it is too big and the top falls off too easily. I would further shrink to the box so it would be 50-60% of its current size. Also a few times when the phone or tablet was rebooted, the headset would not be recognized. The only way to get them to pair again was to reboot the headset. This is a problem I have encountered with other bluetooth devices as well so I really can't fault the company. After all, they do flash this instructive message to help you along.
Due to the A2DP profile support you can now use this diminutive headset to listen to sports, news, music and even games in a location where you would likely would have needed wired headphones. So while waiting for the doctor, you can listen to your devices without disturbing anyone and dealing with wires which get tangled and annoying. Moreover, the size is small enough to put in a shirt or pants pocket with ease.
Also, you can program services into the menu allowing you to call Bing 411 without having to dial. I tried it just now and was able to get access to sports scores, horoscopes and of course traditional telephone directory assistance.
The headset costs $129 and it is a good value at that price – it is the Rolls Royce of bluetooth headsets and is the perfect addition to today’s smartphones. Moreover what this app/headset duo shows us is how powerful and rich an experience you can have via simple hardware with rich software powered by today’s smartphones. In other words, the same ingenious design of many smartphones with minimal buttons can be leveraged by devices which communicate to our smartphones. Think about the possibilities – mice, home stereos, monitors, microwaves, toasters, external hard drives… Virtually anything can be connected to a smartphone and the experience can be much better than the current controls we rely on today.
TMCnet Coverage of the Sound ID 400 Bluetooth Headset