Monday, July 26, 2021

Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 Wireless Stereo Headphones Review

July 11, 2009 by · 9 Comments 

hbh-is800I needed a replacement for two trusty but long-in-the-tooth headsets, a Plantronics Discovery 640 that was no longer holding a charge, and an Aliph Jawbone that fell victim to an annoying echo. I wanted a headset that would be comfortable while doing things at home (I rarely use my headsets outdoors) in addition to solving my functional issues.

This brings me to the Sony Ericsson HBH IS800. Spec summary: Stereo Bluetooth compatibility, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR with A2DP and AVRCP, 4 hrs. talk time and 270 hours standby, digital signal processing and the usual noise cancellation and echo reduction. What drew me to these headphones wasn’t killer noise reduction or super battery life given my at-home usage, but the hope that they would be comfortable, stay in my ears like other Sony earbuds I use with my mp3 player, and provide decent sound quality without getting in my way.

Music Sound Quality
Music streamed from my Sony Ericsson k660i handset was clear but leaned toward higher frequencies, and bass was thin even when using enhanced bass settings. This was consistent whether the headset was paired to my handset or to my laptop. This is in contrast to some reviews I’ve read that laud the bass quality. Perhaps different standards, but this headset does not come close to many wired earbuds I have used. I have not performed side-by-side comparisons with other Bluetooth headsets so perhaps this is still better than the competition.

Going more that about 15 feet (5m) from the handset or going behind a wall or door, after a few seconds would cause the sound to drop out entirely, as if there was insufficient buffering like with early portable CD players; no static degradation like when on calls.

Volume cannot be adjusted on the headphones. This model does not have the dangling clip-on controller that the DS980 and the DS205 have…but I don’t have to drag it around either which I appreciate. There was no signal interference during Bluetooth file uploads while listening to music.

Call Sound Quality
The microphone is housed in the cord that connects the earbuds, about 2 inches below the left earbud, along with the single device control button used to accept and end calls. The headset paired easily and calls were handled reliably. Voice quality was easily intelligible both incoming and outgoing, although not always perfectly crystal clear. One caller noted a slight background ‘hiss’ but I didn’t notice this. It is nice to have stereo phone calls instead of the one-side common to most Bluetooth headsets.

I use Sony MDR-EX51 earbuds with my iPod, and I think they are the best value for sound quality on the wired earbud market – and they fit well. I was hoping for something approaching that in the HBH IS800. I do like that SE fit all major components into the earbuds. They are a bit large as a result though, but don’t feel overly heavy. The stem that enters your ear is thick. This makes it difficult to get a secure, comfortable fit, even for me at 6 ft. tall with a proportionate head and ear size. The earbuds tend to back themselves out of your ears as you talk, requiring frequent reinsertion.

The headphones are charged by popping open the cover of the right earbud. The delicate cover is attached with a thin rubber cord which I fear is one clumsy act from being broken off.

While I am not wedded to SE products, I do appreciate little things like compatible charging cables. Already having a SE charging cable saved me from having to use the ham-sized UK plug with a US adapter, as the store I ordered from did not specify that they were shipping the UK model in the US.

There is a single 1mm indicator light on the rear of the the right earbud that indicates charging. Note to road warriors – this headset doesn’t have any bright flashing indicators (ahem, Jawbone) to keep you awake at night when charging them in your hotel room.

I give the HBH IS800 a 9/10 for aesthetic design, but a 6.5/10 for functional design because the earbuds don’t securely fit in my ears. I do like that there is no hanging controller to clip to my clothes. I give it a 7.5/10 for call sound quality and a 6/10 for music sound quality as the richness just isn’t up to par for what I had been expecting. Overall, solid product and a great step forward for compact design and functionality.

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