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CrunchExclusive: Nokia BH-604 Bluetooth Headphone Review

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Nokia’s BH-604 Bluetooth stereo ‘phones are two months from hitting the market, but CrunchGear was lucky enough to receive a pair of sample models. I’m a firm believer that Bluetooth headsets/earbuds are the most ridiculous looking gadget anyone can wear around, but Nokia’s DJ-like headphones have me painting a different picture after the week I’ve spent with them. Was I impressed? Yes. Was I disappointed? Yes. Huh? It was a good disappointment, so keep your pants on.

To the untrained eye, the 604 looks like a regular set of headphones encased in black leather and silver trim, but upon further inspection you’ll notice the flashing blue LED and lack of cord. Something else that’s very distinctive about the 604 is its design. Normal headphones are shaped to rest along the contour of your head, but the 604 juts out around the earcup making it very noticeable. It’s not a bad thing, but it struck me as odd when I pulled them out of the box. They fit like a glove thanks to the padded headband and cushy earcups. But enough about style and design. Let’s get on to the goods.

I used a Nokia 5300 as my test pilot for the 604 and they automatically synced together when either was turned on. All controls are placed on the right cup, which include: play/pause, next track, previous track, volume control and call button. Turning on the headphones might cause some problems if you don’t read instructions. Clicking and holding the call button does the trick and the LED light flashes blue when on and emits a brief red glow when turned off. Response time is quite fast when you need to pause or play a song, answer a call, or flip through tracks. The volume button is located underneath all the other controls and a push forward pumps up the volume while the opposite action does what you’d expect. Overall, the controls are simple to use and unobtrusive. In other words, they don’t attract any unwanted attention.

Sound quality during MP3 playback was crisp and clear. I hardly heard any of the street noise and chitter-chatter coming from my roommates. I walked from one end of my apartment to the other, which is about 100ft and sound quality didn’t deteriorate even with a bathroom, kitchen and two bedrooms between the ‘phones and 5300. Ring, ring, ring. Picking up a call is as easy as pushing a button, which is the case here. If you choose to answer an incoming call your music is paused until you click the call button again to end the conversation and your music resumes playback. Sound quality was also clear during my tests within 40 feet, but once I stepped into my room, which is around 50 feet away clarity on the other end started to crackle. It was still clear for me, so I didn’t really care that my mom couldn’t hear what I had to say. Just joking, mom.

Battery life on the 604 was surprising to say the least. I’ve been playing music through the headphones for about 15 hours and they’re still chugging along. The 5300 died long before the 604s did. This is where I was disappointed because I just wanted to sleep by hour 11, but it’s certainly not a bad thing. Nokia is boasting 19 hours of playback and I’m inclined to believe it so far. Talk time is a whopping 18 hours and I’ve still got a long ways to go before I hit that mark, but I wouldn’t doubt that number. Recharging the batteries takes less than two hours and a single charge leaves you with two weeks of standby.

The final version of the 604 may change between now and when it hits the masses in September for $189.95, but I’m not sure what changes would make it better. I’m still a proponent against Bluetooth headsets and the way they make you look like a douche, but the 604 adds style and stealth to your geeky ways. People might think you’re a mad rapper when you’re on a call, but nuts to them. Nokia’s done a good job with the 604 headphones and I give them my thumbs up.

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