Review: Samsung SBH-700 Stereo Bluetooth Headset

Short Version: I love wirelessness. I was using Bluetooth to connect handhelds, phones, and headsets since ~2004. While smart phones have mostly killed the PDA, their media capabilities scream for a good set of wireless headphones. Sadly the Samsung SBH-700’s are not those headphones. While the specs sound impressive, talk time up to 9 hours, play time up to 7 hours, standby time up to 140 hours and weight of only 38.3 grams, the reality was disappointing.

To be fair, my disappointment was only partially Samsung’s fault. First of all, the iPhone does not support A2DP, the Bluetooth protocol necessary to transmit stereo music. WTF, Steve? You create the uber-music phone and then don’t support transmitting that music wirelessly? The only explanation I can think of is that Apple likes to control the entire experience, most bluetooth headsets suck, and they don’t want that experience to be associated with the Jesus-phone. To test out the audio, I tried pairing it with my MacBook Pro. That didn’t work either. So while I never did get to test it with music, its performance as a phone headset was sufficient for me to pass on this product.

As a headset, it paired just as easily with my iPhone as any other headset. Hearing your conversation in both ears is great. Going back to my Samsung Uproar (the first mp3 player phone), I’ve loved having stereo headsets for my phones. It makes the person much easier to hear, especially in loud environments. However, despite Samsung’s claims of ambient noise reduction, when walking outside on a mildly windy day, people I was talking to asked me if I was using a headset and to please stop. The sound transmission and wind noise was pretty bad. The problem is that the mic is located above your ear near the play/pause button and I don’t thing this unit uses the kind of advanced noise reduction that the Jawbone does. In a quiet room, it functioned acceptably.

The unit is well designed. It is an over-the-ear, behind-the-neck form factor that is reasonably comfortable, althought will take a bit of adjusting to get it to fit snugly in your ears. The part that rests on your neck is light enough not to bother you and heavy enough that it won’t bounce if you jog. I don’t know if I would wear it for extended sessions. It’s not that comfortable. The main contol buttons are located near each ear. The phone answer/end button is on one side, play/pause on the other. On the back of your neck are two additional pairs of buttons, volume up/down and track forward/back. Since you can’t see any of the controls , it will take a few screw-ups to learn which buttons are on which side. There is an attempt at consistency by placing the track control on the same side as the play button.

The SBH700 lists for $100 but can be had for as low as $60. If it will work with your phone, you do get both a music headset and phone headset in one small package, but I would suggest that the compromise is not worth the savings with this model.

Overall, it’s a good attempt, but not quite ready for consumption.

Bottom Line: Getting better, but pass on this one.
Product via Amazon