New wireless accessories (San Diego Transcript column)

Images Wires are out and wireless is in. It's obvious by the
hundreds of new wireless devices introduced each month. Wires get tangled,
limit movement and can be a nuisance. But wireless products also have their own
problems. They need to be powered and charged (meaning more wires), and
sometimes their performance suffers.

Here’s a roundup of some of the newest wireless gadgets that
I’ve been trying out. There’s a new cell phone headset that does the
near-impossible, a cordless speaker for your audio device, a new cordless
speakerphone for the car that listens, and an office headset that frees your
hands and lets you roam while talking.

Plantronics Discovery
is the second generation of a unique design that solves the seemingly
unsolvable problem of building a small and lightweight cell phone headset with
a very long battery life. Rather than building a large battery into the
headset, it’s built into its storage case. Return the headset to the case and
the battery inside replenishes it, tripling the usage time. This successor to
the popular 925 model adds a battery gauge and larger battery to the case and a
lever to pop out the headset. The headset has a newly designed microphone to
reduce wind noise, a slimmer profile – almost as thin as a toothpick – and
improved noise-reducing circuit, similar to what’s used in the Voyager Pro
model, which has been my headset of choice.

In use tests it worked well, but not as well as the Pro. But
it’s much more discrete and less dorky, the least noticeable of any other
headset I've tried.  $129.

The Aura BluNote
from Spracht is a slim, sleek looking stereo speaker that connects wirelessly
to any Bluetooth audio device that supports A2DP, a type of Bluetooth protocol
for music. It lets you play audio through the speaker instead of the device
itself. I tried it with a MacBook Pro and iPhone; each was easy to pair. Music
played from my iTunes library on the notebook didn’t sound any better than the
computer’s own built-in speakers, but it worked well with the iPhone, allowing
me to listen to music, podcasts and Internet radio broadcasts using the app
called Tuner. The BluNote is powered by four AA batteries with a stated 10-hour
life or an included AC adapter. One minor issue is it loses its Bluetooth
connection when switching from AC to batteries.   $95. (

BlueAnt S1 Car
is the company’s latest in-the-car Bluetooth speakerphone that
clips to the sun visor. It employs the voice technology used in the highly
regarded Q1 cell phone headset. Just say "Answer" to accept an
incoming call; no buttons need be touched. I tried it with my Palm Pre phone
from Images Sprint with its free navigation guidance system and it worked perfectly.
It also has an array of other commands to dial, check power, and more. While it
has a standby time of 800 hours, you need to remember to recharge it once a
week. The BlueAnt S1 will also play music through the speakerphone from cell
phones that have A2DP Bluetooth capability, although the sound is less than
high fidelity. The S1 has multipoint technology that lets you pair with two
phones and answer the one that rings. 
$75. (

Plantronics Savi Office is an office wireless headset
that works both with your wired phone and PC. To use with the phone after a
simple installation, lift the handset off the phone, put on the headset and
push the “on” button. I was able to carry on crystal clear communications while
roaming from room to room, at times more than 150 feet from the phone. Rather
than using Bluetooth for communicating with its much shorter range, the Savi
uses Dect 6.0 technology that the company says works up to 350 feet away.
Compared to an earlier Bluetooth model the Savi had much better clarity.

There are two wearing options: over the ear or over the
head. The base unit stores and charges the headset and is much more stable than
previous models. The only difficulty I experienced was adjusting the volume
levels correctly for my desk phone when first installing it. What’s confusing is
that there are multiple volume controls on the device, phone and computer, and
until they’re properly set, I got distorted sound.  But after a month of use, I’ve come to depend on this
product for clear, interference-free handless and cordless calls. About $240
and well worth it if you're on the phone for hours a day. (