Doug Morse of TreoCentral reviews the Cardo Scala 500 bluetooth headset
Read on for the full review
I had high hopes for the Scala-500 Bluetooth Headset. Many of the users on the TreoCentral forums said it was one of the best headsets out there, and except for a few minor issues, this is an excellent headset.
The Scala-500 comes with everything you need:
- A well thought out and illustrated Quick Start Guide
- A full manual on mini CD-ROM
- The headset itself with ear-loop
- The charging unit
- A carry sleeve that protects the earpiece and allows it to be clipped to a belt or shirt lapel when not in use
- A lanyard for dangling on the neck in conjunction with the carry sleeve
- An eye glasses clip which allows you to attach the unit to your glasses rather than over the ear. After taking the goodies out of the box, I found that the headset charger on the Scala is a bit funky. It is shaped like the earpiece, and you slide the whole unit down into it and it clicks into place. To remove it, there are two side buttons to press.
I am not a fan of this setup as it is too tempting to try to yank the thing out without pressing the side buttons. The AC adapter itself is small, but if put in a vertical style power-strip will eat up two slots. All in all I’m not enamored of the system. The Scala needs to be charged for 4 hours before first use.
Like all Bluetooth devices, the Scala-500 must be paired with the Treo. There is a multi function wheel at the top that you can use as a dial for volume – it rocks forward/back for each notch of volume up or down. You can also press and hold it in until the blue and red LEDs on the headset flash rapidly to pair the device. I find the pressing and holding annoying and inelegant. The wheel is sharp and small and can also rock if you’re not careful.
However, I have discovered that instead of this rigmarole, if the Treo is already in discoverable mode, as soon as you turn on the headset and if the Treo is powered on it will automatically begin the pairing process. You’ll simply be prompted for the passcode of four zeros. Once paired, you should not need to pair the devices again.
The Scala-500 is a solid over the ear earpiece that is lightweight and comfortable. The speaker is designed to rest against the ear, not slip inside it. Enterprising individuals have modified ear gels so it does slip in. This is neither a plus or a minus – simply a personal preference. The ear loop can be switched to wear the earpiece over either ear and is very flexible and designed to be gently squeezed into shape for a good fit. With extended wearing, the earpiece remains comfortable.
The materials and workmanship are of high quality with the ear loop flexible and strong and the headset rugged. That said, in my quest to break every piece of equipment I test, I did manage to pull the speaker away from the body of the headset when I manhandled the earpiece getting it out of the slipcase. It did click back into place, so we’ll just chalk it up to user ineptitude.
The color is a very unobtrusive dark gray and metallic silver, matching the Treo nicely. It is a little short and stubby and does have a bit of a leftover Star Trek prop feel. Still, it is compact and lightweight.
The Scala-500 comes with a carry sleeve that can be clipped on a shirt, hung from the included lanyard, or slid into a bag, purse, or pocket. It is so easy to wear the lanyard and click the earpiece into the carry sleeve without thinking -- which means the designers themselves put a good amount of thought into the system. It is possible though, with some serious shaking, for the earpiece to inadvertently pop out of the carry sleeve. So I think the carry sleeve on the lanyard or clipped to a shirt pocket is good for around the office or in the car, but out on the street the earpiece should either be on your ear or in a pocket.
The included eyeglasses clip replaces the ear loop so you can clip the headset to your glasses. I think this is better in theory than in practice as it is easier to use the earpiece with the regular ear loop next to your glasses. It is nice to have the option (which I’ve never seen before) and users will be able to experiment and certainly find a combination that works for them. The multitude of included accessories is fantastic giving you great options on how to carry the earpiece.
The Cardo Scala-500 has solid sound quality. It’s taken me through 5 levels of customer support of Time Warner without a hitch (I got that $50 credit) and through several levels of Sprint support when I was charged per KB instead of the flat 5 bucks a month for Vision. The Scala works in what I find to be the most trying of situations: customer service.
It also has WindGuard technology that seems to help a bit outdoors and the echo canceling technology also contributes to the solid sound quality. There are some sound examples at the TreoCentral Store. All of the Bluetooth headsets have their own volume control in addition to the volume control on the Treo. So I’m still looking for the perfect balance between them. On the Scala-500, the sound volume varied from call to call and often needed to be adjusted. Occasionally, I just couldn’t make it loud enough for my liking.
Like many Bluetooth headsets, the buttons are simple because they are on the headset itself. There is the aforementioned multi-function wheel at the top of the headset for on/off, pairing, mute and volume control. The volume control works nicely as you move the wheel up a notch, a corresponding example tone is heard. There are 12 levels of volume.
The control button on the face of the unit is much easier to use. Simply press anywhere to accept, hang up, and redial calls. The headset kicks in automatically when making or receiving a call. The only issue with this is the length of time before the Bluetooth is recognized and it seems to vary from headset to headset.
On the face of the main control button are the red and blue LED lights – the blue blinking occasionally when you are not on a call. Again, a bit Star-Trek-y but a useful indicator that the device is on and searching for the Treo should a call come in.
I have come to enjoy this headset given that I take all of the Bluetooth precautions keeping the headset as near as possible to the Treo and trying not to use the headset under difficult conditions. As soon as you start to move away from the phone, the signal begins to break down and crackle. The headset is lightweight (though not a featherweight) and comfortable to wear for stretches at a time. I have come to appreciate the fact that the earpiece speaker rests against the ear, but not in it. The multifunction wheel could be better designed though the main control button is easy to use.
(Review first published at TreoCentral on Feb 1, 20050