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Review: Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Stereo Bluetooth Headphones

I travel a lot, so I like to have my music without having to carry around another device (i.e. iPod or MP3 player) to listen to it. This is why I like bluetooth A2DP stereo headsets so much. But the challenge is finding the one that works best for when you want to use it. For example, a full headset like Motorola S805 would be perfect while flying in a plane, but probably not very practical while jogging or working out. For this very reason, I was excited to try out Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones.

They are small, have comfortable earbuds, and are extremely portable. I love it when I have high expectations of a product and then am pleasantly surprised when it meets or exceeds them. Here is an in depth review of probably one of the best BT stereo headsets for those who are on the go and active.

Read on for the full review!

Design

Sony took a unique approach when they designed the HBH-DS970. It is hard to find a BT stereo headset that you can take bicycling or jogging and have it be comfortable and easy to use under these conditions. There is little doubt that Sony was thinking of this when they sat down at the drawing table to begin designing the HBH-DS970.

The actual unit hangs on your neck and rests on your chest. It then has ear buds (with 3 different sizes to choose from) that include a microphone that hangs down just below your ear so you will never miss a phone a call while using it.

The controls are easy to use and placed well.

They have even included a handy small plastic carry case for the phone. A nice touch.

I have used it while outdoors and traveling in airports. This design works great in any situation. I will give it 5 out of 5 stars for design.

Design:

Sound Quality

Since this is using BT, this can be subject to the individual device it is paired with. I used this mostly with my Sprint PPC-6800 and was impressed overall with the sound quality. There is very little noise, if any, when there is nothing playing. The range is okay as well. There is no built in mega bass, but as I mention below, it responds well when this adjusted with the MP3 player on my phone.

The earbuds do a great job of blocking out a lot of irritating outside noise, which is perfect while on an airplane.

Even though a lot of WM MP3 players have their own equalizers that work great to get just the right sound with any headset, the HBH-DS970 does not have any equalizer settings built in.

The other side when considering the sound quality, is while talking on the phone as with the HBH-DS970. On my end it is great. On the other end it is acceptable. Since the microphone is just below the ear, it is very susceptible to wind noise. There is little doubt the other end could tell I was using a headset, but I very rarely had anyone ask me to repeat anything unless I was outside in the wind... which if you were jogging or riding your bicycle, might be a challenge.

I will give it 4 out of 5 stars for sound quality. It did sound great. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is the lack of onboard mega bass and equalizer features, and the challenges with the other end of a call hearing me in windy conditions.

Sound Quality:

Pairing

In order to use a BT headset, you must pair (sync) it with the phone you are going to use it with. This is simply a digital introduction to each other so they know that they should work nicely with each other.

This can often times be a frustrating and exasperating experience. But I am glad to say that this was not the case with the HBH-DS970. It found my phone immediately and was paired in a matter of seconds without having to refer to the manual.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Pairing:

Comfort / Physical Build

Comfort is a big issue because if it is not comfortable, you are not going to use it, no matter how good the sound quality is or how feature rich the headset is. With the HBH-DS970, I often times even forget I am listening to music with earbuds. They are very comfortable and come with three different sized earbuds. .

It can be a little awkward having the unit hang on your neck if you are doing a lot of bending over, but it isn't a major issue. The good thing about this is that you don't have to ever worry about having any pockets to use it.

As for the physical build, it is solid. It was built to be used during exercise or with people who are very active. I do not fear with it hanging from the neck as it can obviously take a few knocks without any worries at all.

I will give it 5 out of 5 stars for comfort and physical build.

Comfort / Physical Build:

Controls / Advanced Features

The controls on the HBH-DS970 are easy to use and well thought out.

What is nice about this device is that it will remote control WM Media Player. You can play, pause, adjust the volume, and skip back and forth between songs. It is important to note that it does not work with 3rd party WM MP3 players.

It also includes a lot of advanced features for handling phone calls. The first and most obvious is caller ID on the screen. It is really nice that you never have to pull out your phone to see who it is. It will also:

  • Reject a call
  • Switch between calls
  • Call last number dialed
  • Mute
  • Adjust the ringtone volume
  • End a call

It will even allow you to use voice commands to remote control your phone without touching it.

The HBH-DS970 also has a really cool feature that allows you to be connected to your phone to catch all your calls while at the same time listening to another device... like watching a movie on your BT enabled laptop. This feature is not perfect. For example, when you get a call, it will not automatically pause the music on my laptop. The HBH-DS970 will only allow you to control the music to the last device you paired it with, so you also have to watch what order you pair your devices in.

In this case with the goal of being able to use it while active, it is a plus that there are few physical buttons, and that it can control your phone so you never have to touch it. It is also nice to have so many advanced controls when handling phone calls. Of course, being able to pair with multiple devices at the same time is a huge plus. The HBH-DS970 has earned 5 stars in this category.

Battery Life

The battery life is very impressive. It may not have the longest battery life of stereo headsets, but it can hold its head high with pride. It offers 6 hours of music / talk time with 300 hours (that is 12 1/2 days) of standby time. This is sufficient to suit the needs of just about any situation, unless maybe you are flying a transatlantic flight.

It also charges fairly quickly as well. I have found that a quick top off with a short layover in the airport will go a long way.

The only con I can say here is that you have to use their proprietary plug. Mini USB would have been great... or even a cable with a USB plug on one end with their proprietary plug on the other end, so I could still charge it with my laptop without having to carry around another plug.

I will give it 5 stars as it has proved to meet published specs and will meet the needs of just about any given situation.

Battery Life:

Every Day Use

I have really enjoyed using the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. It is comfortable... easy to use... long battery life. It is extremely versatile in any situation. I can use it while jogging or waiting for my plane to take off. It is compact and comes with its own carry case, so I never have to worry about loose cables and wires getting tangled on anything it touches in my bag. It pairs nicely and quickly with my Sprint PPC-6800... and the sound quality is very good.

I also never have to fear about missing a call because I want to listen to my music or watch my Tivo on my phone while slinging. (opens in new tab) The only concern with this is that it is often times hard for the other end to hear me if I am in windy conditions.

My wish list for the HBH-DS970 are not vital to the quality or use of the headset. It would be nice to have a mega bass and/or equalizer feature. It would also by handy it if had either a mini USB charging plug or included a cable to charge the headset with the USB on my laptop.

With all things considered, there is little doubt that the HBH-DS970 has earned 5 stars for every day use.

Every Day Use:

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Specifications

  • Size
    • 74 mm
    • 2.9 inches ( Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches )
  • Weight
    • 27 gr
    • 1.0 oz
  • Range
    • up to 10 meters

Performance

  • Talk time up to 6 hours
  • Standby time up to 300 hours

Available colors Black and orange

Features

  • Bluetooth™ technology - 2.0
  • Caller ID display
  • Music browsing
  • Two ear plugs

Here is the user manual for the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones (opens in new tab)

Ratings (5 out of 5)

Design: 5Sound Quality: 4Pairing: 5Comfort / Physical Build: 5Controls / Advanced Features: 5Battery Life: 5Every day use: 5

Overall:

5 stars out of 5

Pros

Can be used in any situation, including exercisingSolid buildGood sound qualityComfortable to wearAdvanced call management controlsSupports pairing with multiple devices at the same timeIncludes a small plastic carrying case

Cons

Poor sound quality on other end of call in windy conditionsDoes not include mega bass or equalizer featuresDoes not support USB charging
WC Staff
WC Staff
10 Comments
  • Having used the DS970 for over a year, I would advise the following-
    -the neck strap WILL wear with use and at some point in time, will break. This can be inconvenient waiting the week or so it takes SE to send a replacement.
    -the newer DS980 has a more robust neck strap as well as an OLED display that tops the DS970's.
    -if you pair the headset with a SE phone, you'll get track/artist info displayed as well.
    -one of the more annoying things that will happen is if you are listenining to music from a phone and the headset dies, the music goes full blast out of the phone's external speaker..
    -SE overlooked adding a clip to the back of the unit. you can DIY with any third party stick on clip and not have to worry about it dangling while running/bending over
    -SE does have a USB cable with a fastport connector on it (included with their phones), however it does not charge the headset unless you are connecting it to a dedicated USB power source.
  • breadbooze....GREAT info!
  • I have had the 980 for a couple of months now, I've used it at the gym and while traveling. I have to say I agree with your article on all of your points for the 980 as well. Sound quality is great for Blue tooth (you can't expect sound comparable to wired headsets, I notice some slight static with these). On my wishlist though is some WM love for the great OLED display on it. I was expecting to see artist/title, callerID functionality, Text message previews like advertised, but it seems that cool stuff is for SE phones only. (I do see the phone number on incoming calls just not the Name, also I cannot browse my addressbook and make calls. The address book shows up empty for me. I am using a BlackJack II)
  • I'd be curious to see this compared to the Jabra BT3030. They seem to be similar in both design and function, so it'd be nice to see a head to head comparison. If not, I'd settle for the review of the BT3030 that was promised after the first hands-on article ;)
  • it wont pair with my samsung d900i or sony ericsson w300i...
    can anyone hepl me please..
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  • Stereo earbuds sound great and are very comfortable. Charger light (unlike a previous reviewer), but its always a hassle to carry a charger. Unit 6 hours of music to listen to him talk about the (long does it) so I can not complain still I wish for a longer battery life.