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Sony DR-BT50 Stereo Bluetooth Headphones Review

Right ear houses controlsThe availability of stereo Bluetooth headsets has been steadily increasing this year, helping to bring prices down. In particular at the top end last month’s arrival of Nokia’s noise-cancelling flagship set, the BH-905, has led to significant drops in other premium closed-back designs. Motorola’s high end S805 has been selling for a steal recently on some sites  but today I’m going to focus on the Sony DR-BT50, which for some represented the pinnacle of stereo Bluetooth headsets until Nokia recently crashed Sony’s party.  I’ll make comparisons to the S805 along the way.

First impressions of the Sony DR-BT50

Sony DR-BT50Sony debuted the DR-BT50 at a whopping $229 but the headset is now available for a around $129 or so at several e-tailers. The cans are based upon Sony’s celebrated Altus MDR-D777LP, so they carry a promise of good sound delivery. They also bring practicality, being foldable.

Physically the DR-BT50 is extremely light, feeling like about half the weight of the Motorola S805. The earpads on the DR-BT50 are also thinner and the buttons are smaller; more on this later. Like the S805, the Sony headphones sport a full set of music playback controls along with a mic and call management.

Pairing was straightforward with my BlackBerry Bold 9000 and subsequent reconnections have gone perfectly, mirroring my experience with the Motorola S805 and S9-HD headsets. The days of fiddly Bluetooth connections are hopefully now well behind us!

Putting on the Sony DR-BT50

The DR-BT50 feels great to wear and the slim earpads enclose the ears comfortably. The pads are so soft that it’s easier to wear sunglasses with the Sonys compared to the Motorola S805, which is important if you live in a sunny part of the world. Having said that, this not so much a failing of the S805 but rather a comment on how soft the DR-BT50’s earpads really are.

Playback and volume controls are smallI mentioned earlier that the controls on the DR-BT50 are small and when I first saw them I wondered how I would find them when the cans were on my head. The power and call pickup buttons are fine but the playback and volume controls are, frankly, tiny. Worse still the playback control is a flick-touch rocker switch controlling play/pause/stop and track navigation. The S805 seems like a Tonka truck in comparison, with its large finger-friendly controls.

Listening to the Sony DR-BT50

In use the buttons on the DR-BT50 were actually easier to locate than I had feared, although the playback rocker is too easy to nudge causing a track skip when you’re trying to depress it to pause. The call pickup button is a decent size, as is the power button, so these present no issues.

In order to use the stereo music and playback functions you will need a device supporting the A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles. Check your specs on your device manufacturer’s website. A2DP provides music playback support and AVRCP provides remote control of playback functions.

Once the music is playing the BT50s simply shine compared to most other stereo Bluetooth headphones, trumping the Motorola S805 for both bass and mid-range.  However occasionally the top end detail seems to suffer at the expense of the solid bottom end frequencies. It’s not that reproduction is too overtly bass heavy, but rather that current consumer trends favor bass and consequently the DR-BT50 will find plenty of fans in this regard.

When a call comes in pressing the call accept button pauses music playback and answers the call. I could hear callers very clearly and they could hear me well both indoors and outside, although in both environments they did say I sometimes sounded distant.

FoldedThe DR-BT50 felt both light and snug even for lengthy listening sessions and that included time wearing sunglasses. When I was finished listening I found that the folded BT50s fit perfectly into my jacket pocket.

Some room for improvement

On the downside the DR-BT50 is picky about placement and likes to have a decent line of sight to the originating device. They are less tolerant to obstacles than the Motorola S805 and this results in occasional cut-outs unless your phone is in a shirt or jacket pocket fairly high up on your body. This issue is not unique to the DR-BT50, the Motorola S9-HD suffers from a similar weakness.

The DR-BT50 must have a decent size music buffer however because it takes a while for the cut-out to occur. As a result I found I could walk around normally with almost no cut-outs with my BlackBerry Bold in my top pocket. Part of this issue could also be attributed to the Bold, which I’ve found to have a below-average strength Bluetooth transmitter compared to some other phones I’ve used.

The other niggle is that Sony fitted the DR-BT50 with a proprietary charging port rather than a mini-USB connection.  This means having to remember to take the charger when you travel, rather than simply a USB cable to charge from a laptop.  Accessories these days should really be rechargeable via USB.

Is the Sony DR-BT50 a music legend?

Overall I can give the Sony DR-BT50 a solid recommendation at its current street price. Most listeners are likely to be very happy with their sound quality and they felt both practical and comfortable for extended use on my ears, although as ever your mileage may vary depending on your head and ear shape so try before you buy if you can!

Note: I also published an edited version of this review of the Sony DR-BT50 on BerryReporter.

Link to Sony DR-BT50 pproduct page.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Nov 7, 2009 - Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I am sure the sound quality is good, but I see these headphones as being too big for me.

    Comment by Bluetooth Stereo Headset Review | Dec 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. But is the sound quality gooooood?

    Comment by Lab Beat | Apr 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] a few offer genuine wind protection which is a must-have for New York winters. I sought out the Sony DR-BT50 specifically because they have snug-fitting earpads that do double duty as fair-weather ear muffs. […]

    Pingback by This gadget life « theONbutton | Sep 4, 2010 | Reply


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