Review: Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset

Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset
By Gary Mazo on 14 Jul 2008 12:20 pm EDT
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The technology of Bluetooth Headsets has been evolving at a rapid pace. High quality, noise canceling Bluetooth headsets can now be had for around $100.00. last year, Aliph took the world by storm with the introduction of the Jawbone with state of the art DSP technology. I recently reviewed the new Jawbone 2 and it certainly set the standard for Noise Cancellation headsets.

Now, Australia's BlueAnt - the manufacture of some of the highest rated headsets on this site - enters the DSP world with a new twist.  Their Z9 headset had won rave reviews last year – now it has been updated to the z9i.  Don't be fooled by its diminutive size, this is an amazing piece of technology wrapped up in a very small package. Is this the new king of the Bluetooth hill? Read on for my thoughts and a comprehensive review.

BlueAnt makes some of the finest and most economical Bluetooth Headsets on the market. Now they bring a new type of DSP (Digital Signal Processor) technology to the table - which they call Voice Isolation Technology.

About BlueAnt Wireless

BlueAnt Wireless is Australia’s largest supplier of Bluetooth peripheral devices. BlueAnt’s product portfolio includes hands-free, stereo audio streaming and wireless communication products offering cutting-edge technology, design and features. BlueAnt’s Global Head Office is located in Melbourne, Australia and the company’s recent expansion has seen the opening of a North American office in New York, as well as a London office servicing the European market. For further company information, please refer to BlueAnt’s North American website: www.myblueant.com. Here's the "Official" line on the Z9i:

Z9i Bluetooth Headset - A great headset is now even better...

The BlueAnt Z9i is the follow up to the award winning and highly successful Z9 Bluetooth Headset. The device includes additional box contents and enhanced  features. Incorporating BlueAnt's revolutionary Digital Signal Processing solution - Voice Isolation Technology™, the Z9i provides outstanding noise suppression, echo cancellation and wind noise reduction. The headset's 'Voice Isolation Max' feature further enhances the user experience in extreme noise environments.

Ehancements Include:

 Feature Z9i Z9
Pairs with
5 devices
3 devices
Connection Method
Multi-point On-the-Fly switching between 3 devices
Phones Connected 2 at a time
1 at a time
Ear Bud(s) Multiple offerings(small & large; interchangeable) Single offering (large)
Ear Hook 1 translucent & 1 rubberized, ergonomic ear hook Translucent only
Color Option
Gloss Black & Soft Touch Red
Gloss Black only
Packaging Refreshed consumer-friendly design with BlueAnt Tech Support label
Original packaging
Software Improved Noise Cancellation Software Original software
Software Upgrade
Improved PC upgrade ability
Original upgrade procedure
  • Winner of CES 2007 Innovations Design & Engineering Award
  • Two microphones for pure speech
  • Revolutionary Voice Isolation Technology™ produces noise suppression, echo cancellation and wind noise reduction
  • Separates the desired voice signal from background noise enabling crystal clear communication in the noisiest of environments
  • During a call, users can switch between two Voice Isolation modes - Standard and Max
  • Multipoint
  • Automatic connection and reconnection with notification
  • Different ringtones for known and unknown contacts
  • Innovative tie clip for attaching to shirt or cuff, when not in use
  • Stylish, translucent ear hook and rubberised metal ear hook
  • Firmware upgrade via USB on your PC
  • Small & lightweight 
  • Up to 5.5 hrs talk-time or 200 hrs standby
  • Bluetooth v2.0 
Blueant Z9i
What comes in the box!

And now on to the review......

Design

It is hard to appreciate just how small this thing is until you hold it in your hands. Next to the old Aliph Jawbone, it looks minute – next to the new Jawbone 2 – it still looks small. The headset really has a very sleek look. With all this technology, I expected many more buttons to have to learn. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how simple and user friendly the design was.

Z9i and Jawbone 2
Still small compared to the new Jawbone 

The multi-function button which is used for answering and disconnecting calls, initiating voice dialing and pairing is on the main face of the headset. A stylish "Blue" Ant is emblazoned on the button. On the top of the headset are very easy to use and large volume up and volume down buttons.

Z9i and Jawbone 2

On the back of the Z9i is where the  ear loop clicks in and where the earpiece is located. Unlike the Z9 which had another button for the noise cancellation – the Z9i uses the Multi Function button to activate the  "Voice Isolation" technology - the “standard” setting is fine most situations. For particularly noisy environments, the "Max" setting isolates the voices and virtually eliminates all background noises. Two microphones pick up the nuances in your voice for clear transmission to the end user.

BlueAnt Z9iBlueant Z9i

Comfort

Many Bluetooth headsets are just not comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The Z9i is incredibly lightweight and very comfortable for wearing over extended periods of time. It was so light that I really did barely notice that I was wearing it. When I wasn't wearing it on my ear, the built in lapel clip made it easy to clip to my shirt or jacket - a very nice feature that I wish more headsets had.

Ease of Use

All this technology is worthless if it is too difficult for the typical user to master. Fortunately, the Z9i could not be easier to use. Pairing was a snap - just put into pairing mode and have your phone search for it and then put in the pass code. A nice feature is that the headset can switch on the fly between multiple devices - a nice feature for road warriors. It was also easy to set different ring tones in the headset for known and unknown contacts.

Sound Quality

As always, the make or break issue for Bluetooth headsets is the quality of the sound. With those headsets using DSP technology we have to look at the sound on both ends of the call. The BlueAnt Z9i rivaled the best Bluetooth headsets for overall sound quality and noise isolation.

From the headset itself, callers sounded very clear and loud - I had to turn the volume down several times when wearing this which is not the norm for Bluetooth headsets.
I am always amazed that with headsets this small, which are nowhere near my mouth, my voice can come across loud and clear. I had my wife use this headset in several noisy environments and I was truly amazed by how clear her voice was and how little noise was present. I was still able to hear the radio in the car – but her voice was very clear.

I did ask her to switch to "Max" isolation and the DSP technology was so powerful that it picked up every nuance of her voice and if other people were in the car - their voices were picked up as well. The voice of the caller is certainly isolated and made crystal clear.  However, I found that background noise was not totally “cancelled” like in the Jawbone.

It seems like the BlueAnt philosophy is not to eliminate all noise except for the sound of the caller – but to “isolate” the voice – even if you can still hear some background noise.

Overall Conclusions

For $74.95 at the ShopCrackBerry.com store (MSRP of $119.95), you will be hard pressed to find a better Bluetooth headset. You might be hard pressed to find one for double that cost. The proprietary "Voice Isolation" technology is remarkable and truly isolates the callers voice. The built in "clip" to attach the headset to your clothes when not in use was also a very nice touch. This headset is stylish, packed with technological innovations and very comfortable.

In my direct comparison with the Jawbone 2 – the Jawbone comes out on top – but you also pay a premium for slightly better Noise reduction.

Blueant Z9i Review Summary:
Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset
Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset Ratings

Pros:

  • Super small
  • Great DSP Technology
  • Clear call quality
  • Good value

Cons:

  • "Noise Isolation Technology" enhances the voice, but you can still hear background noise
Buy Now:
Purchase the Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Stereo Headset in the ShopCrackBerry.com Store

Reader comments

Review: Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset

29 Comments

...and I agree that it is a wonderful device. I do agree that with sound quality you could mark them down a bit, but aesthetics should be a full 5. The fact that it's smaller than a Jawbone 2 should already give it higher marks. All other reviews on aesthetics are based on personal taste but we can all agree that the tiny size of this device make it aesthetically pleasing.

Anyway, good review. I love this headset.

Thanks for compairing it to the Jawbone 2. I have been trying to decide between the BlueAnt V1 & the new Jawbone.

Thanks for compairing it to the Jawbone 2. I have been trying to decide between the BlueAnt V1 & the new Jawbone.

On the WE (OS 4.2.2.176) the volume can only be adjusted by using the buttons on the Z9i. BlueAnt confirmed that the firmware disables the volume controls on the BB. The default volume is only about 40%. Could be louder on my platform - still evaluating whether to keep it or look for another headset.

Rubberized metal ear hook is bendable, although I have not tried this yet.

I bought this headset when it first came out. There's only 2 things that I have a problem with, but they are things I can live with.

The main one is the button placement. If I'm on the phone and need to adjust the headset to fit it in my ear better, I had the tendency to push forward on the headset with my finger, which unfortunately pressed the button and hung up the phone. I don't think there's really anywhere else it could be put on such a small headset, but I have hung up on people a couple times. It only happens a couple times before you change how you hold it when you adjust the headset.

The other thing is that people have told me that I've sounded like I was in a cave or talking into a tin can, while others have said it sounded fine.

A good thing that's not listed in the review is the ability to turn off the blinking blue light when it's on. I can't stand seeing that on other people.

I also have a WE and agree with K9_Rider that the only way to adjust the volume is from the headset.

From what I understood from past posts, the BlueAnt has a limited range away from the phone compared to the Jawbone. Has this improved with this model?

I have not experienced the range problems discussed in previous posts (BB on opposite hip, on passenger car seat, etc). I have been able to leave the room and still stayed connected up to probably close to the 30' limit. When I exceeded the range and it did drop the headset beeps, and if you get back in range in a reasonable amount of time, the headset automatically reconnects.

I had the Jawbone 2, returned it for this one. I MUCH prefer this one. Best BT headset I have ever had.

Does this use the standard USB mini charger? I'd like to be able to charge my blackberry or BT headset with the same adapter - instead of having to tote around another adapter like the jawbone requires.

Thanks!

Unfortunately, this is a proprietary charger so the BlackBerry charger won't work. It would be nice is everyone would just have one standard. The Jawbone 2 has a very cool magnetic charger, but it is also only good for that device.

I have the Jawbone and The Z9i and I am not sure they are either all that they are cracked up to be. The Z9i is a much more comfortable earpiece to wear, stylish and functional. It is my preferred headset!

It would be very helpful to have links here to reviews of other devices, comparisons, etc. This is what a proper review needs to include.

At the end of the review, there should be a space for these.

My fave headset, but the only bad thing is after 3-5 months (one after 3 months and one after 5 months), the silicone ear gel thing breaks down and becomes tacky, and I don't wear mine constantly, and do keep it clean. I wish there were replacement gels, but there aren't, and I purchased mine at Best Buy. I reverted back to Jabra, after taking back the new Jawbone. I miss Blue Ant, but am not going to go through one every 3-6 months. It rocked my world, otherwise!

Actually, the little gel earpiece IS available separately. It's about $10 for one or $15 for two. You can buy them at mobilecityonline.com.

Overall I like the Z9i. It's my first BT earpiece and I had been eyeing it for a while. I bought one when I bought my BB Curve.

I have a couple issues:

1) I can't get the BB media player to play through it. I know a mono feed wouldn't make sense for music but I was hoping to listen to podcasts and other voice content via my BB and the Z9i... help?

2) Does anyone else hear a 'very high pitch' noise while the Z9i is on standby. It's faint but loud enough I don't keep the Z9i on my ear unless on a call. It's kinda like the noise you hear from a CRT TV... thoughts?

I have the Z9i and am not impressed. Whenever I talk to people on it they complain they cannot hear me, only background noise (which is amplified tremendously). They also say I sound like I'm in a tunnel, or underwater, etc. Save your money and buy a corded headset, which can be had for less than $5 online, has none of the sound problems, and doubles for use as a stereo headset for listening to music.

I have the same problem. In fact people told me to call back when I wasn't in the car. They said it sounded muffled or like I was underwater. I called Blueant and they are going to replace it with another one. We'll see if it is any better.

One thing I was concerned about with the Jawbone was the size of the buttons. This z9i is smaller, but the buttons are larger. That's a perfect marriage to me. Great sound and extremely easy to use. None of the issues others have mentioned above. Lovin it for sure so far.

I couldn't agree more with your positive comments on this device. If I had thought to read some of these comments before, I might have saved myself a lot of money and time. Just like Jbtkbw100 said, I found a lot of the z9i's features a perfect marriage for my needs too. Still lovin it and spreading the news to others.

I just returned mine, to me had terrible sound quality and same as above people I talked to said they couldn't hear me well, just lots of static

I've been searching to the perfect bluetooth headset for years. The z9i is the closest I've gotten to absolute perfection. It's small, yet powerful. It's light weight with ton's of functionality. My favorite feature is the multi-point design, which allows me to connect my z9i to both my Business (8700c) and personal (8310) BlackBerry smart phones. During my morning commute I have to handle incoming calls from employees, my family and automated traffic alerts. This little dynamo handles it all without a lick of trouble.

And the voice clarity is almost without equal. I've purchased and tried out so many bluetooth devices, including the Jawbone. several Plantronics and even the Motorola H12 with crystal talk. I've paid anywhere from $40 to $130 for this technology. Everyone of them have failed me in either clarity for me and/or my listeners, comfort, style or functionality. But I've tried the Blueant z9i in even imaginable situation and have NEVER been disappointed.

During my z9i calls my listeners have never even noticed I was using a headset. Totally different from the number of comments I use to get like, "Are you using another bluetooth again/ ...speak up so I can hear you!" And the worse has always been, "Hello, hello ...did we get disconnected?!" No such trouble with the best bluetooth on the planet, the Blueant z9i. IT ROCKS!!!

I have to add that the neat little feature that allows me to hang the headset on my shirt or jacket pocket is really handy too. Nice touch guys.

Blueant: I thank you, my listeners thank you, my wife thanks you and my wallet thanks you!!

I hate to say it, but the sound quality on mine is horrible. My wife cannot understand anything I way when I use the Blueant. Otherwise it's comfortable, and the functionality of the single button is amazing. Perhaps I just received a bum unit.

i have a z9 and i need a new charger i havent been able to use my btooth for months. does anyone know where i can purchase just a chrgr (home or car is fine) thanks.

You said it:

"Cons:

"Noise Isolation Technology" enhances the voice, but you can still hear background noise..."

I'm using solicall and it works great both for echo and noise reduction. They should integrate such a smart solution in the Z9i which would make it perfect.

decent call quality, but the plantronics 520 I still think beats it in that regard. not as much of a tin sound if that makes any sense.
I love the form factor of this device, but the 520 is easier to put on and fits better.
I may have to try the smaller ear bud.

I have been reading these comments and reviews on the Blueant Z9i and that will be the next headset I try in the next couple of weeks. I currently own a Jabra bt8040 which has a decent fit but the headset will slide around in ear gel. It will stream music and has good noise reduction but makes a funny noise sometimes when disconnected. I've had Motorola 700. wonderful headset but did not match up good with my enV. sold it. I've had several Jabras, Plantronics, Motorolas. I'm looking for quality, comfortability, sound and size. I hope the Z9i is it.
Anyone with some number one su?ggestions

I don't know if the earpieces just don't fit in my ear right or what, but I can't hear worth a...I can't hear, no matter how high I turn up the volume.