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.
||On-the-Fly switching between 3 devices
||2 at a time
||1 at a time
||Multiple offerings(small & large; interchangeable)
||Single offering (large)
||1 translucent & 1 rubberized, ergonomic ear hook
||Gloss Black & Soft Touch Red
||Gloss Black only
||Refreshed consumer-friendly design with BlueAnt Tech Support label
||Improved Noise Cancellation Software
||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
- 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
What comes in the box!
And now on to the review......
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.