Running on Bluetooth…I found a New Toy!

Mpow Headset 1

Ah, Mpow! When you asked if I wanted to review your Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones, I really wasn’t that excited. I mean, they look good, but my desk drawer is full of useless Bluetooth Headsets that look good!  Yes – I have more Bluetooth Headsets than the combined population of several small countries. It’s a sickness, but I’m OK with it.

Then I thought about it; I may have a lot of Bluetooth headsets, but how many are good for running? The list narrows.

I run fairly frequently (2-3 times a week), indoors and outdoors, and the biggest headache is finding a quality Bluetooth headset that fits well, has good sound, and doesn’t fall off have way through a run. I’ve gone through a bunch of ‘em. I’m currently using a set of over-the-ear headphones that are really good, so the bar was set high when I received my Mpow® Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Stereo Sweatproof Jogger, Running, Sport Headphones.

I have several inviolable rules about gadgets, especially headphones; (1) it must have a common (MicroUSB) power adapter, it must have good battery life, it must be easy to use, and it must be cost effective. After using the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones for several days now, I can tell you it meets all my expectations.

Adapter: Mpow uses a MicroUSB plug for recharging – no weird, proprietary connector that once lost is never found again. Mpow provides a cable, but any MicroUSB cable will do to recharge your headset. I ran it dry and it took less than 2 hours to fully recharge.

Battery Life: From full recharge this headset lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes of constant use. Do I need a life? Perhaps, but I listened to a couple of movies and some music before the voice in my ear said that the battery was low.

Ease of use: Just press and hold the “Mpow” power button to start the Bluetooth syncing process. The connection held (no dropouts or noise). The easy-to-find and use volume buttons double as “Next” and “Previous” for music selections. I found it easy to adjust the volume or change music selections while running, something beyond the capabilities of most headsets.

Cost effective: You will not go broke buying these. The build quality is terrific and the additional ear pieces help you find the perfect fit! Only time will tell about durability, but I’m betting on a long and useful life.

Running: I ran for an hour (treadmill) and the Mpow headset did not move, slip, or cause any distraction. I worried the sweat would cause them to fall out – didn’t even come close. The secure fit also served to block out surrounding noise – the person jabbering on their phone next to me, the din of 50 treadmills all running at the same time…nothing but music made its way into my ears!

Sound: Careful – these can get VERY loud, but some headsets I’ve used just aren’t loud enough. No matter the volume setting, the sound holds; good bass and treble, no noise (thanks Bluetooth 4.0!), and the secure fit means you get all the music and none of your surroundings.

I was really surprised by the fit. You forget they are even there! So watch out Treadmill, Lawn Mower, Leaf Blower, and my Daughter’s lovable (loud) dog, I’ve got the Mpow Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones and I’m not afraid to use them!

Sorry Gertrude!

The GERD has his share of maladies – a bad knee, a Thyroid that went AWOL several years ago, Sleep Apnea, and a condition known as ShortFatUgly-ness.  All that is bad enough, but there is one condition that really bugs the GERD.  Way up, way, way up, inside my right ear sits a lady (I call her Gertrude) who plays an organ.  This is a special organ – it has only one key, a real high key, and Gertrude plays it ALL THE TIME!  I went to an audiologist last year and he had a name for it, Tinnitus, also known as “ringing in the ears”.  Only mine isn’t a ringing, it’s that real high-pitched key that Gertrude plays ALL THE TIME.  My audiologist was very nice; he gave me a very useful piece of advice.   He said, “GERD, silence is the enemy”.  Once I finished giving him that strange look that only the GERD can (ask my daughters), it started to make sense to me.  When I’m in a really quiet environment, Gertrude really goes to town on her organ.  The quieter it is, the louder she gets.  Ever tried sleeping with that going on in your head?  What my Audiologist told me was to go to sleep at night with some noise, any noise, to take my mind off of Gertrude (he doesn’t really call her that, only I do).  Otherwise she keeps me up all night with her one note song of torture. 

But wait a minute; the GERD’s wife doesn’t have Tinnitus!  How unfair would that be; “sorry dear but Gertrude demands that I play music so I can sleep.  What’s that, you need sleep too??”

To every problem in life there is a technological solution (OK, that’s not really true but it’s fun looking for one).   Like many of you I have used, from time to time, a blue tooth headset with my cell phone.  These tend to be large, expensive, and weak on battery life.  When looking for a technological solution to Gertrude I found a blue tooth headset that is not large, not expensive, and not weak on battery life.  The Plantronics Marque M155 Bluetooth Headset is small in size and fits comfortably and securely in the GERD’s offending ear, and lasts for several hours on a single charge.  It syncs easily and rapidly with my Samsung Galaxy S3, my iPad Mini, and every other blue tooth capable device I have.  I wear it to bed (don’t laugh; I have a condition, after all!).  I play a movie or a music playlist from my Nexus (in its docking station on my night table).  Once the movie/playlist is done, the Plantronics stays unobtrusively in my ear.  Sleeping on my back or on my left side helps.  Even if it pops out during the night, no harm is done.  The best thing is that this beauty only costs around $30.  That’s a deal in the GERD’s book of technological solutions to life’s problem!

 I wear it driving to work (listening to my favorite book from Audible).  I wear it at work listening to Pandora.  Since it’s in only one ear I can still hear conversations, the phone, and my email alert.  I wear it while shopping, doing chores around the house; I even wear it on the airplane.  Having one ear available to hear things is an advantage in every situation, except where certain relatives are concerned.

 The sound quality is really good, if only in one ear.  Sound controls are easy to use; it’s so small and light that I forget it’s there.  And yes, you can also use it to make phone calls!  Call quality is quite good (so I’m told by those who call me), and when the call is concluded the music/Audio book takes up where it left off.  I have 5 of these things and I use them everywhere.  They recharge (quickly) with a standard micro USB connector.

So my audiologist was correct, silence may be my enemy, but with my Plantronics blue tooth headset, I’ve made peace with Gertrude.  She’s not really a bad person, but I wish she would learn to play a new note!

My Favorite Bluetooth Headsets

I love Bluetooth headsets!  There is just something so comfortable about listening to good music (thanks Pandora), a ballgame (thanks MLB.com) or a good audio book (OK, thanks Audible.com) without the annoyance of a cord that is too short, too long, or just too much in my way!  One look at the old GERD’s desk will prove that I have many Bluetooth headsets – I use them all (more or less), and I have discovered what I like the most and the least about them.  If you are considering buying a Bluetooth Headset you must consider three things.

(1) Mono or Stereo, (2) Ease of Use, and (3) Cost

(1) Mono or Stereo: Mono headsets, designed almost exclusively for use during cell phone calls, can also be used to listen to music.  There are advantages to using a mono headset; you can use them at home or the office and still be aware of what’s going on around you; it’s legal to use them while driving (just please be careful); you can use them while shopping or standing in line at the bank (I love to listen to a baseball game or an audio book while shopping).  The sound quality of these mono headsets have improved dramatically over the years.

(2) Ease of Use: The GERD is a patient man, but he has been known to fling an uncooperative piece of technology in the trash.  I want my toys to work without taking courses from the Home Office.  Also, recharging the headset should be easy – specialized adapters are fine until you lose them (trust me, I have).  Give me a standard Mini or Micro USB plug in my Bluetooth headset any day!

(3) Cost: Despite what my daughters may think, the GERD is not a wealthy man (having two daughters is a major contributing factor).  I don’t want to have to get a loan to buy a Bluetooth headset.  However, you do usually get what you pay for, so expect to plunk down at least $50 for a good product.

Recommendations: As I said before, I have many different Bluetooth headsets.  Not everyone can win the Gold, so here are my personal favorites, both mono and stereo.

Best Mono Bluetooth Headset: The Motorola Elite Silver.  This headset has superb sound quality for both music and phone calls, it’s easy to use, light as a feather, and won’t kill your wallet.  At $129 (Best Buy, $89 at Amazon) it’s not cheap, but the results are worth it.  The Elite Silver fits over your ear and has a rotating ear bud that allows you to get just the right fit.  Unlike an ear bud, it won’t fall out during use, but I wouldn’t use it while exercising (the book says to keep it away from moisture).  It comes with an innovative recharging case that has it’s own battery.  I know, I said not to use a specialized power adapter, but the recharging case is small enough to fit in your pocket and uses a micro USB connector.  Take it out of the case and rotate the ear bud (left or right, depending on which ear you want to use) to turn it on.  Once synced to your phone/tablet/iPod, it reconnects better than any other Bluetooth device I’ve used (actually, it’s a tie with the Best Stereo Headset, read on!).  It gives you an audible confirmation of the connection and the battery status.  If I didn’t already have one, I’d buy one!  The Elite Silver is a superb product that I use everyday.

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Best Stereo Headset: The Rocketfish High-Definition (RF-MAB2).  Excellent sound, comfortable to wear, great battery life, and a steal at just $59.99.  This over the ear/behind the head design uses a mini USB connector to recharge and the battery life is rated at 14 hours by Rocketfish; I’d like to challenge that but I’ve never had the darn thing run out of life (I tend to recharge often, your experience may vary!).  Good for music and cell phone calls, I get the most out of mine while running on the treadmill.  I hate worrying about battery life while I’m worrying about a heart attack!  Volume and Forwards/Backwards buttons along with the Power/Pause/Call answer button that are very easy to locate and use, even while slogging along on the treadmill.   My Rocketfish has never let me down. Once synced, it reconnects to my iPhone/iPad everytime.

Honorable Mention: The Plantronics Back Beat.  Good sound, decent battery life (~3 hours); it uses ear buds that seems to fit well and in-line sound and pause controls that can be difficult to locate during use.  The Back Beat is light, unlike some others I’ve tried, and less likely to shift around during wear.  I’ve used them while running; take my advice – don’t.  The ear buds need constant attention (falling out).  I found it very distracting.  I always find reconnecting to my devices harder than it needs to be.  A little pricy at $99, but if you like ear buds, this will work for you.

Jaybird Freedom: Good ear bud headset for around $99.  The cord goes behind your head (or in front if you want – why would you?) and tends to lie against your neck.  This can be a bit uncomfortable.  The volume controls are on the right ear bud with the power switch/pause/call button.  The Jaybird uses a special power adapter.  Lose it (I did!) and you’re sunk.  It has decent battery life.  In my experience, the ear buds tend to slip out (maybe it’s just my ears, there are several bud types in the package).  If you use just one ear, the other ear bud pulls the cord down, pulls the other ear bud out, then you get mad, you start to frown, and everyone thinks you are a bad person!

Next Time: Apple or Android; I’ve Used Both.