Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 Wireless Stereo Headphones

The main attraction of the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 headphones is their teensy size. Weighing less than half an ounce, the headphones sport an earbud-style design with a slender strand of cable connecting the two buds. Such luxury and convenience don′t come cheap, though: the headset lists for $200 (as of March 22, 2009). The next-most-expensive models of the five I examined for a stereo headset roundup were two $130 products–the Motorola MotoRokr S9-HD and the Altec Lansing BackBeat 906.

Sony Ericsson provides three sets of different-size earbuds in the package, though the even smallest pair were still a smidge too large for my small ears. Nonetheless, I was able to get a reasonably good seal, and the overall fit seemed comfortable, secure, and discreet. The headphones stayed snug as I walked (and then ran) around.

In general, the headphones delivered great-sounding tracks, with crisp vocals, warm (but not overwhelming) bass, and clear reproduction of background instruments–such as a tambourine′s jangles. I found, however, that dance music, like acid jazz, tended to come across as a mishmash rather than distinct tones.

Phone call quality was mostly good. People could tell I was speaking on a headset, but voices were clear at both ends. Call recipients occasionally heard a crackling sound in the background; they told me that–though my chatter blocked background noise somewhat–when I stopped talking, the loud din became quite noticeable.

The inline control unit actually dangles down from the left side of the headset. This unit houses the microphone and the action button–the headset′s only control. I found it a bit annoying, as it often got tangled up in my hair, but surprisingly it didn′t bob around much. You use it to turn the headset on and off; to initiate, accept/reject, and end a call; and to play or pause tunes. The HBH-IS800 doesn′t let you adjust the volume or skip forward or backward through tracks. I missed that.

If you′re willing to sacrifice some phone and music controls for an ultrasmall headset with dependable audio quality–and the hefty price tag is no barrier–the Sony Ericsson package has got the goods.

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