Bluetooth Headphones: Nokia BH-503 vs Sony DR-BT20NX

I’m a Nokia fan, but I’ll try to be objective on this one.

While perusing my RSS feeds today, I came across at Nokia Beta Labs about the possibility of winning the Nokia BH-503 bluetooth stereo headset by giving feedback about one of their applications. You can find that here: http://betalabs.nokia.com/blog/2009/09/23/win-a-nokia-bh-503-bluetooth-stereo-headsets-for-your-feedback .

This prompted me to write up a quick review of this device. You can see an image of it at the link above.  But first, a bit of history.

I discovered bluetooth stereo headphones virtually by intuition about two or three years ago. I was thinking one day about my aged JVC headphones, how it was so difficult to get good headphones in Nigeria, and how I needed to replace these I was holding soon. My thoughts wandered into bluetooth. You see, aged phones always develop wire problems along the way, and quickly become a major annoyance to use.

I figured, bluetooth can support speeds of up to 2mbit/sec, was that sufficient to replace the wires that ran into my current headphones for transferring sound? Some quick mental math based on a CD quality WAV file said no. But for mp3s, this was ample bandwidth.

I decided to see if the bluetooth people had thought of something of the sort. Google helped. A search for "bluetooth headphones" proved that my fantasy was not new. I was excited, and my next task was figuring out how to actually lay my hands on such a device.

I had to wait for more than a year. I eventually got my first pair when my dad travelled to the UK for a business trip. Such things, as I already explained, are not easy to get in Nigeria. I gave him specific instructions to get me "bluetooth headphones and NOT a  bluetooth headset". I made him understand that I would be very very unhappy if he failed to do this.

As it was, my first pair of bluetooth stereo headphones turned out to be the Sony DR-BT20NX. I was a bit disappointed that it was a Sony, but this device was awesome. Sub-zero cool in fact. I’ve had this pair for over a year now, and recently added the Nokia BH-503 to my collection. You see, the wire-ageing problem wasn’t entirely eliminated in the Sony device. Here is a comparison of the two devices. This is by no means scientific.

Feature Description Sony DR-BT20NX Nokia BH-503
Form-factor Earbuds. CPU (which contains controls) is a rectangular box that hangs off your neck via a loop of wire, like a necklace. The earbuds extend from the "necklace" in a way that easily plugs into your ears, and can be strapped back when not in use. Over-the-ear Headphones, frame runs round head near base of skull. CPU is on the right headphone, together with controls and charging slot.
Battery Life (Manufacturer’s claim) 11 Hours of playback. Largely true. 13 Hours of playback. Largely true.
Sound Quality (Based on my judgement) Excellent. The earbuds also help to keep external sounds out. Excellent. Phones are big enough to cover your ear comfortably.
Comfortability Earbuds are not exactly fun to use for long. The weight of the phones makes them troublesome after about an hour or so.
Charging A desktop charger, which is quite trendy, but frankly, just another annoying box to remember to pack when travelling. The nature of the device (Phones) makes it difficult to charge using a desktop charger. Device is unusable while charging. Uses the standard Nokia charger, so if you use a Nokia phone already, that’s one less charger for you to pack. Also, you can use the device while it is charging.
Performance Fast and responsive. It seems to have its own audio amplifier, so you can get quite loud if you want (not recommended though). This device trumps the Nokia on the performance side. Very usable. Play/pause/stop/volume are quite usable. However, there is a noticeable lag between button presses and command response. It’s not so large as to be annoying, but its there. Particularly, it takes about 2 seconds from pressing the answer button to actually receiving an incoming call.
Price ₦13,000 ₦15,000
Longevity considerations (I am a heavy user, but expect my devices to last long, since I am generally careful with them) Looks solidly made, but still contains visible wires, which are bound to become problematic after a while. Mine failed around the one year mark. I disassembled the device, trimmed the faulty segment, and soldered it back together, and the device is still going.

No visible wires. Frame is made of flexible plastic, and the only fragile part appears to be the headphones themselves, so there should be no ageing wire troubles here. However, the soft casing over the speakers doesn’t seem to be replaceable, so the device will definitely become useless once the original covering wears off. Lets see how long that lasts.
Cool Factor Goes well with formal dress, since its not so conspicuous. People think its a cheapo mp3 player, which gets on my nerves when they ask me. Just a factor of ignorance too though. They usually gape when I tell them its bluetooth. Plus the Sony label isn’t exactly low-class is it? Leaves people in awe. They see headphones, but no wires. Plus the Nokia label on it makes people wonder when Nokia started making headphones. He he, that’s also just a factor of ignorance, but I like it.
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Random quote: The future is a race between education and catastrophe. — H. G. Wells

4 thoughts on “Bluetooth Headphones: Nokia BH-503 vs Sony DR-BT20NX

  1. am having a problem with my newly bought nokia bh 503 i cant put it on and while it is charging the red light blink only three times………..help me please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. @Anonymous, if its not working, you should take it back for a refund or replacement, provided its still within the appropriate time-frame.

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