Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bluetooth-Capable MP3 Player Comparison

If you're not a fan of wires or the small ear bud headphones that come with 99% of the MP3 players out there, the best option available right now is Bluetooth. Not every player comes with it, and the ones that do vary in how well it is implemented. Bluetooth support is actually pretty rare among the wide array of players available. Yet if you've got a player that does include it, your music experience can spread beyond your ears. With some players you'll also get the ability to transmit files back and forth to other MP3 players or your PC if it has Bluetooth capability.

Definitions: Bluetooth is an industry specification that describes how Bluetooth-compliant stereo headsets, mobile phones, and external devices can easily interconnect with each other using a short (10 meter) wireless connection. There are several different uses for Bluetooth. Your PC may support Bluetooth keyboards, mouses, speakers, network sharing, headsets, headphones, and file transfer. The best of the pocket media players supports Bluetooth headsets, speakers, file transfer, cell phone pairing, and even game play over Bluetooth. Some acronyms we've been talking about include: (EDR)Enhanced Data Rate, (OPP) Object Push Profile, (A2DP) Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, (AVRCP) Audio Video Remote Control Profile, and (HFP) Hands Free Profile.

Players and the profiles they support:
- Samsung YP-P2: Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. A2DP, AVRCP, OPP, HFP
- Samsung YP-T10: Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. A2DP, AVRCP, OPP, HFP
- Cowon S9: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. A2DP, AVRCP Profiles
- Iriver SPINN: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. A2DP, AVRCP Profiles
- Insignia Pilot: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. A2DP, AVRCP Profiles
- Philips SA5245BT: Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. A2DP, AVRCP, OPP Profiles
- Sony NWZ-A828KBLK : Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. A2DP, AVRCP Profiles
- Haier Ibiza H1A030BK: Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. A2DP, AVRCP Profiles

I've had a chance to try out the bluetooth on both Samsungs, the Philips, Insignia, Cowon, and Iriver. The Iriver SPINN and Cowon S9 are both relatively new, and when using bluetooth on both I've run into a few problems with the devices running slow or choppy, or causing the music to skip or breakup. They also have difficulty seeing standalone bluetooth speakers. Each has gotten better with recent firmware updates, and I have faith they'll both get the bugs worked out eventually. The Philips is reliable, and even sends FM radio over bluetooth which is something no other player seems capable of handling. The Philips also adds the ability to send files to other devices once connected. I've tested this with the Samsung P2, and was able to send a music file from the Philips to it, as well as send a file back to the Philips from the Samsung. Bluetooth file transfer is not terribly fast, but will get the job done. The Philips also worked with the Samsung T10 and my Samsung Instinct phone.

All of the players I've tried sound great when their audio is sent over bluetooth to a decent receiver. There are several over-ear headsets out there in the $50 to $100 range. With relatively small driver, you'll miss the lower frequencies and this may contribute to Bluetooth's poor reputation for stereo audio transmission. With better quality bluetooth headphones my experience matches that of wired connections to good headphones.

Some headsets to consider are: The Sony DR-BT50, The JBL Reference Series 610, and Motorola S805. With most Bluetooth headphones/headsets you can also pair with with a cell phone and use hands-free for sending and receiving calls. The Samsung P2 and T10 can also be paired with bluetooth cell phones and be used to send and receive calls, pausing their music automatically when a call come in.

The Insignia Pilot appears to be out of production, but it represents a great value if you can find one. Bluetooth works great on it, and it pairs easily with all compatible products I've tested.

Summary: If you're tired of the wires, Bluetooth has matured into a great way to get rid of them. The Samsung Players lead the pack, with Cell phone pairing, file transfer, and even device-to-device game play over bluetooth. Philips comes in second. Philips also makes several other great Bluetooth accessories, and appear to be aggressively working to put bluetooth in even more. The Insignia does a great job, but limits it to stereo audio. The same is true of the Cowon and Iriver players, but I'll reserve final judgement on them until their firmwares evolve some more.

I've mentioned Bluetooth in several posts. For me it's a killer application, making portable media players with bluetooth profoundly more user friendly, versatile, and enjoyable than what came before.

Some previous posts relating to Bluetooth. Enjoy!



  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks, Margaret. I enjoy writing it. I've got a few new products to blog about, and expect to get to them shortly. Keep an eye out.


  3. Hey 4D I too enjoy your blog...very informative. I used to be a member on YJ by way of my P2...Since then I've had the Instinct