BlueAnt Z9 Dual Mic Bluetooth Headset

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Product: BlueAnt Z9 Dual Mic Bluetooth Headset
Provided By: BlueAnt Wireless
Price: From $61.49 @ Pricegrabber.com

 

Introduction:

There are so many Bluetooth headsets on the market today.  This market is incredibly crowded and to have a unique product is really difficult.  BlueAnt Wireless in not a new company in the grand scheme of things, but they are relatively new to North America.  This Australian based company has actually been around for quite a few years.  What is interesting is that everyone we talked to at CES and actually everyone in the New York office we talked to was from Australia as well.

According to the list of features this headset is a winner.  It has active noise isolation technology, dual mics, great talk and standby time.  What even makes this more impressive is that it can pair with up to three devices.  Many expensive headsets from the competition only connect with a couple of devices, and the Z9 takes this a step further for a budget price.  But all of the specs and features are useless if it doesn't work as advertised. We paired this unit up with our laptop, phone and PDA and have given it a workout over the past few weeks, but before we get into the testing, let's take a quick look at who BlueAnt.

Z9
Z9 Package Details

 

About BlueAnt:

 

A market leader in the Australian Bluetooth industry, BlueAnt Wireless provides the ultimate in Bluetooth communication and audio streaming solutions.

Our success to date has been rapid yet our approach is simple: to deliver a customer centric solution through the creation of close relationships with all of our partners – from our distributors to our dealers, through to the people buying our products.

We only offer services that we can deliver. We only launch products that we can support.

BlueAnt is the Bluetooth brand which an increasing number of dealers are adding to their range. We recognize that we need to be different. We recognize that we need to be more than just another Bluetooth brand.

All brands speak of quality but do other brands support all of their products with a 2 year full replacement hardware warranty?
BlueAnt does.

Who offers a 72 hour turnaround on any query or warranty concern?
We do.

You want quality third party independent reviews on our product range?
We’ve got them.

We want to talk to consumers. It removes the pressure from our partners and allows them to focus on what they do best. It allows us to answer queries on our products first hand. That’s why we operate a comprehensive customer service and support program.

The integrity of our relationships and supply becomes obvious from the moment that you begin working with us – you are the important factor in the BlueAnt equation. You represent the frontline to our market after all.

 


 

Bundled Accessories:

The BlueAnt Z9 is their latest current offering in the Bluetooth headset arena, and while they have a lot of other units available and one unit coming out in the near future that will set the standard for high-end devices – the Z9 is an offering that will appeal to many users.  It is small, compact and very fashionable; as far as something sticking out of your ear goes.

Z9 Bundle
Z9 Bundle

 

The Z9 comes with a couple of extra translucent ear hooks in case you break one or two, as well as a nice easy-to read manual, a wall charger as well as a short USB cable that is used for charging and updating firmware.  While many other headsets claim the firmware can be updated, you’d be hard pressed to find a firmware available for a Bluetooth headset.  BlueAnt excels in this area and our headset shipped with 3.3v firmware and during the course of testing another firmware update was made available.  Updating is a simple and quick process that helps tweak and enhance the abilities of the hardware that exist inside the tiny Z9.

 

Closer Look:

 Z9 Top Side
Z9 Top Side
 Z9 Earpiece
Z9 Earpiece

 

The Z9 is incredibly small and actually sits a little narrower that the much acclaimed Jabra JX10 headset.  We’ll compare performance later on, but I thought I’d make a mention of the small size. 

 Z9 Bottom
Z9 Bottom
 Z9 Charge Jack
Z9 Charge Jack

 

You may be able to see in the top picture on the right that there is a clip on the back of the Z9.  This is used for clipping the Z9 to your shirt or some other convenient location for storage.  While you may think this is not required or kind of useless, the reality is that with the small size of this unit, if it’s not clipped or stored somewhere you’ll probably lose it.

The ear hook can be easily adjusted and the headset can be worn on either ear.  The volume buttons will be on the bottom of the unit if it’s worn on the left side, but that shouldn’t bother most people.   Finally, you can see the mini-USB connector that is used for charging the device as well as updating firmware.  It is comfortably hidden out of site and plugs in firmly.


BlueAnt Z9 Specifications & Features:

I’ve talked about this unit being full featured and having good battery life.  The image below has been pulled from the BlueAnt site to show you the more technical details of the Z9.

Z9 Specs

The range on this unit is stated to be a pretty standard 10m and we will be testing this out more in the future.  The BlueAnt logo on the headset itself blinks either blue or red indicating status as noted above.  To keep the weight of this unit at a mere 10grams, BlueAnt uses a 3.7v Lithium Polymer battery to provide up to 200hrs of standby time and as much as 5.5 hours of talk time.  Also notice the small size of the unit – 41mm long and 11.2mm thick (counting the earpiece).

Earlier I mentioned that this headset has a ton of features and you may be wondering how all of this is possible with simple volume up, volume down and power buttons.  Below is a chart showing all of the functions of these buttons and how to use them to make this unit do more than other much more expensive headsets on the market.

Button Functions

The answer to the multitude of functionality is found in how the buttons are pressed, held, clicked and used in combinations of each other.  While you may not be able to remember all of these functions, BlueAnt has already assumed as much and included a mini cheat-sheet for you to keep in your wallet or briefcase.


Testing the Z9:

So we see that the Z9 has a ton of features and lots of functions and capability according to the "Button Function Matrix".  The real question still remains as to it's performance and quality.  Keep on reading as we dive into testing.

 

Pairing - Installation:

Installation of the BlueAnt Z9 Dual Mic Noise Isolation Bluetooth Headset is really very simple.  In order to put the unit into pairing mode, you simply hold the MFB (Multi-Function Button) for six seconds when the unit is off.  This will turn the indicator LED solid blue to let you know it is ready to be paired with.  Once this is done you can search for the device with your favorite Bluetooth enabled phone, PDA or laptop.  You will then be prompted for a passkey which is 0000 by default.  This process should take no more than minute to complete.

 

Function, Features & Comfort:

As we mentioned earlier this device is long on features and functions.  The headset will allow you to answer/end a call as well as reject callers if you're busy.  It will also allow you to redial the last number transfer calls from the headset directly to your mobile device and activate voice dial features if available.  This headset also supports call waiting and conference calling as well as the obvious volume controls.  You can even turn off the blinking LED.  Lastly, by holding the MFB while you're in a call, you can change the Noise Isolation Technology mode from standard to maximum settings.

As far as comfort goes, the BlueAnt Z9 is one of the most comfortable headsets I've used - and I've used a few over the years.  I've used the Plantronics Voyager 510 and Explorer 320 as well as the Jabra JX10, BT620s and BT325s as well as the IOGear GBE201W7 to name a few.  I'm a headset junky and I guess admitting it is the first step.  The only headset that I've found as comfortable as the Z9 is the Plantronics Voyager 510 - and it's larger size may make it less appealing than the BlueAnt Z9.

 

Sound Quality:

Regardless of the functionality or the comfort of a headset, all would be totally lost if it didn't sound good.  While I don't expect this to be hi-fi by any means, the voice quality should be clear without undue hissing or popping.  I'm pleased to say that the BlueAnt Z9 has very good sound quality.  I could hear voices clearly and distinctly and the volume range is excellent.  It can be turned up to an uncomfortably loud level for use in noisy environments and turned down whisper quiet for use in more peaceful surroundings.

On the mic side of things, it is a similar story.  The mic seems to work well and pick up voices nicely.  The Dual Mic technology is a key component of the Voice Isolation Technology and we'll take a clip from the BlueAnt page to explain this better.

BlueAnt Voice Isolation Technology™
The Z9 uses revolutionary proprietary DSP software known as the BlueAnt Voice Isolation Technology™ which uses sophisticated techniques to separate the voice signal from the noise using the dual microphone array of the Z9.  As a result, this technology is effective against all noise sources whether they are stationary, impulsive or even the sound of other voices.

Background Noise Elimination with Zero Voice Distortion
The BlueAnt Z9 separates the desired voice signal from all of the background noise including wind noise, resulting in crystal clear conversations in the noisiest environments.

Echo Cancellation
In addition to background noise elimination, the Z9 technology provides truly revolutionary echo cancellation performance. Treating acoustic echo as another background noise source. The Z9 eliminates this echo, allowing for true full-duplex operation. Effective at eliminating the acoustically coupled signal that can cause annoying echo in Bluetooth headsets operated at high volume.

Wind Noise Reduction
As the Z9 treats all sounds as distinct separate signals, wind noise is thus defined as a separate signal from the users voice and is reduced or eliminated.

Improved Automatic Speech Recognition
Automatic speech recognition performance is dramatically improved by the clear voice, free from background noise. This allows the user to have a greater percentage success rate in using voice commands with cell phones. 


You don't have to take our word for it though; you can download a recording of the mic in use when connected by Bluetooth to my iPaq HX2495 Pocket PC.  Get the MP3 file here.  Overall, I was very pleased with sound quality of both the mic and the ear piece on this headset.  I was using this headset while working on some frozen pipes and even with space heaters operating a few feet from my head, my wife said that my voice came through very clearly.


Range & Battery Life:

BlueAnt claims the Bluetooth v2.0 standard will provide range of up to 10m (30ft.).  This is about what we experienced in normal conditions.  At 25 feet there would be some static if a wall was between the phone and the connected Z9.  The range of this headset is nothing spectacular, but it does reach 30' in unobstructed conditions.

BlueAnt claims that the Z9 will last around 5.5 hours of talk time and 200 hours in standby.  From my experience, this is very close as the headset batteries outlast my phone by about 3 to 1.  Charging the headset may take up to 4 hours, but in my experience it only takes 2 - 3 hours when charged with either the USB cable or the standard wall charger.

 

Conclusion:

Until CES 2008 I'd never heard of BlueAnt Wireless.  We had a chance to meet with them, talk a bit about their product line and now sample one of their headsets first hand.  I've been extremely impressed with the range, quality, performance and voice isolation abilities of the Z9 headset.  This headset is small in size, but big in features and having the ability to pair with three devices is something that many other headsets can't do.  This headset has been ideal for using Skype on my iPaq, talking on my phone and has even done well at voice recognition on my Vista laptop.  Even in extremely noisy conditions, this headset has performed very well.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable
  • Good Noise Isolation DSP
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good range
  • Pairs with three devices
  • Attractive price


Cons:

  • Too many functions to remember

 

 BCCRating

The BlueAnt Z9 Dual Mic Bluetooth Headset with Voice Isolation Technology has been the best overall headset I've used to date.  It is light, comfortable and has a host of features that make the life of a tech-geek a little easier.  While some people don't need a headset that can connect to three devices, this is a handy feature if you've got a smart phone, laptop, and a regular Bluetooth enabled phone.  It comes highly recommended and is a Top Pick!

 Top Pick

I'd like to thank BlueAnt Wireless for sending us the Z9 to review.  It has been a great experience and is nice to see a "new" company make such great products.  If you have any comments or questions regarding this review of the Z9, please head on over and post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.