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Plantronics Pulsar 590A Bluetooth Headset Review

Plantronics introduces a headset system that boast of delivering wireless high fidelity stereo sound, voice clarity, in a comfortable package with the Pulsar 590A. The Pulsar 590A uses multipoint technology to function as both a stereo headset for high-fi listening, and as a communications headset for use with mobile phones and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The headset includes a telescopic voice tube with an omni-directional microphone for clear communications.
This multipoint technology extends the range and capabilities of its users to provide greater mobile freedom and enables stereo music listening from their laptop, cell phone or AV equipment up to 30 feet away. Plantronics says the Pulsar 590A provides up to 12 hours of talk time and 10 hours of listening time.
The Universal Adapter included with the Pulsar 590A can plug directly into your 3.5mm jack on any audio devices. This means any device – your laptop, home stereo, Playstation, Gameboy, portable DVD player, etc – can enjoy the benefits of wireless stereo. In contrast, the Motorola HT820/DC800 needed stereo RCA jacks and power – somewhat rare on a PC or laptop, and definitely a hassle when you want to connect something quickly.

Pulsar 590A Features:

  • High fidelity stereo sound, superior audio performance
  • Freedom to roam up to 33 feet from your Bluetooth device
  • Works with multiple Bluetooth devices: seamlessly switch between calls and music with multipoint technology
  • Up to 12 hours talk time and up to 10 hours audio listening time
  • Telescoping voice tube for clear calls
  • Foldable headset design for convenient travel and compact storage
  • Adjustable headband and pivoting pillow-soft ear cushions for superior fit and wearing comfort
  • Dedicated buttons allow call and music control functions directly from the headset
  • Convenient desktop charging stand to charge and store your headset
  • Battery Type: Lithium Ion Polymer
  • Headset Speakers 28mm Neodymium
  • Speaker Frequency Response:
    o Telephony/Microphone 300 Hz to 3600 HZ
    o Stereo Audio 20 Hz to 20 kHz (16-bit 48kHz)
  • Headset Weight: 3.45 ounces (97.7 grams)
  • Universal Adapter Weight: 1 ounce (28.4 grams)

What’s in the box?

For a street price of around $115, the Pulsar 590A comes loaded with everything you need to get you up and communicating using your favorite devices. Along with the Headset, you get a cool looking Travel Case, a USB Charging Cable, a handy In-flight Cable, and a Desktop Charging Stand.

The Plantronics Pulsar 590A headset natively supports the Bluetooth Audio Distribution Profile for wireless stereo listening. The (A2DP) Advanced Audio Distribution Profile in Bluetooth specifies the protocols and procedures that define the distribution of high quality audio content, in either mono or stereo on ACL (Asynchronous Connectionless link) channels. Devices that do not support the A2DP profile must use the included Plantronics universal adapter. Since most devices and PC adapters don’t natively support this profile, having an included adapter makes a huge difference in the performance of this headset and with your wallet.

When we examine the Plantronics Pulsar 590A, it has the look and feel of a high-end quality audio device. The weight is solid, but not too heavy sitting on your head. Even though the cushioned drivers seem a bit thin, the headset was comfortable to wear during long periods.
Plantronics does a really good job of incorporating headset controls with lighted status indicators. On the right side of the headset, the indicator light alerts you of a number of different things: battery level, charging status, paring status, and connect/talk status. You will also find microphone/voice tube on this side. It telescopes to get out of your way when you are just listening and not trying to communicate. We found this feature to be very nice as it makes the headset compact and versatile.
A full set of headset controls are found on the right-side headset as well. Even though the protocol doesn’t yet exist, the Pulsar 590A has controls to forward and reverse tracks that you are listening to via Bluetooth. There are also volume controls that work independently of the source you are listening to. Also on this side, you will find the power switch, Mute/Play button, and the Call Control button. The Call button allows you to swap from your audio source to a cell phone easily.

Out of the box, it took about 3 hours for us to initially charge the headset. A great feature that Plantronics has included is the multiple ways you can charge the Pulsar depending on your location or mood. First up, Plantronics includes a standard AC adapter that you can plug directly into the headset to charge. The adapter was the same that is used to charge some of their other Bluetooth headsets such as the Discovery 640. Also included is a very cool looking Desktop Charging Stand that you can store and charge your headset. You can ideally place this charger next to your computer or favorite AV device to charge the headset once you are finished using the set. Lastly, Plantronics includes a USB charging cable that is lightweight to allow you to charge the Pulsar 590A and the Universal Adaptor from your PC or laptop. All of these different powering options make using the Pulsar 590A headset very convenient for home, work, or during travel.

Using the Pulsar 590A with a Mobile Phone

Pairing the Pulsar 590A with your mobile phone was a breeze. Using our normal test devices, the Treo 650 and the Motorola RAZR V3, both instantly recognized and paired with the Plantronics headset. Amazingly, our most finicky device, the Treo 650, worked incredibly well with this headset.
As with the Motorola HT820 we reviewed a few weeks ago, we were not able to take advantage of the listening to stereo music that we could hear playing on our cell phones wirelessly. We look forward to using Bluetooth mobile phones with built-in MP3 supporting the Bluetooth Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) for stereo listening in the near future.
Sound quality when making and receiving calls was good. Comparing it directly to the Motorola HT820 headset, I would have to give the edge in sound quality to the Plantronics set. Even though we are only talking about "cell phone quality", the speakers on the Pulsar 590A seem to give better clarity and less of a "hollow" sound, making it our winner in sound quality.
When looking at this headset, the microphone boom didn’t look like it was going to do a great job in picking up a user’s voice and filtering out background noise. I was pleasantly surprised at the results when using this headset for communicating. Call recipients could hear my voice clearly and conversations were conducted easily. As with the Motorola, it was a strange experience conducing your cellular phone calls in stereo – even though it was "low-fi". After a while, though, you get used to it and enjoy the fact that the listening volume is quite loud.
Range of use on the Plantronics was very good. I was able to walk 25 feet away from my Treo and RAZR before experiencing static on the conversation. When using the Pulsar 590A for cell phone use exclusively, we were able to go the entire day under one charge and even for most of the next day before an audible beep in the headset would warn us of a low battery. The talk-time/standby-time for this headset easily compares to the Motorola HT820. In fact, we like the Plantronics headset better because we have a visual status indicator of battery life versus audio only.

Using the headset with an AV System

We wanted to experience wireless freedom when listening to our AV system so we took the Pulsar 590A for a quick tour with some of our favorite AV devices. It was incredibly easy to hook up the 3.5" stereo jack to my AV receiver and get in my own wireless world. The volume on the headset was very good and the stereo sound was far superior to that of the Moto HT820. If you are an audiophile like me, you will appreciate hearing your CDs and DVD Audio using the Plantronics set. Don’t get me wrong, it is not the best headset that I have used – Sony’s $250 MDR-SA3000, but it clearly does wireless very, very well.

We used this same setup for a number of different devices; a portable DVD player; an Apple iPod; playing NBA Live 2006 on a Sony PSP; and Mario Kart on the Nintendo DS. Each of these were designed specifically for use with headsets and work extremely well with the Pulsar 590A. For users who are looking for a dedicated wireless headset for their AV system or portable system, the Pulsar 590A – along with its included Universal Adapter – should work with under any situation.

Using the Pulsar 590A with a Bluetooth-Enabled Computer

We wanted to use the Pulsar 590A with our PC to listen to MP3s and for internet chat so we tried to pair the headset with our existing Bluetooth PC Adapter with mixed results. The pairing with our Belkin F8T012 PC Adapter resulted in being able to hear music played using iTunes or Windows Media Player in "cell phone" quality sound. Sound basically bordered on being "mono" quality. This isn’t totally surprising considering the first time we tried this test with Motorola’s HT820 we had essentially the same experience.

For voice conversation over the Internet using Skype, the Plantronics Pulsar in conjunction with our Belkin PC Adapter performed flawlessly. After successfully pairing the headset with the computer, all computer sounds including the conversations with my Skype buddies came through loud and clear. I was able to walk away from my computer chatting with no problems at all. I found that I could get about 25-30 feet away before I started experiencing static dropouts. What was cool was this range wasn’t just "line-of-sight" distance. I was able to go down the hall, fold clothes, go to the restroom, etc., and still hold a conversation.

When I plugged the Pulsar’s Universal Adapter into the headset jack of the computer, we were again able to hear all of the computer’s sounds – this time in full stereo! All MP3s, movies, games, or whatever you would listen to via a standard wired headset, we were experiencing wirelessly. The stereo sound using the Universal Adapter was incredibly good and superior to the Motorola HT820/DC800. Music came through brighter with the dynamic range of sound better than that of the Motorola and the fact that we didn’t have to search for an extra outlet to power Motorola’s adapter made it even more desirable. When directly comparing the sound that we get from the Plantronics Pulsar 590A with that of the Motorola HT820, the Pulsar 590A is the clear winner.

Ken’s Final Thoughts

Using the Plantronics Pulsar 590A to listen to music in the office, computer lab, or while traveling is sweet since Plantronics has given the user everything they need to connect and communicate with any device out there. The Universal Adapter is worth its weight in gold. Being small and rechargeable the Adapter goes wherever you need it to go to interface with whatever device you need. Even though the headset had limited (i.e. Non-stereo) Bluetooth connectivity with Bluetooth-ready PCs, the Pulsar 590A worked great for Internet chats and Internet telephony.

The Pulsar 590A switches between phone calls from your Bluetooth mobile phone and other audio devices you might have with no difficulty at all. You’ll never miss a call when listening wirelessly to your favorite music, movie, or video game. Plantronics includes a ton of accessories as well including a desktop charger and case that the 690A can fold up and fit into.

We have not seen a better Bluetooth headset designed for use with music devices, portable electronics, and mobile phones.




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