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Sennheiser PXC 360 BT Review

June 4th, 2011 10 comments

A couple of weeks ago I was looking to buy a pair of good noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones and I stumbled across two new models from Sennheiser which were announced at CES 2011, namely the MM 550 and PXC 360 BT. I don’t like using a headset to answer phone calls, so spending more for the MM 550 was out of the question. Unfortunately, I felt like I was taking a gamble with the PXC 360 BT as I could barely find any reviews for the 360 which is somewhat understandable as it’s a new (and expensive) model. I hope this brief review helps others who are considering buying the PXC 360 BT.

Box Contents:

2011-05-28 10.38.422011-05-28 10.39.262011-05-28 10.51.032011-05-28 10.50.24

  • PXC 360 BT Headphones (with Rechargeable Li polymer Battery)
  • Single-sided 3.5mm audio cable
  • 3.5 mm double mono adapter (inflight adapter)
  • 6.3 mm audio adapter
  • USB Charging Cable
  • Multi-Country Travel Adapters
  • Carrying Case
  • The CD included in the package contains a pdf version of the user manual in various languages.

    Design:

    The 360 comes with a metal reinforced extendible headband and looks quite sturdy. The soft, leather padded ear cups are foldable to a full 90 degrees and fit snugly inside the carrying case. The PXC 360 BT weighs about 180 grams and is a little heavier than it looks. However, they are comfortable to wear, even for long durations. The battery is located on the left ear cup and is removable/replaceable. The right ear cup holds all the controls as well as the the audio jack. The buttons for toggling Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and Bluetooth are located at the bottom of the right ear cup while that for SRS-WOW HD is located under the “reduce volume” button. The controls are intuitive but take a while to get used to.  The button at the center controls Play/Pause as well as the master control to turn the headphones on and off. The ANC button controls TalkThrough and ANC. There’s also a Braille symbol for ‘L’ embossed on top of the left ear cup.

    Sound:

    Quite frankly, to fully appreciate the sound quality of the PXC 360 BT, you’ll need an external sound card or a headphone amplifier as the integrated sound card on your PC or notebook is probably not good enough to exploit the 360. The 360 reproduces music really well. All my previous headphones used to sound like they passed all the audio through a static equalizer before passing it to the ear cups, so I’m glad I can finally hear music the way it is. Although it does a really good job at reproducing the mids and highs, what really caught my attention was the quality of bass. It’ll knock your socks off. I mostly listen to hard rock and heavy metal where good bass is a necessity and the 360 doesn’t fail to deliver. For a regular user, I would say that the maximum volume is adequate. I wish I could turn it up a little higher but to be fair, being a “metalhead” I’m not satisfied unless there are two amplifiers blowing music into my ear. As the ear cups cover the ears, it reduces a significant amount of background noise (passive noise cancelling) so everything is audible even on low volume.

    I couldn’t make out any difference in audio quality when played via Bluetooth or the wired cable. I even tried comparing FLAC files (bit rates ranging from approx. 760 Kbps to 1100 Kbps) but I couldn’t notice any difference. The 360 even supports apt-X, but I don’t have any apt-X enabled device so I couldn’t test it. I’ve heard it sounds much better over apt-X.

    Bluetooth:

    I own two phones (Samsung Captivate and Nokia N82) and the 360 paired with both of them in the first attempt. Unlike my previous headphones which would occasionally lose the audio signal in short bursts, in the two weeks that I’ve used the 360, it hasn’t lost the signal even once. The PXC 360 BT supports Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR along with A2DP and AVRCP profiles which permit fast-forward and rewind playback options as well. Bluetooth range isn’t an issue as I was able to receive an uninterrupted feed even when my phone was approx. 30 feet (with no obstructions) and 20 feet (with a wall in between) away. I didn’t face any interference issues from Wi-Fi signals nearby.

    Active-Noise Cancellation:

    The manual claims that the 360 can reduce background sound by up to 90%. Although I couldn’t “feel” the 90% decrease, it does a remarkable job at reducing low-frequency sounds. I use these headphones while biking and it manages to completely cancel out the sound of wind as it gushes past me as well as partially cancel out the sound of cars as they pass by. I haven’t had the opportunity to test it in-flight but since it cancels out all the engine sounds and humming noise from traffic and the exhaust fan at home, it should work in-flight as well. Unfortunately, using ANC comes at the cost of a lower bass output so use it wisely.

    SRS-WOW HD:

    SRS-WOW HD is the most useless feature ever as it makes music sound hollow. Only a few songs sound decent with SRS-WOW enabled but you’re probably better off without it. I don’t use this feature at all.

    Talk-Through:

    I like this feature a lot. It basically lets you hear what’s going on outside without having to take off your headphones. There are microphones at the rear end of each ear cup that capture the sound from outside and feed it to the ear cups when Talk-Through is enabled. There is a slight delay but it’s barely noticeable so it’s not an issue.

    Operating Time:

    I was able to achieve operating times close to what’s mentioned in the manual, which are listed as follows:

    • Wired + ANC Enabled : 20 hours
    • Bluetooth Enabled : 10 hours
    • Bluetooth + ANC Enabled : 8 hours
      Verdict:

    Pros:

    • Sturdy Design, Comfortable to wear
    • Wired + Bluetooth option
    • Great Sound Reproduction (esp. Bass)
    • Active Noise Cancellation works great
    • Talk-Through
    • Replaceable Battery
    • 2 years warranty

    Cons:

    • Outrageously Expensive
    • Max. Volume could have been louder

      Conclusion:

      Overall, I’m very happy with these headphones. I like having the option to choose between wired and Bluetooth and active noise cancellation only makes it better.  I’m also glad that I can use the PXC 360 BT as wired headphones even without the battery. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s always on the move. The Sennheiser PXC 360 BT retails for $589.95 but is available on Amazon.com for $329.99, which is still ridiculously over-priced in my opinion.

      Maxtor Basics 1TB HDD Review

      February 22nd, 2009 3 comments

      Last week I bought a Maxtor Basics 1 TB Hard Disk online as my 500 GB Western Digital MyBook Essential HDD was out of free space.

      The Hard Disk was available for Rs. 5890 on Ebay and I had a 5% off voucher which reduced the final price to Rs. 5500 which is about 200-300 bucks cheaper than the street price in Mumbai, so it was a good steal which didn’t even require me to move from my chair.

      Since I already have a WD MyBook Essential 500 GB hard disk, I couldn’t help but compare the two.

      Box Contents:

      Maxtor Basics 1TB Box

      The Box contains the Hard Disk, a USB Cable, Power Adapter, 3 detachable plugs, a Quick Start guide and a 3 year warranty card.

      Size:

      Maxtor Basics 1TB with WD MyBook Essential 500GBMaxtor Basics 1TB with WD MyBook Essential 500GB Top View

      With size dimensions 203 mm x 44.5 mm x 127 mm, the Hard Disk is smaller than the MyBook Essential but is slightly heavier.

      Performance:

      The only way you can connect the Hard Disk to a computer is by using a mini-USB cable. It supports USB 2.0 and offers upto 480 MBps which is decent. The spindle spins at 7200 RPM and I was even able to play OpenArena straight from the hard disk without any lags.

      Although many people complain the disk is very noisy, mine is very silent.

      The Hard disk is already formatted in NTFS and the actual free space available is 931 GB. Even when the disk is empty, Windows reports that 93.5 MB is being used and that doesn’t disappear even after a complete format.

      Build Quality:

      Maxtor Basics 1TB Front ViewMaxtor Basics 1TB Side View
      Maxtor Basics 1TB Back View

      Unlike the MyBook Essential which has surplus holes to dissipate heat, the maxtor disk just has a few gaps at the top-left and bottom-left edges and as a result, the disk tends to get hot very quickly.

      Since there is no rubber layer at the bottom, there is no grip and the disk is very slippery and even a slight jerk can cause it to move so you might want to think twice before you put it near the edge of a table.

      Maxtor Basics 1TB Bottom View

      The disk has been crammed into a small cover which results in a very noticeable elliptical bulge at the bottom of the disk cover.

      Bundled Software:

      None.

      Power Cables:

      Maxtor Basics 1TB AdapterWD MyBook Essential Power Cable

      The best thing about the hard disk is that it allows you to use 3 different types of plugs with the power adapter. I find this very useful because even though I bought the WD MyBook Essential from a WD shop in India, it comes with a 110V adapter and I have to use it with a 110-220V converter every time to use it in India.

      The Maxtor disk on the other hand has two 110V plugs and a 220V plug which means I don’t need a converter anymore.

      Since it requires a mini-USB to USB cable which is easily available, you can even use your cell phone or mp3 player’s cable to use the hard disk.

      Pros:

      Very Cheap
      Fairly silent
      3 detachable plugs
      Any mini-USB cable can be used
      Fast Access Times
      3 year Warranty

      Cons:

      Gets hot very quickly
      Slippery surface
      No bundled software

      Final Word:

      For its price, the Maxtor Basics 1TB is totally worth the price and doesn’t disappoint. It’s even smaller than most of the other 1TB hard disks. If you’re looking for a cheap solution to backup your music, photos and CDs, Maxtor Basics is your best bet.

      Bolt Browser Review

      January 19th, 2009 2 comments

      When I first heard about Bolt Browser for J2ME mobile phones, I couldn’t wait to try it out and see how it compares to Opera Mini 4.2.

      I’ve used WebKit based browsers such as TeaShark and the native Nokia S60 browser before and as far as rendering speed is concerned, these browsers take as much as 5 times the amount of time Opera Mini takes to render a page.

      So it was interesting to test Bolt against Opera Mini and Webkit browsers.

      Startup:

      Bolt’s installation procedure is similar to Opera Mini’s but it takes a lot more time to start than Opera Mini.
      Here’s how the startup screens look like:

      opera_loadingbolt_loading Loading Screens

      opera_startscreen bolt_startscreen Start Screens

      Both start-screens are alike, except that Opera Mini displays History, Bookmarks and Feeds vertically while Bolt displays it horizontally.

      Rendering Performance:

      Bolt’s Rendering accuracy is really good, however it does mess up a few images i.e. the colour of the images is a little different from the original.

      Speed-wise, Bolt is a lot faster than Webkit based browsers but is slower than Opera Mini. Although Bitstream claims that it is faster than Opera Mini, I didn’t think so. It is fast, but not as fast as Opera Mini.

      It’s interesting to note that Bolt works flawlessly with Bloglines while Opera Mini and Webkit browsers don’t work.

      However, on many pages Bolt throws up errors almost every time.

      bolt_error Although errors like this can be resolved with a refresh, I encountered another error that announced that Bolt had an unrecoverable error and sent an error log to their server. I couldn’t take a screenshot as I couldn’t reproduce it again.

      Data Reduction:

      Although Bitstream claims that its data reduction ratio is 23:1, there’s really no way of verifying this as Bolt has no option to view web-page information. Opera Mini’s Page Information looks like this:

      opera_pageinfo1 opera_pageinfo2

      Features:

      To be honest, Bolt’s features are basic at best. The only feature that is unique to Bolt and sets itself apart from other browsers (including Opera Mini) is the Split-Screen feature.

      In Split-screen mode the screen is horizontally divided into half. The top half has the zoomed-out view of a page while the bottom-half shows a full-zoomed area of the page around the cursor and it looks like this:

      bolt_splitscreen

      Other than this, Bolt doesn’t have much to brag out. Bolt’s Bookmark and RSS Feed Managers are similar to other browsers.

      If  the current webpage has a number somewhere, Bolt detects it and allows you to either call or send an SMS to that number. Opera Mini also detects numbers but only allows the user to call the number. Both browsers are terrible at recognizing phone numbers though, phone models (such as P230, N70, N95), addresses and version numbers are confused as telephone numbers.
      Opera Mini on the other hand has Opera Link for bookmark synchronization, is skinnable, allows pages to be saved on phone or memory card, supports HTTP Authentication (bolt doesn’t) and supports multiple search-engines and even custom Search Strings like this:

      opera_searchengines fdsf opera_customsearch

      Customization:

      Again, a no show. There’s hardly any options to choose from.
      bolt_settingsbolt_pagemenu
      bolt_mag bolt_https

      That’s it. There are no more options in Bolt. Compare this with Opera Mini’s options:

      opera_settings1 opera_settings2 opera_pagemenu

      Final Word:

      For a browser in its beta stage, Bolt is pretty good and I expect the final version to be a little faster and more feature-rich. Even in its beta stage it’s better than most Webkit based browsers. However, it lacks many basic features (such as tabbed browsing, copy-pasting and page saves) and if the final version doesn’t include any new features, then there’s absolutely no way Bolt can be an Opera Mini killer. Bolt has the potential, but only time will tell.