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iSkin Cerulean F1+TX Bluetooth stereo headset

For iPod. For PCs. For Macs. For mobile phones...

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Review You know the problem: your iPod's safely stashed deep down in a pocket or a bag and you want to skip the current track or adjust the volume. Or you're just fed up of the earpieces dropping out as you're walking around. Accessory specialist iSkin reckons its stylish Cerulean F1 and TX combo is the answer.

The Cerulean set-up comprises a wireless Bluetooth stereo headset that ditches the usual headphones in favour of a pair of cable-connected earpieces that look like regular Bluetooth phone headsets. That's the F1 - the TX is the tiny transmitter that plugs onto a iPod dock connector.

iSkin Cerulean F1
iSkin's F1: comfortable to wear

iSkin is to be lauded for not only including extra foam pads for each unit's tiny speaker but also a set of alternative earclips for those who may find the standard ones uncomfortable. Not that we did - the F1's earpieces are light and pleasant to wear. The thin cable running between them means it's no problem taking one out and letting it hang down while you're chatting to someone.

The right earpiece is the business end, home to the F1's main, multi-function control button, track skip controls, volume keys and a physical on/off switch. Both the track-skip and volume controls are a pair of raised buttons, the latter on the bottom of the unit, the others on the top. iSkin has cleverly placed them so that if you use your thumb to support the F1 while you're pushing either of the track-skip buttons, you don't inadvertently adjust the volume too, and vice versa.

The link to the TX is initiated once the F1 has been charged for the first time. The F1's right-hand earpiece has, under a flap, a tiny four-pin mini USB port - not the standard variety - for which there's a cable to connect it to a computer's USB port for charging. Pairing the two is essentially automatic. It's just a matter of pushing a couple of buttons on the F1 and waiting for the TX to spot it.

iSkin bundles a second adaptor, this one with a full-size USB port on one end and a dock connector at the other, so you can connect your TX to your computer essentially as an alternative speaker. It's compatible out of the box with Windows and Mac OS X, and we tried the Cerulean set out this way first.

In Mac OS X, just select the TX as your preferred output in the Sound preferences pane. Windows is much the same. Fire up iTunes and you're ready to start listening. The TX and F1 use Bluetooth's A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) system for music transmission, but they also support the Audio-Visual Remote Control Protocol (AVRCP), translating F1 button presses into control signals the host system understands.

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