iSkin Cerulean F1+TX Bluetooth stereo headset
For iPod. For PCs. For Macs. For mobile phones...
You can play and pause tracks, and skip from one to the next and back again, just by pushing the buttons on the F1. Led Zeppelin's new compilation, Mothership, came over clear and crisp, and if a little weak in the bass no less listenable for that. And we could click to hear Stairway to Heaven again and again. Track skipping, and pausing and resuming playback was quick with barely any lag between button-push and action.
Next, we tried the TX and F1 with our old first-generation iPod Nano instead. Again, the sound came over clearly and track skipping was very responsive. Just make sure to max the player's volume - the TX doesn't use the fixed line-out level.
iSkin's TX: compact transmitter
The TX has one of the set's four-pin USB ports to, to allow you to charge up your iPod - so that's one less cable to carry around. It's certainly a comprehensive package. The only thing it lacks is a battery for the TX so it can be used with an line-out source.
However, the USB adaptor has a 3.5mm-jack socket line-in, so with a common-or-garden 5V USB power brick and a suitable cable, the TX can be used to stream music from other sources.
When we described the F1, there's one feature we didn't mention: it has a built-in microphone so you can use it as a regular Bluetooth headset. Just leave the TX out of the equation and pair the F1 to your phone. Once linked, it's ready for wireless music and for making and taking calls. You can pair it up with a Bluetooth-enabled computer and use it with Skype or any other VoIP app.
The F1 will happily pair with the TX and a phone, so you're not limited to using one or the other. It'll pair with them simultaneously, allowing you to listen to your iPod wirelessly and still take calls using the headset.
It's a little tricky to set up: you have to connect the F1 to your phone then plug in the TX to make sure all the right bits of kit are talking to each other, but when it was all set up correctly, we could take calls coming in on our iPhone. We had a few such clicks and pops when the pulling the TX out of the USB adaptor too.
What the Cerulean didn't do was pause the music automatically, and we got a couple of sharp clicks as the call was ending and the the TX regained the link to the F1 from the phone.
Like other Bluetooth products, Cerulean has a range of about 10m, and we were able to go strolling across the open-plan Vulture Central office and still hear the Rolling Stones as well as if we were right next to the Mac the TX was hooked up to.
iSkin reckons the F1 will run after a full charge for up to eight hours' continuous music playback. But that's not the problem: the TX is powered by the iPod, and our Nano ran out of juice after the best part of five hours. That's about a third of the time we usually get out of the player, but no great surprise for this kind of peripheral. The F1 lasted for the promised eight hours.
Wireless iPod earphones, VoIP headset, mobile phone accessory - iSkin's neat Cerulean set is all of these at once, without the compromises so many multi-function devices make. The styling's great - the sound quality even better. The best A2DP accessory yet? We think so.
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