Sound ID SM100 Bluetooth Headset Review

With so many Bluetooth headsets around, I could see where it would be easy to dismiss the Sound ID SM100. The company’s more than likely unfamiliar to you — unlike Nokia, Plantronics, Motorola and Sony Ericsson that are everywhere — and family and friends probably will not have heard of them either. Hell, I didn’t know about them till a couple months ago. Also, having tested a bunch of headsets over the years, I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic about any manufacturers’ claims of echo-reduction and noise-cancellation technologies.

So, when the $129 SM100 actually turned out to be a great little headset that not only lived up to its claims, but had a handful of features I haven’t seen on other devices, it was a pleasant surprise.

This is an incredibly lightweight, ultra-compact Bluetooth headset. It weighs less than .4 ounces and feels a bit hollow inside (because it likely is) and some might find the plastic a bit less polished looking than other headsets on the market. However, it passed the “would you wear this?” test with everyone I asked — man or woman.

The SM100 has some unique features that certainly add to its appeal. It has an EnvironmentalMode allowing audio to pass through from the outside and amplifies it, so you can talk to people in person without needing to take the headset out. The second you answer a call, that amplification shuts off and all you hear is your call. This could also make it a makeshift hearing aid. And if you don’t want to use this mode (it does affect battery life a bit), you can shut it off.

There’s the integrated NoiseNavigation System that determines the loudness, frequency, pitch and tempo of incoming sound so the SM100 can counteract against any wind or background noise, simultaneously improving speech and sound quality. Then there’s the PersonalSound technology that, at the push of a button, lets you adjust the headset to increase clarity without raising the volume.

Finally, there’s a One2One mode that lets you pair two SM100 together so you can talk between them. It’s the only feature that I question its usefulness, since you’re talking about being a maximum of 30-feet away from the other user. But, it might be handy in a noisy area where shouting isn’t ideal or perhaps, again, as a makeshift hearing aid so you don’t have to yell at the hard of hearing. Plus, it is just an extra, so no harm no foul if you don’t ever use it.

sid_inside.JPGThere’s no ear loop with the SM100, which makes switching it from left to right ear as simple as twisting the ear piece to point at the R or L.

sid_inear.JPGAs you can see, it’s pretty tiny. No need to shout to be heard, though; The dual, omni-directional silicon microphones do a fantastic job of picking up your voice at normal speaking levels. And if you have the EnvironmentalMode on, you can hear just how well your voice gets received.

sid_eartips.JPGUnlike most clipless headsets I’ve tested, the SM100 doesn’t rely on differently sized earplugs to secure the device in your ear. Instead, the eartips are all the same size, but the “RealComfort EarLoops” change in size. The loop locks the ear piece into place by slipping under the cartilage at the back of your ear. It’s comfortable and it works.

pairing.gifThe pairing process is the same as it is with other Bluetooth headsets. Press and hold the main button (the logo on the outside of the device), wait for the activity light at the back to start flashing and then wait for your phone or other device to recognize it. The main button also answers calls and turns the headset on and off. All the other features are controlled by the remaining three buttons.

As for performance, though, I wasn’t expecting a lot. Most headsets I’ve tested either make you sound like you’re talking on a speakerphone and/or they digitize your voice to the point of distraction. The SM100 made voices sound loud and clear on my end while walking around the busy streets of New York. And, everyone I called said they didn’t know I was talking on a headset and other comments I received were “clear,” “natural sounding,” “normal” and “good.”

Battery life was good, too, lasting through a couple days of calls going in and out of standby mode. (The company specs the time out as up to 8 hours in Phone Mode and up to 72 hours in standby.) Plus, it recharges fully in about 3 hours. Overall, the SM100 blew away my expectations and certainly deserves to be ranked amongst the best Bluetooth headsets available today.

In The Box
sid_charger.JPGThere’s not much in the box: the headset, three EarLoops (small, medium, large), a QuickStart guided and an instruction booklet and the “universal” charger.

Currently the Sound ID SM100 is only available through the company’s Website, but there are plans for retail placement soon.