While we love the idea of cord-free portable music, stereo Bluetooth headsets are often maligned with poor quality audio. Or at least, that's how it was in the past. Nowadays you can find stereo Bluetooth headsets with excellent sound quality, rivalling that of dedicated wired headsets. One such example is the Nokia BH-905, which is one of a few stereo Bluetooth headsets we know to come with multi-microphone active noise cancelling. This results in absolutely fantastic audio quality, and the call quality isn't too shabby, either. That, combined with a comfortable fit, makes the Nokia BH-905 one of the best stereo Bluetooth headphones out there. The Nokia BH-905's price is rather hefty however, at AU$399.99 retail.
The Nokia BH-905 is an over-the-ears style pair of headphones that is meant for serious audio listening; it's not quite slim or lightweight enough to be used in the gym or on the running trail. The BH-905 has a cushioned leather-clad headband connected to two cushioned ear pads via two extendable plastic stems. The ear pads can be rotated so that they lie flat, which makes the headphones a bit more compact and portable.
We found the overall fit to be quite comfortable. The plastic stems are curved outward slightly, which looks a little goofy when worn, but they do provide a snug and secure fit. The ear pads, though they are a little small, feel soft and comfortable when pressed against our ears. While the ear pads don't work as well as full-size ear cups when it comes to shutting out environmental sound, they do a pretty good job. Because the ear pads are pressed up to your ears all the time, there is also a chance of ear fatigue, especially if you wear the headphones for a long period of time.
Most of the BH-905's controls are housed on the right ear pad. Above the Nokia branding is the multifunction call button, while the play/pause control is underneath it. The track shuttle controls are on either side. The control labels are etched into the metal surface, so you can find them by feel. They're quite easy to press as well.
The underside of the right ear pad has the volume rocker, a Bluetooth status indicator, and an audio cable connector in case your device doesn't have stereo Bluetooth. There's an included 3.5mm Nokia AV audio cable as well as four different audio adapters for different audio connections (2.5mm Nokia AV, standard 3.5mm jack, aeroplane audio jack, and 6.3mm home stereo jack). On the underside of the left ear pad are the active noise-cancelling toggle, a charger jack, and an LED indicator that shows both the noise-cancelling status and the charging status.
The right ear cup houses most of the headset controls
We paired the Nokia BH-905 with the Apple iPhone 3G and the Samsung Rogue. Pairing for both phones went quite smoothly. Note that the Apple iPhone 3G does not have full AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile), so we weren't able to use the Play/Pause and track shuttle controls with the iPhone. First we tested the audio playback with and without the active noise cancelling. We were very impressed with the sound quality. Unlike a lot of other stereo Bluetooth headsets that are lacking in bass, we definitely heard rich full bass here with nice smooth sound overall. Our senior MP3 editor Donald Bell said that the audio quality is a little fuzzy, but that's common with most Bluetooth audio.
It was even better when we turned on the noise cancelling; it was as if the world melted away and only the music surrounded us. Indeed, we would recommend using the BH-905 just for shutting out environmental noise. We tested the BH-905 while riding on a crowded San Francisco bus during rush hour, and it did a good job at muffling out noise. It didn't block out 100 per cent of the environmental noise of course, but it got rid of most of it. We were also pleased that we didn't get as much eardrum pressure as we sometimes get with other noise-cancelling headphones. However, do note that it takes about a second or two after you turn the noise cancelling on before it engages.
Next we tested the BH-905 with phone calls. Call quality was surprisingly good as well. Incoming call quality was great as expected. We heard our callers loud and clear without any problems. On their end, they could hear our voice very clearly as well, even when we were walking on a busy city footpath with traffic rushing past us. They could still hear some background noise, like cars honking, for example, but our voice still came through with plenty of volume. They said our voice did sound a bit harsh, but it wasn't a deal breaker.
The Nokia BH-905 has all the typical headset profile features such as answering, ending and rejecting calls, last-number redial, voice dial support where available, call mute, and the ability to switch calls between headset and phone. It comes with a sturdy carrying case, a cleaning cloth, plus a charger.
On Bluetooth, the BH-905 has a rated talk time of up to 24 hours and rated music playback time of up to 25 hours. With Bluetooth and the active noise cancellation, talk time is up to 15 hours, and music playback is up to 16 hours.