Gadling review: Motorola H17txt Bluetooth headset with MotoSpeak

In the world of Bluetooth headsets, most innovations happen in the design department – but the new Motorola H17txt with MotoSpeak is one of the first headsets to really add some long overdue new features to more than just looks.

The H17txt is a dual microphone Bluetooth headset with everything you’d expect from a top notch headset – multipoint pairing (allows you to connect to two phones at the same time), automatic volume adjustment and long battery life.

What sets the H17txt apart from the competition is its ability to read your messages, email and incoming caller ID to you. The headset does this through a smartphone application that can be installed on Android and RIM devices.

Once installed, you’ll be alerted when you receive a message, and if enabled, the headset will actually read the message to you. The same speech system is used to announce incoming calls and other features on your phone. The quality of the speech is very impressive, and makes it possible to drive without reaching for your phone to check on your latest email.

The headset itself is very compact, and features a flip microphone, which also acts as the on/off switch. This means you can turn the headset on (or off) without having to fiddle with a power switch.

The headset charges off MicroUSB, and operates for up to five hours off a full battery, or up to a week on standby. The Bluetooth options on the headset support the headset and hands free profile, as well as Bluetooth streaming music.

Other neat features include quick connect and an easy pairing mode which makes the pairing process easier, without the need for a pin.

The comfort level surprised me – once correctly inserted, you quickly forget you are wearing the H17txt – but the plastic ear clip was a bit of a pain to use, and I managed to have it snap my ear several times, which is quite painful.

Call quality is excellent – and passes my Bluetooth headset test by not making it obvious to callers that I was talking to them on a headset. Bluetooth music does not sound as good as on dedicated stereo headphones, but that can hardly be expected from a mono headset.

The headset also has several of its own voice prompts, so even if you don’t use it on a phone with the MotoSpeak software, you’ll still get helpful pointers. Volume is good, and no matter how much you shake your head, there is no way the headset will fall out.

The software for the H17txt is provided by, and offers a huge list of options and features. If the default voice doesn’t do much for you, you can tweak its settings, or pick a different voice.

All in all a very well designed headset, with the added bonus of the MotoSpeak features. Sadly, users with an iPhone won’t be able to use the voice features as it only works on Android and RIM (>version 4.5.)

The H17txt with MotoSpeak is available from BestBuy, the Moto Store or Verizon Wireless for $99.99, putting it in the same price range as most other high-end Bluetooth headsets.

Soundmatters foxL v2 pocket sized music system review

If you like a bit of music when you travel, then chances are you already carry a small speaker, or even a docking base for your device. In this review, I’ll introduce you to the Soundmatters foxL v2 and explain why it is the definitive perfect speaker for travelers.

The Soundmatters foxL v2 pocket sized music system is a small battery powered Bluetooth enabled speaker unlike anything I have ever reviewed. Yes – we have featured travel friendly speakers here on Gadling before, but none of them get even remotely close to the performance of the foxl.

So – what makes this speaker so special? For starters – Soundmatters is a professional grade audio company. Their lineup of products relies heavily on their own patented technology, and all their products have years of research behind them. The foxl speaker is no different.

The basic specifications of the foxL v2 are impressive: Stereo “twoofer” speakers, built in lithium-Ion battery pack, built in kick stand, integrated BassBattery bass booster, USB charging option and an optional Bluetooth enabled version with Stereo music streaming and “business class” hands-free.

On the front of the foxL are its two main speakers, and on the rear (behind the kickstand/grille) is a bass booster (with subwoofer performance). And trust me when I say that this is not just there for show. On the rear is also the power switch and 2 volume buttons.

On the Bluetooth enabled version, an LED/button on the front of the unit enable pairing mode, and show Bluetooth status.

On the left side of the unit are the line-in and power-in jacks, and on the right is a USB charging port and a subwoofer output (which is a good hint that this is not your ordinary speaker).

The foxL package comes extremely complete – inside the box is an AC charger, an assortment of international plugs (a very nice touch), a carrying case, non-slip mat (more on that in a moment), a wrist strap and a USB charging cable.

Battery life is rated at 5 hours – which is quite astounding, given how well this thing performs. Amazingly, Soundmatters actually managed to turn the battery into part of the subwoofer assembly – dubbed BassBattery/Flatmagic.With the volume nice and loud, you can actually feel the bass if you hold your hand in front of the grille.

The speakers on the front are specially designed and patented by Soundmatters – these 25mm Linear Magnetic Drive speakers are “Twoofers” (tweeters that also woof).

The included lanyard also works perfectly as a neck strap, which is a great way to carry it around if you just want some tunes on a hike (pictured above is one of the Soundmatters staff members who took his speaker to Alaska, providing music for everyone on his team).

So – now on to the most important part of the Soundmatters foxL v2 – its audio performance. There really is no other way to describe it – the foxL is unbelievable. I spent my first ten minutes with the foxL just staring at it, wondering how the hell they manage to get so much volume out of such a little speaker.

I’m not joking when I say that the foxL performs better than my (pretty pricey) PC speakers. Best of all, the foxL doesn’t just excel in volume, it also produces amazing clarity.

Soundmatters foxL v2 speaker demo from Scott C on Vimeo.

In my test, I used the foxL with a Google Nexus One and an iPhone 3GS (using Bluetooth) and with a Sandisk Sansa Clip+ (using FLAC uncompressed audio). In each test, the performance was amazing. Obviously, the sound quality of the (wired) Sansa Clip was slightly better than the music from the streaming Bluetooth devices. Even when set to its maximum volume, there was virtually no distortion, but at this level, you do realize why they include a non-slip mat, without it, the speakers start “walking” off your table!

Of course, a video does not give a good impression of how music sounds, but it should give you an idea of the quality.

The only downside to the foxL v2 is the price – $169.99 or $199.99 for the Bluetooth enabled version. That said – when you compare this to a premium iPhone or iPod docking system, the price is actually quite reasonable, especially since the foxL Bluetooth comes with a very usable hands-free system. The only minor thing I missed on the Bluetooth version is audio controls, but it does pause and resume music, and you can pick up a call using the Bluetooth control button on the front.

Since this is a standard Bluetooth device, you can pair it with any device that supports Bluetooth audio (A2DP) and Bluetooth hands free (which means it’ll also work as a hands free speakerphone for Skype on your computer).

PROS: Absolutely amazing sound, unlike anything else on the market, very complete package of accessories included

CONS: Price

All in all, if you value good music, and don’t want the compromise of almost every other portable music system on the market, you should seriously consider the foxL. The unit is very compact (5.6 x 2.2 x 1.4 inch) and weighs just 9.5 oz.

To learn more about the Soundmatters foxL v2 or to find out how to order your own, check out their product page.

Win a Plantronics Bluetooth headset from Gadling!

As the number of states introducing hands-free laws slowly grows, it is becoming more important than ever to practice safe talking when you are in your car.

Since we care about your safety (and want to prevent you from facing a steep fine), we have teamed up with Plantronics to help you get your hands on a top-of-the-line Bluetooth headset. We’ve got six headsets to give away, and all you need to do in order to win one of these is leave a comment telling us the weirdest place you have ever made a phone call.

Once you have entered the contest, you’ll have a chance at winning either a Plantronics Discovery 975 (retail price $129.99) or a Plantronics Voyager Pro (retail price $99.99).

The Discovery 975 is one of the coolest looking headsets on the market, and comes in a stylish leather case that doubles as a portable charger.

The Voyager Pro is the perfect headset for busy professionals who demand the best sound quality on both ends of their call.

  • To enter, simply leave a comment answering the question posted above.
  • The comment must be left before Tuesday February 9th 2010 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Six Prize Winners will be randomly selected to receive one Plantronics Bluetooth headset (sorry, we’ll pick the headset for you, but winners will receive either one of the three Voyager units, or one of the three Discovery units).
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • The total value of each prize is either approximately $99.99 (for the Voyager) or approximately $129.99 (for the Discovery).
  • Click here for the complete official rules of this giveaway.

Heading to the Winter Olympics? Talking and driving could cost you $160!

If you are heading to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, be sure to bring a hands-free headset.

Starting today, British Columbia police will be on the lookout for anyone using their phone without a headset of hands-free car kit. Their new hands-free law went into effect on January 1st, and the grace period for offenders ends today, just in time for thousands of visitors to visit their area.

Penalties are pricey – $167 CAD (about $160 USD). In addition to phone calls, British Columbia also bans text messaging, sending email or anything else that involves looking at the screen of your device.

Bottom line is put your phone down and pay attention to the road (good advice anywhere in the world).

Similar laws are already in place in the United States and a good overview of current states with hands-free laws can be found here.

Mobile headset maker Plantronics has put together some tips on safe driving with your phone, and later this week they’ll join Gadling in giving away some of the hottest Bluetooth headsets on the market.
Safety Tips for Hands-free Devices

Plantronics offers the following tips for keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road when using your cell phone and hands-free device while driving:

  • Trial Run: Practice using your phone and headset together before you drive. Familiarize yourself with the headset controls. Adjust the fit and the microphone on your headset, check the headset settings on your cell phone and stow the phone so it’s out of your way but still accessible.
  • Be Prepared: Program all your frequently called numbers into your phone. This includes your boss, your kids’ babysitter and your favorite neighborhood pizza place. And don’t forget about speed and voice dialing; most phones have those options, so use them as much as possible.
  • Set Up for Success: Just as you check your rearview mirror and secure your seatbelt before driving, be sure to put your headset on and ensure its connected properly to your phone.
  • Driving Comes First: Remember: your first priority is driving. You should only place and receive calls when it’s absolutely necessary.

Portable travel friendly Bluetooth tunes from a tube – Gadling reviews the IPEVO Tubular

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of portable travel friendly speakers. One of my first reviews here on Gadling was for the Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3. Since then, several other speakers passed through our gadget labs. Today’s speaker is the first Bluetooth version, and also the first to offer its services in a nifty tube form.

The IPEVO Tubular consists of two speaker halves. One speaker houses an internal battery, Bluetooth receiver and controls, while the other is just a passive speaker with a cord that plugs into the main unit.

When not in use, you can wind the cord on the bottom, and click both speakers together, forming a tube – which obviously explains the product name.
Speaker setup

There is no audio input on the Tubular, so you will need a Bluetooth audio device to get tunes out of the speakers. Thankfully, devices with Bluetooth stereo audio support are quite common, and even the iPhone can be used with them.

Recharging the speakers is simple – on the bottom of the main unit is a USB cable, which means you can plug them into your computer, or any USB power source. Battery life is rated at “6 to 8 hours”, which is not too bad considering the total weight of the two speakers is just 10 ounces.

Setting up the speakers is simple – you twist the two halves to unlock, then you connect the two halves with the audio cable wrapped under the second speaker. Controls on the Tubular are equally simple. With just three buttons, you control the power, pairing mode, volume and audio (play/pause and track control).

Once paired to the speakers, the devices I tested all reconnected within about 5-10 seconds.

Audio and Bluetooth performance

Audio from the IPEVO Tubular speakers is actually quite impressive – and certainly far better than I had expected. Sound does lack a little bass, and unless your device features an equalizer, you’ll certainly notice a lag in “oomph”, but the quality is outstanding. Of course, real audiophiles will think of the setup as double trouble, because you are taking laggy music and streaming it over something not made for high quality music. Truth is, unless you are a hardcore audiophile, the quality is just fine, and certainly perfect for your hotel room or desk.

The Bluetooth range is equally impressive – Outdoors, I was able to get 35 meters (114 feet) away from the Tubular before the sound started breaking up. Inside, I was two rooms away (about 35 feet and two walls) till the music stopped. This is without a doubt the best Bluetooth reliability I’ve ever seen. It also means you can leave your player in your bag or jacket pocket.

Before you purchase the IPEVO Tubular speakers, be sure to check whether your phone supports Bluetooth music. This is not the same as being able to use a Bluetooth headset. The ability to stream music is also referred to as “A2DP”. Controlling your music required the Bluetooth remote control profile (referred to as AVCRP). Not all devices support this, and some (like the iPhone) only have a limited implementation.

The IPEVO Tubular for travelers

Whether or not the Tubular speakers can benefit you depends on how much you enjoy bringing music with you. The Altec-Lansing Orbit MP3 speakers we reviewed last year sound good, but are mono only, and don’t offer Bluetooth. With the Tubular’s, you obviously get a larger speaker, but not to the point where it becomes too large for travel.

The speakers are compact, and you always have the option of using just one of them instead of setting them up for that cool stereo effect.

Final thoughts

The speakers lack some features that could have made them even better – there is no microphone, which means you can’t use them for VOIP calls (unless you use your PC microphone or carry your own) and no way to boost the bass.

The design of the speakers is really cool – and I love how they connect together to form a single unit. What I don’t like is the cord winding system – getting the USB and audio cord wound back up is a pain in the backside, and unless the cord is perfectly wound up, you won’t be able to connect the speakers together. Still, with a little practice, it will eventually stop annoying you.

PROS: Fantastic sound, very reliable Bluetooth connection, great design
CONS: No microphone for hands-free calls, poor cord winding system

Despite the minor issue of the cord winder – the Tubular’s are a great addition to the gadget arsenal of anyone who wants portable music on the road. Sound is good, they are reliable and at $79, they are surprisingly well priced.

The IPEVO Tubular speakers cost $79, and are available directly from the IPEVO site.