Bluetooth is technically a rather old technology and wireless headphones have really never taken off, yet they’re becoming an increasingly popular topic on our forum. A lot of the reason for that is that it’s becoming integrated into players, with the Samsung P3 and the Cowon S9 among the newest, most popular models to have this capability.
Most Bluetooth headphones are behind-the-neck style for some reason and there aren’t many normal type Bluetooth headphones. The Sony DR-BT22 is an exception, with a form factor and size that really doesn’t look like it’s Bluetooth at first glance. The DR-BT22 are on their way out, which has dropped the price from a MSRP of $99 to a sales price of under $30 on Amazon, which means these are perfect for people who want to go wireless. But are they any good?
- Quick Look
- Headband type: Over the head
- Battery life (music): 11 Hours
- Battery life (standby): 100 Hours
- Weight: 33g
- Bluetooth version: 1.2
- Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, Headset, Handsfree
I have, have had or have tried a LOT of Bluetooth headphones and they are generally too big (if they have actual earpads and not plugs) and makes you look like a cross between Princess Leia and a robot with screws sticking out of your head. Because of this, my single biggest surprise with the DR-BT22 was how small they are! They really don’t look any bigger than my PX100, which has the same size earpad, and it amazes me that they’ve managed to cram a decent battery in there (about 10 hours real time use per charge). Compared to the BT620s for instance, these are 1/3 the weight – which is very noticeable.
The over-the-head design is a nice change from all those neckband style Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried, like the Jabra BT620s. The headband is adjustable as well as fordable, which makes them easy to fit and easy to carry. They are very comfortable, but they don’t really press against your skull that hard, which means they will easily fall off if you lean forward too much, run around or….dance.
The controls are placed on one side of the headphones, which is really nice. A problem with a lot of Bluetooth headphones is that the controls are so generic that you can’t feel your way to which control does what. With the DR-BT22, theres a 2-way joystick for pause, next and previous track while the volume controls are normal buttons. On for instance the BT620s I constantly found myself doing the wrong thing because the volume and playback controls were the same kind of buttons, placed the same way but on each of the earpads.
One design annoyance I did find was that they went with some proprietary charging port for charging the headphones instead of just USB, which means you need to have the charger with you to charge them. To make it worse, the charger is only compatible with 110V, which means that Europeans- like me- need to use a step down converter to charge it if they get it from the US. The low price is pretty much US-only, so don’t expect these to go for such a low price anywhere else.
With Bluetooth headphones, the connection you get depends on both the transmitter and the receiver. Weak receiver or weak transmitter means weak signal. Unfortunately, the DR-BT22 can be said to have a rather weak transmitter. No matter what device I tried, integrated Bluetooth or adapter, it lost the signal if the transmitting device was in my pocket when I was outside. If I carry the transmitting device in the front pouch of my hoodie, it’s OK. I specify “outside” because Bluetooth devices work a lot better when there are walls to bounce the signals off, in fact I could pretty much move through the entire apartment with the transmitting device in a room in the middle without trouble, but the problem comes when you lose walls to bounce the signal off and when the mass in between the receiver and the transmitter becomes human flesh which isn’t very signal friendly.
Pairing has gone smoothly each time but they do have a tendency to forget what they’ve been paired to and needed a repairing at times. Bluetooth really isn’t as standardized as people think and this hugely depends on your transmitting device. Some Bluetooth devices do passive reconnects, meaning it waits for the headphones to show up and then connects to them, but the DR-BT22 doesn’t seem to poke the other device when it turns on which means you need to actively reconnect them, which not all transmitting devices can do- especially Bluetooth transmitters (that plug into the 3.5mm jack). Again, different devices do different things, so your mileage might vary. Update: Jack4L informs me that the DR-BT22 does do a poke, but only manually – by pressing the play button (not the on/off button briefly as most devices use, or automated).
The sound quality on these is very good. I must remind you about my Bluetooth audio roundup and the difference between Bluetooth headphones with good sound and normal headphones with good sound. Bluetooth has limitations which nothing can really overcome, but as far as Bluetooth headphones go, these are very good. There is actually bass, which a lot of Bluetooth headphones lack (or artificially create) but I noticed the highs being a bit overwhelming at times, bordering on annoying sibilance. This only really happened on songs with high pitched instruments like flutes, but when it did happen it close to broke my ears. Still, if you can live with Bluetooth audio at all, you can probably live with the sound quality of these.
For $99, these might be worth it for a few people. For $30, everyone should have a pair. These are really good headphones that unfortunately suffer from a rather poor receiver, so be prepared to use a lanyard, armband or something else if your device has a poor transmitter. Some devices, like the Sony A820, have settings for whether to prioritize sound quality or connection which would be a life saver when using the DR-BT22, but unfortunately most Bluetooth devices seem to prioritize sound quality. If you’re not scared by a weak connection, there isn’t much bad to say about these, and again the price is really an important factor here.