Logitech Bluetooth Freepulse

I just recently acquired a new Logitech Freepulse Bluetooth Stereo Headset.

I’ve been a something of a headphone freak and have bought many headphones in search of that elusive “ultimate earphone gadget” to complement the audioplayers I have at my disposal, but thus far I’ve found that I always have to compromise something when it comes to my headphone gadgets. If it’s not sound quality, it’s comfort, or price, or any combination of the following.

Enter the Logitech Freepulse, which is touted as one of the best wireless solutions around, and I love having no wires. Wires are a hassle which contribute to problems of aesthetics, snagging, and logistic packing. It takes time to take a wired set out of its case, and rolling it up is a must if I am to store it without it looking like a complete mess. So I excitedly tore up the packaging for my new toy and with giddy anticipation fired up the pairing process and stuck it onto my iPod Touch, and one thought entered my mind:

“Are the testers for this product hearing impaired?!”

I mean these cans sound horrible! Does everyone actually think it sounds that good, or are they just blinded by the $100 price as opposed to the free stock iPod earbuds?

Seriously the stock iPod earbuds (the new ones that shipped with the Nano 2G, Touch, etc.) are way better in sound than the muddy, weak behemoth known as the Free Pulse. That it cost $100 more is irrelevant, it sounds horrible in comparison. It sounds a lot better than my old wireless bluetooth headset, the Omiz 5130 Wireless, but does not even compare to the stock iPod earbuds, which seem to get a lot of flak for some reason.

I have a bunch of earphones to compare to including a Sennheisser HD 212 Pro, Sennheisser MX550, Sennheisser PX100, iPod in-ears, stock Nano 2G and stock Touch earbuds, stock Walkman in-ears (for W880) and stock Sony (for K750), Shure e2C, Technics DJ1200 and I will tell you the stock iPod compares favorably to all my earbuds that aren’t full-sized cans. Not as good as the Walkman/Sony buds but it’s actually a lot better than the Sennheisser MX550s. The overrated Shure e2c for instance actually doesn’t sound much better and is a lot more uncomfortable to wear. The stock iPod earbuds definitely sound way better than the Free Pulse.

The Free Pulse has stronger bass response, but that’s about the only thing it has going for it. The treble isn’t even comparable. The iPod stock has a lot more clarity with the treble and recreates a better soundstage (with extra sounds like cymbals, triangles and acoustic guitar/ukelele/string riffs standing out more distinct opposed to the muddy mess that is the soudnstage of the Freepulse. The bass sound of the free pulse is stronger, but does not have much definition (even compared to the booming HD 212 Pro, which doesn’t come anywhere close to the other DJ cans, the Technics DJ1200). Further, the sound “hurts” the ears after about two songs, it isn’t a pleasant sound. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Freepulse’s clamp design doesn’t bode well for big heads, meaning it hurts your ears and head by squeezing it. I found this could be remedied by wearing the Freepulse upside down (alleviating some of the stress on the ears — and it actually made the sound quality better for some reason).

Overall the sound quality is extremely disappointing, considering how every review I’ve read swears by the sound quality. See:

http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/reviews/entry/logitech-freepulse-wireless-headphones/
http://www.pocketnow.com/index.php?a=portal_detail&t=reviews&id=872
http://reviews.digitaltrends.com/review4332.html
http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/freepulse/3.htm

I cannot believe how much these reviewers love the sound of this headset, it’s just mindboggling.

In the end, preference for sound depends on the person. But there comes a point when the quality of a certain sound solution simply doesn’t wash compared to obviously higher quality ones. The Freepulse is the case of one of those headsets that is just obviously inferior to other higher quality ones like the HD212 Pro, the stock iPod earbuds, the Sennheisser PX100 and the Sennheisser MX550 — and all of these are less expensive (though understably so — they aren’t Bluetooth 2 EDR).

In the end I cannot justify or recommend the purchase of this headset based on soundquality. I would only recommend them to people who want to have a wireless headset to work with their iPods.

Speaking of working iPods, I don’t recommend this set to anyone not sporting an iPod or a Bluetooth-enabled device. The physical design was meant to match with iPods, with the included bases which are designed for specific iPods. There are bases for the Mini, the 4G iPod, 5G iPod, Zune and the Nano 1G but none for the newer models.

I own a Nano 2G and a Touch 16GB, and fortunately I found that the Nano 1G base works perfectly with these two models. The other bases might work with other gadgets you have but it’s a matter of luck if it works well. I also have an old Creative Muvo which works does not fit the Nano 1G base, unfortunately, and it’s a pain to change bases so I didn’t really get to test the other bases on it. You’ll have to hope one of the bases fits your device if you don’t have an iPod or Zune. Going without a base looks unsightly as the headphone jack is raised a bit, leaving a big space that looks plain bad — not to mention unstable.

Alternatively, if you have a bluetooth-enabled device that supports the Wireless Headset profile (like a newer model PocketPC or phone) you can pair the Freepulse headset directly by holding down the pairing button until it flashes red/blue, the passcode is 0000. This works well and provides better audio quality than going through the 3.5mm dongle, but will drain your device’s battery faster. I was able to pair mine with my O2 Atom Exec without any problems and the sound quality was better than passing it through the dongle.

It also bears mentioning that for those who plan to use the headset with a gaming device like the PSP, DS, or even your PC or PS3/Xbox 360, Bluetooth technology is not perfect yet and does not deliver the sound instantaneously — there is a slight delay in the transmission. This is not noticeable in most games but for a game where rhythm and timing are important like Patapon, Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero, that slight millisecond delay will throw your game off and make the game unplayable. Be warned.

When all is said and done, is this the headset for you? Well if you really hate cables and must have a wireless solution, and can test the fit of the headset or just believe in your luck that it’ll fit your head properly, AND do not mind so-so sound quality, then these are the earphones for you. They are relatively inexpensive at about $100US — I bought my first Omiz pair for around $150 — and have okay, but not great, sound quality. At least you won’t wretch at the poor sound like I did with my original Omiz 5130. But if you fancy yourself an audiophile, or close to being one, the sound quality will almost certainly disappoint — if you have a Nano 2G or newer iPod you will probably compare it to the stock earbuds and the result is not pretty.

All in all I do not recommend it to anyone except those who really must be without cables. You can find far better sounding (and looking) cans, albeit wired. While the Freepulse does offer you freedom from wires, it constrains you (and your head for that matter) in many other ways, so the trade-off does not seem worth it.

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