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FreePulse headphones cut the cord

Story Highlights

• Logitech FreePulse Wireless Headphones light and flexible
• Headband's wire core an improvement on plastic in original
• FreePulse has better than average sound
• Headband is not adjustable, designed for big heads
By Donald Bell
CNET.com
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(CNET.comexternal link) -- We remember when Logitech released the first Bluetooth headphones for the iPod back in 2005. In fact, we still have those antiques here at our office.

Although the originals were innovative for the time, they were expensive at $150 and suffered from a fragile headband and heavy earphones.

Fortunately, the Logitech FreePulse Wireless Headphones have solved these problems and do so at a list price of $109 (current street price is less than $90). (Check pricesexternal link)

Design

The design of the Logitech FreePulse Bluetooth Headphones is one of the better we've seen. In general, behind-the-neck headphone designs commonly suffer from placing an uncomfortable amount of weight or pressure on the ears.

The FreePulse model manages to skirt this problem by using a lightweight, flexible carbon spring-steel wire inside a silicone headband. This resilient wire core also eliminates the problem Logitech has faced in the past with breakable plastic headbands.

The FreePulse headphones uses adjustable silicon over-ear straps to secure the headphones in place, and although some people just can't stand to have straps on their ears, most users will be fine since there is very little weight involved.

We found the cushions on the headphone speakers comfortable, and the thickness of the cushioning is an improvement over the original iPod Bluetooth headphones.

By draping them over your ears instead of squeezing your head like a vice, the FreePulse headphones were easy to wear for an hour or more without discomfort.

If the FreePulse headphones suffer from a design flaw, it's that users cannot adjust the length of the headband. Logitech's designers seemed to err on the side of caution and provided enough room for those with large heads or lots of hair. The rest of us will need to use the adjustable ear straps to position the extra headband away from the head to avoid bumping against the neck.

The Bluetooth transmitter for the FreePulse headphones is nothing fancy. The square, black transmitter measures 1.5-inches across and 0.5-inches deep, with a power button and a connection indicator on one end and an adjustable stereo minijack on the other.

Unlike other iPod Bluetooth transmitters, the FreePulse doesn't use the iPod's proprietary connection port (leaving it free for devices like the Nike + iPod Sport Kitexternal link).

The upside of the FreePulse's simplified transmitter is it can be used on any audio source with a stereo headphone jack--including computers and home theater systems. Logitech also includes a handful of adapters that give the transmitter a snug fit for 4GB, 5GB, Mini, and Nano iPods.

Features

The features on the FreePulse headphones are wonderfully basic. Power buttons on both the headphones and Bluetooth transmitter turn red when activated, and then turn blue once they've established a Bluetooth connection.

The volume control located on the right headphone was simple to use. Behind the volume control, on the top edge of the right headphone, you'll find the headphone's power button, which doubles as a volume mute button when pressed momentarily.

Performance

The Logitech FreePulse Bluetooth headphones were not intended to hold up to audiophile scrutiny.

The ideal candidate for these headphones is someone looking for lightweight, unobtrusive headphones to use at the gym, or out on a jog--situations where wires are inconvenient and noise-blocking headphones could be hazardous.

While we thought the FreePulse headphones provided better than average sound quality with bass to spare, users looking for high-fidelity wireless headphones should look at products like the NaviPlay Bluetooth headphones for iPod or Pioneer SE-DIR800C for home theater use. (Popular headphonesexternal link)

We tested the Bluetooth transmission range of the FreePulse headphones around the office and at home. In both scenarios, we were able to put about 30 feet between the headphones and the transmitter before hearing any hiccups--a useful distance, but not luxurious.

Most likely, the only distance the transmitter will need to reach is between your head and your gym bag.

Battery life held up to its claim of around 7 hours and recharging was quick and easy. Very brief (one second) audio dropouts would occur from time to time, but this is common with all Bluetooth headphones we've tested. Aside from these momentary dropouts, no audible interference from radio or cell phones could be heard.

Final word

Logitech has been refining its wireless Bluetooth behind-the-neck headphones for quite some time now and the design quality of the FreePulse is proof of that effort.

Users looking for an affordable, full-sounding pair of wireless headphones that can handle the abuse doled out by long jogs and cluttered gym bags need look no further.


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