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Review: Motorola MOTOROKR S9HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

motorokr Review: Motorola MOTOROKR S9HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Cost: $99.95 in the store

The Motorola MOTOROKR S9HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones are a improvement over the original Motorola S9 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. Those headphones were pretty impressive and the new S9HD version builds upon them with better audio quality and noise cancelation. While they do have some faults they are some of the best looking and sounding Bluetooth A2DP stereo headphones available. Read on to learn why…

Summary: Great sound, generally comfortable fit and easily setup.

So let’s start with the unboxing. The headphones came in the usual indestructible packaging. I finally got it open, almost losing a finger or two in the process. (I hate blister wrap)

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Setup: It comes almost completely uncharged. So you have to charge it fully before using it. Once charged, like other Motorola headsets, it uses pairs with Bluetooth devices easily. It turns on and is automatically discoverable. You don’t have to go and do anything special to get into pairing mode. If you want to pair it to something else afterwards, just turn off the first device and restart the headset and it will be discoverable again for another device. It comes with two kinds of rubber earpieces. The larger ones comes already on the earphones.

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First Impression: The earpieces are tight and go deep in your ear. This helps block out background noise and lets you keep the music lower. I connected it to both my Macbook and my Blackberry Curve. The bass sound was great and the general audio quality was crisp and clear. However, at some points there would be a slight quick fuzz when connected to my Macbook but not when using the Blackberry. This could be because the battery was dying but it wasn’t consistent, just a fuzz for a second and then gone.

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Feel: At first it takes a few minutes for your ears to get used to how deep into your ear the earpieces go and the pressure the arms put on your ear as a whole. But after a brief trial period it starts to feel normal. Like a lot of headsets and 180 earmuffs the base reaches behind your neck. It feels nice and natural, without getting into your way much. There are buttons for volume and answering calls on the left earpiece and buttons to control the music on the right earpiece. The buttons are hard plastic and have to be pushed down with a little force. At first this seems like a good idea, but since the earpieces already dig deep into your ears, pushing the buttons on the earpiece only pushes the earbud further into your ear, which becomes a little uncomfortable. All in all, you can use the buttons but they are hard to push and are just place uncomfortable pressure on your ears.

Longer use: After a while (a few hours of straight use) the earpieces start to hurt your ear canal. I switched the rubber earpieces to the smaller harder ones and that seemed to make them a bit more comfortable. I also notices two other situations that make the earphones a bit uncomfortable. When wearing a scarf of something else near your neck, the main Bluetooth receiver portion that rests behind your neck starts to get pushed around. This makes it start to feel like a traffic jam on the back of your neck. More importantly, it moves the earpieces around that are pushed against your ears which are also uncomfortable. Also, the earphone arm that loops back from the ear canal to the back of the neck pushes down your ear so that its flat against the bone of the skull. This isn’t a problem normally because it gives you a snug fit. But, when you wear glasses with the arms of the glasses tucked behind the ear, the pressure of the earphones hurt the area of your ear and skull that are smushed with the arm of the glasses between them.

Logistics: When connecting it to a computer (I used my Macbook), just make sure that you are connecting it as a set of wireless headphones and not a wireless headset. When connected as a headset you will only get out mono sound (crappy sound). But when connected as headphones you get your sound as stereo (good).

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Portability: The earphones aren’t collapsible in any way. When you are traveling  I guess you should have these on your ears so that wouldn’t matter. But once you get somewhere you want to be able to put it in your pocket or something and store them away. They give you a pouch to put them in but you can’t put it in your pocket unless you have super-sized cargo pants.

Pros:

  • Easy setup
  • Great sound
  • Generally comfortable.

Cons:

  • Not comfortable when wearing scarf or glasses
  • Also uncomfortable after extended use
  • Hard to store
  • Buttons are hard to press and may hurt when pressed.
16 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. How’s the sweat resistance after a few workouts? That was the bane of the old S9′ existence. Sweat excessively (running/cycling/lifting/jumping rope etc.) & the buttons act possessed or unresponsive. I went through three sets of these things last summer.

    Hopefully, Moto has this taken care of in this model.

    C.

    • Actually, I have been using them for another two weeks now since I wrote the review. In the gym I haven’t been having any problems at all, buttons are hard plastic now so there is no functionality loss.

    • I have the S-9 and also went through three sets due to sweat. I just dissected my current set when the buttons all became non functional. I’ve found the problem. The touch buttons are connected to to a tiny printed circuit board inside the earbud section (behind the speaker). This connection is a surface mount solder joint and is completely exposed to the atmosphere. All that salty sweat gets in there and corrodes the connection. I gently pried the connection apart and reassembled the headphones. Now, although none of the buttons work I at least don’t get the spontaneous volume changes and random button-press beeps! I will be ordering a new S-9HD this week…

  2. wow this is really great.this look like the perfect wireless solution for mobile to listen music or making and receiving calls.i think its worth buying it.

  3. The larger earbuds do get annoying after a while, and when I switch to the smaller, the sound deminishes. I also wear goggles in the lab all day which get in the way of the earpiece. I think I’ll switch to the Plantronics ear bud with extra wire stereo bud.

  4. Does it have a mike so that I can have a conversation on my iPhone? I presume it’s compatible with the iPhone 3G…

    • So to use the wireless bluetooth stereo function of the headset with an iPhone or other apple product (including the iPhone 3g) you are going to need a special Apple adapter (D650). If you have an iPhone 3g, the new version 3 software that will be distributed this summer will allow you to use stereo bluetooth headphones without the D650 special adapter, but you would have to wait until then.

      Believe it or not I actually didn’t test it as a bluetooth microphone, but I will try that later for you and get back to you.

  5. Just bought em a while ago and though the sound quality is worth more than the 100 dollars they ask I still think that there is a bit of scratchy noise that comes through but hey what can you expect its a wireless headset for your ipod. I just cant wait until they size down the bluetooth plug-in. It is worth the buy. Everything you buy shall have problems and people usually cry to much when things are not perfect.

  6. Had this unit for < 1 week. Frequent, intermittent silences with a BB Storm (i.e. BT signal is still recognized with fastfwd, etc., but no sound when music is playing – can see that it is on the device). At times (and initially) works flawlessly, and is wonderful (convenient, fits well, great sound). The unpredictability and lack of info on how to deal with the above mentioned problem renders this unit useless. BTW, scanning the web finds references to this problem with other A2DP phones.

  7. These just aren’t that great. They do not fit very well. One ear piece sits perfectly in my ear, however causes the other one to only semi-fit. This makes it much louder in one ear and not the other. I wanted an A2SD headphone set to use while on my motorcycle, and these are not cutting the mustard. My glasses either push the right earpiece farther from my head or push it into my temple causing pain (bearable). My iPhone 3G 3.0 was in a case on my left hip and the reception kept cutting out, even while I was off the motorcycle and walking around Best Buy (looking for another style of A2SD headphones) they kept cutting out.

    If you can get them to fit for you, the sound is pretty good. Volume is a little low for my taste.

    These have been worn for several hours for 2 days and never got comfortable or fit well for me.
    I will definitely be returning these and look into something like the Jaybird in ear style.

    • Douglas Murray,

      I tried the Jaybirds. The concept is awesome, the execution–not so much. I really wanted to like these things, but could never get them to fit right. If Jaybird had made the earhook part with some form of memory wire core you could adapt them to your ear shape. Unfortunately Jaybird seems to feel you shoud adapt your ear to fit the device! :) Anyway, hope you have better luck than I did.

  8. Comfort and good sound BUT they constantly cut out. The only place they work well is in the car. When I’m at work , in malls and office buildings or just outside they tend to cut out about 10x/minute ! I’ve took the first pair back but second pair doing same thing. I’ve also pairing it with 3 differnt devices (iphone,ipod,blackberry) but each time the same thing. I usually wear my phone on my belt however if I put the phone between my shoulder blades then the “cut out” stops … not very practical. I WILL BE RETURNING HEADSET !

  9. Sweat is still a problem with the S9-HD as with the S-9!!After the first use my headset went bad – sound/button problem because I used them while sweating. I used them when working out and like so many complaints I found after doing a google search, only the volume down button worked. Plus, my charge was only lasting 1 hour. I tried using the headphones a few more times but it is pretty pointless to use them when the sounds is so low that you need complete silence all around you to hear anything.
    I tried using mine in the gym and when bicycling.
    Evidently, you can’t let any sweat get on the headphones, or the buttons go bad. Even though the box says these are sweat-resistant and they have a David Beckham limited edition, which is targeted at sports-minded people, these things don’t stand up to even mild sweat!! Do a google search to see how many complaints there are about these headphones. This sweat problem has been around since the S9 and the problem is still not fixed in the S9-HD version! Don’t they field-test these things or don’t they care about quality control at the factory in China where these are produced??? Plus, see the YouTube video which shows one recommended work-around by spraying the headphones with hairspray before using, in order to creat a type of protective sealant against any form of perspiration.
    Additionally, Motorola support is pretty useless. After making it through the voice-activated call-screening system I received “help” from a tech who really didn’t seem very keen in helping me. My problem is that I bought my headsets when back home in the US, but I live and work overseas. Motorola, for being an international company, does not provide INTERNATIONAL support!!!! When I repeatedly asked to speak with his supervisor, he refused and said they have no supervisors available. After the 5th request to speak with a supervisor I gave up on that idea. He finally relented from my insistence and told me that they will ship me a replacement product to a relative’s address in the US (great… now I have to wait until December to have my second pair break within a few days!!).
    I will repeat the refrain of so many others. DON’T BUY THIS PRODUCT and avoid the hassles of dealing with poor product quality and poor support.
    By the way, in my google search I came across so many complaints of people replacing these headphones between 3 and 13(!!!!) times!!!!

  10. Sweat is still a problem with the S9-HD as with the S-9!!After the first use my headset went bad – sound/button problem because I used them while sweating. I used them when working out and like so many complaints I found after doing a google search, only the volume down button worked. Plus, my charge was only lasting 1 hour. I tried using the headphones a few more times but it is pretty pointless to use them when the sounds is so low that you need complete silence all around you to hear anything.
    I tried using mine in the gym and when bicycling.
    Evidently, you can\’t let any sweat get on the headphones, or the buttons go bad. Even though the box says these are sweat-resistant and they have a David Beckham limited edition, which is targeted at sports-minded people, these things don\’t stand up to even mild sweat!! Do a google search to see how many complaints there are about these headphones. This sweat problem has been around since the S9 and the problem is still not fixed in the S9-HD version! Don\’t they field-test these things or don\’t they care about quality control at the factory in China where these are produced??? Plus, see the YouTube video which shows one recommended work-around by spraying the headphones with hairspray before using, in order to creat a type of protective sealant against any form of perspiration.
    Additionally, Motorola support is pretty useless. After making it through the voice-activated call-screening system I received \”help\” from a tech who really didn\’t seem very keen in helping me. My problem is that I bought my headsets when back home in the US, but I live and work overseas. Motorola, for being an international company, does not provide INTERNATIONAL support!!!! When I repeatedly asked to speak with his supervisor, he refused and said they have no supervisors available. After the 5th request to speak with a supervisor I gave up on that idea. He finally relented from my insistence and told me that they will ship me a replacement product to a relative\’s address in the US (great… now I have to wait until December to have my second pair break within a few days!!).
    I will repeat the refrain of so many others. DON\’T BUY THIS PRODUCT and avoid the hassles of dealing with poor product quality and poor support.
    By the way, in my google search I came across so many complaints of people replacing these headphones between 3 and 13(!!!!) times!!!!

  11. Meh. I just got a pair of these for my new Palm Pre (which, btw – is a great device…). My first bluetooth headset, I don’t know if shitty sound quality is par for the course, but I was left disappointed in the overall expanse and richness, of the audio quality (informally tested over several types of music). I’ve had cheap earbuds that sound much better (not to mention the Sony DJ headphones I use constantly at work, and which these were to be a replacement). Additionally, and maybe more importantly, I just can’t get them to fit right. Granted, I am larger than most people, but when I shift my head up, the buds tend to pop out. which is annoying. To end. A trip back to Best Buy to see what else they’ve got is in my future…

  12. I bought a set of the S-9 HDs to replace my dying S-9s. Here’s a quick review:
    Sound Quality. Calls were loud and clear both ways. Motorola seems to have improved the noise isolation in the microphone circuitry. Callers didn’t seem to hear as much background noise as compared to the old design. Listening to music was a different story. The equalization was totally wrong out of the box when using Windows Media Player on a Smartphone. Bass was overdriven, the midrange was muddy and highs were practically non-existent. Using Core Media Player I was able to fine-tune the EQ to my taste and the sound was actually pretty good. The bass was still overemphasized a bit, but I was able to get pretty good sounding midrange and the highs were fairly bright.
    Function. After working out in the gym and outdoors with these for two months I started to experience the sweat-induced random beeps and volume changes. This was just like the three previous pairs of S-9s I’ve owned. I even removed the rubber tips and gently cleaned both the tips and the outer shell of the ear buds after every workout session and placed the headset in a container filled with desiccant beads to speed drying. As with the S-9, the company still hasn’t addressed the underlying design flaw. The speaker and the printed circuit board (PCB) that’s housed in the ear bud shells are not shielded from moisture. The salt in perspiration penetrates and quickly corrodes the electrical connections inside the shell. I wouldn’t recommend these headphones to anyone with an “active lifestyle.” If you sweat much while you’re using them, they probably won’t last more than 6 months. It’s too bad, the basic design was sound. Motorola just needed to take that one little extra step and use a moisture barrier on the PCB and the problem would have been solved.

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