Hardware review Sony DR-BT160AS (Bluetooth Stereo Headset)

October 22, 2014
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

SONY DR-BT160AS

Sony DR-BT160AS (Bluetooth Stereo Headset)
Model: DR-BT160AS
Manufacturer: Sony
Manufactured: 2008 [DISCONTINUED]
UPC: 027242734661

Product manual: |PDF|

I think of myself as a careful shopper. One who would rather research a product than let a salesperson explain its virtues to me. But one day, probably in Summer 2009, I made a relatively impulsive decision. I bought a pair of wireless headphones based on the maufactuer’s reputation, the specifications on the packaging, and the price. It is one of the best purchase decisions I’ve ever made.

Back in 2008 I had seen someone wearing a pair of Bluetooth enabled headphones at the gym, and was entranced by the idea. For decades I had used wired headphones, most often the low end models, like the Sony MDR-101. The earbuds that I’d tried over the years never properly fit my ears. And so I was always looking for a better listening device. For at least 5 years this turned out to be a then discontinued model of over-the-ear and behind-the-head earbuds that I picked up at NCIX on impulse. After wearing them for a day I went back and bought another pair (they were about $80) thinking these would be a backup for the day when the ones I’d bought the day before died. Sadly, that day has finally come. And though my backup pair have been sitting in their box since 2008, I’ve just now opened them up. Sadly, it was this very morning that was the day one my long-durable earbuds suddenly died. At this very moment I am charging up, for the very first time, my backup DR-BT160AS headset. And, looking at them charge, my only regret is that I didn’t buy more backup pairs – for I fear that, one day, the greatness that is the DR-BT160AS will no longer be available to me. And at the moment I have no expectation of a suitable replacement.

Trying to figure out why I’m so attached to the broken first pair of Sony DR-BT160AS earbuds sitting before me I think I can explain why I’m upset. This pair of bluetooth wireless earbuds have been more comfortable than any headphones I’ve ever owned. They are light and durable. The earbuds themselves can be pushed in and out easily due to thick metal pillar from which they project. The form fitting design of the behind the ear nacelles feel less ungainly that they look. Usable in the sun and rain, at the gym, while driving, walking, or working, the DR-BT160AS have dutifully delivered countless thousands of hours of podcasts and audiobooks, for several hours each day, seven days a week, to my ears without fail.

Wired headphones always always always get in the way, always get tangled, always get caught on things, and their foamy coverings always soak up sweat and become ripped. When I switched iPhones, from the 3GS to my first 5, the DR-BT160AS kept working, no problem. When my first iPhone 5 died, I walked out of the Apple Store with a new iPhone 5 and my trusty old DR-BT160AS headset. When I got my first iPad they worked with that. When sold that iPad I kept the Sony earbuds, and bought an iPad Mini and they worked with that. Suffice it to say my DR-BT160AS headphones are with me more than any other personal electronic device I’ve ever owned. Since 2009 I’ve probably owned about four or five pairs of sunglasses. None of them have lasted half as long as the DR-BT160AS. And the DR-BT160AS earbuds allow room enough for simultaneous use of sunglasses, something no previous pair of headphones I’ve owned ever could. There’s a little joystick control at the back of the right nacelle. I generally don’t use it. Pressing on it makes the track stop or play. Left and right move tracks back or ahead. Up and down increase and decrease volume. There’s also an answer phone button on the bottom of the right nacelle. I don’t think I’ve used it more than twice. The power on bottom is intuitive, and take a moment to engage so you don’t accidentally turn it on or off. The indicator lights, on the right nacelle’s top tell you its status, connected (flashing blue), charging (solid red). When it boots up, it makes a little “on” sound and when it runs out of power (typically only if I’ve forgotten to charge it overnight) it makes a little “off” sound.

Sony DR-BT160AS Right Nacelle

That isn’t to say the DR-BT160AS is perfect. It isn’t. The built in microphone picks up a lot of ambient noise, I know this because callers continually complain, but on the other hand the fact that they have a built in microphone is a step up from every pair of headphones I’d previously owned. In winter, the connecting neck band, an arc of plastic that gives the headset its semi-rigid shape, will push against a high collared jacket. This can sometimes make wearing them uncomfortable. But on the other hand, it is really only a problem in the coldest part of winter. Similarly having been too long without a haircut can make the headset more likely to not fit. But, again, I think it speaks volumes about my satisfaction with the earbuds that getting a haircut is a better solution than looking for another pair of headphones.

As with many older manufacturing companies Sony has a terribly obtuse naming system for their many products. I’m not wholly sure but I figure the DR-BT160AS means something like this: “DR” seems to be associated with other Bluetooth (or at least wireless) Sony headphones. “BT” likely stands for “Bluetooth” and “AS” for “Active Series” – the name for the sports line.

I’ve looked again and again over the years, Sony doesn’t seem to have any similar products still available. But if they do make something similar, I’ll be sure to check it out, as I’m probably more satisfied with the build quality, comfort, and durability of the Sony DR-BT160AS than I am with with any other electronic device I’ve ever purchased.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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