Listening to podcasts, music, YouTube and using Skype on my phone is something I do almost daily. I’ve always been using wired headsets that came with the devices I had, but with time, having to bother with wires became rather uncomfortable. Wires are so limiting and in the age of Bluetooth, they’re not always necessary any more. As I later found out, making calls with Google Now with a Bluetooth headset while your phone is somewhere on you or around you is super amazing! After all, I started to hunt for a nice wireless headset on Amazon for my Nexus 5X, which itself came with none at all (for 530 €!).
First I went for a Sony SBH20 (35 €), which had a lot of good reviews, a nice look and a good brand name of course. When I got it, I had to realize, that even the lowest volume setting was unbearably loud. As I researched the problem I found out, that a change in Android 6 broke the granularity of volume control for quite a few Bluetooth devices. More specifically, the Bluetooth headset’s and the phone’s system volume had been integrated, which meant that the volume steps on the Sony headset were just not enough for a fine volume control. I tested the headset with my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S4 running Android 5.0.1 and my Windows 10 tablet and it worked as expected with both (the two volumes not being integrated). Since I needed the headset for my Nexus 5X, I had to return it and find something else. Also, the Sony SBH20 didn’t work with Skype for Android and it had only Bluetooth 3.0. Its killer feature was NFC, which made the pairing process a dream, but it wasn’t the reason I bought it.
My next and final choice was the ToaTronics TT-BH07. Although I had never heard of this brand before, it had many positive reviews and an even more appealing look and form factor than the Sony. It only consists of the wire with the earbuds on both ends and the control buttons in between. The earbuds magnetically stick together, so you can wear it like a necklace when you’re not using it. It’s extremely small, light and compact, which makes it the most comfortable and best usable headset I’ve ever had. It also has Bluetooth 4.1 (interestingly no LE) and it promises 5 hours of battery life. Sound quality is also very good. And the whole thing costs about 30 €. The only thing I miss is NFC, but I guess it would add bulk and reduce battery life, so I don’t mind this omission. The most important thing for me is the granularity of volume control with my Nexus. With music, it’s still not ideal, but bearable. With Soundcloud, YouTube, phone calls and Skype it’s absolutely OK. Yes, it works with Skype for Android, even with the camera turned on. It also comes with a nice little travel pouch. There are similar headphones for 80 and 120 € from Plantronics and Jaybird, but I don’t think, that they would be that much better. This TaoTronics headset for about 30 € is amazing!
Just a few words on Android 6 breaking volume granularity wit Bluetooth devices. It seems, that the blame for this problem cannot be put on Android 6 entirely, but it also depends on specific Bluetooth devices. I’ve got a Rokono B10 Bluetooth speaker at home. When paired with my Nexus 5X, volume control is just as fine as it can be. It has no problem at all.
All in all, the TaoTronics TT-BH07 is much more compact, lighter, more comfortable and has a newer Bluetooth version (4.1) than the Sony SBH20 (3.0), which makes it a better choice in my opinion. The TaoTronichs also works with Skype for Android, while the Sony does not. Battery life should be even, about 5 hours for both. The only big advantage of the Sony is NFC. It really makes a difference, but the better form factor and updated Bluetooth version of the TaoTronics easily outweigh it. Moreover the TaoTronics can be paired and used with two devices simultaneously, I’ve tried it. In my experience, TaoTronics is the clear winner here.
+ great form factor, compact, small and light
+ magnetic earbuds
+ Bluetooth 4.1
+ works well with Android 6
+ works with Skype for Android
+ can be paired with 2 devices simultaneously
+ good price
– no NFC
– volume granularity is broken with Android 6
– doesn’t work with Skype for Android
– Bluetooth 3.0