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Palm 2-in-1 Stereo Headset Pro

Thu Nov 6, 2008 - 10:27 AM EST - By Andre Kibbe

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Product Info


Some smartphone users find that, fashionable or not, wired headsets remain a practical alternative to Bluetooth models. They�re cheaper, easier on a phone�s battery life, have a broader range of versions offering stereo support, require no pairing, require no charging and, in principle at least, offer better sound quality. Unless you wear a headset throughout the day in between frequent calls, it�s worth considering or reconsidering an old-school wired option.

A longstanding complaint about Palm smartphones is their use of 2.5mm audio jacks rather than the 3.5mm jacks that are the industry standard for iPods and other portable audio players. In fairness to Palm, the smaller jack is still the industry standard on cell phones, even in a world where Bluetooth has largely obsolesced wired headsets and music playback has become expected on even entry-level products. Since Palm includes 3.5mm jacks on products where carriers have no leverage, like the Tungsten and Zire PDAs, it�s logical to assume that the company is forced to deal with their carriers� legacy issues.

I�ve been using Palm�s 2-in-1 Stereo Headset (a.k.a. �Hybrid Headset�) since the Treo 650, primarily for music, and was curious to see what added value the newer 2-in-1 Stereo Headset Pro offered.

Design and Comfort

Right off the bat, the Pro looks and feels superior to Palm�s older model. The build quality has a completeness that almost justified its original $49.99 MSRP. Palm's Store now has it on sale for $39.99, which is a little easier to swallow given the headset�s limited controls. The earlier non-Pro headset is cheaper by a third of the former�s street price, but the construction is not as robust. It has conventional foam covered earbuds of molded hard plastic, and the wiring uses thinner insulation.


The earphones on the Pro are more intricately molded in black and silver with inset logos and L-R captioning on either side. The business end of each earphone is a concentric pair of silicone eartips (or �silicon,� as Palm writes in the specs) that is one of the most effective noise isolating components I�ve encountered in an under-$100 headset. Without internal sound, the eartips can almost function as earplugs. They also offer plenty of traction and, at least in my case, stayed in my ears continuously without giving me the sensation (as almost all other eartips give me) that they were gradually loosening their fit. I regularly have bad luck with earbuds and eartips, but these were reassuringly secure.

The �Pro� would have been a more complete solution, especially for the price, if it offered a set a small and large eartips for different sized ears. That said, I haven�t come across a review or forum comment where anyone complained that this headset didn�t fit well, even if it doesn�t look like a one-size-fits-all product.


Tracing down the wires, we arrive at the inline controller. The controls are spare and simple. The front face features a call answer/end button. Music automatically suspends on an incoming call and resumes on its disconnection.

The rear face has a mute slider switch and a microphone. Yes, that�s right: the unit has a microphone on only one side rather than on both sides, and it�s on the back, oriented toward the user�s clothing. Not only does this peculiar positioning potentially block the caller�s voice when resting against the chest, but it�s also likely to acoustically pick up any brushes against shirts and coats.

Finally, the controller has a volume dial on the right side.

Sound quality

Music through this headset is serviceable but unspectacular�flat across the spectrum, like studio monitors. The headphones are effective at low volumes, or when no equalization is applied. Higher volumes and increased bass/midrange response results in distortion, making it difficult to punch up the sound with even a moderate amount of EQ in pTunes. The high bands don�t distort when raised, but when you do this, a couple of the lower bands need to be raised to avoid sounding tinny. Overall, the sound is rather antiseptic, especially when compared to the cheaper, original 2-in-1 headset, but there is limited room for improvement with EQ tweaks.

The inbound voice quality is very good, which probably has more to due with the premium noise isolation than the audio circuitry. Ambient sound was sealed out so effectively that I had to mentally tune out my own voice, which wasn�t being drowned out by background noise, making it unusually prominent.

The outbound voice quality is another story altogether. It�s horrible. After several people on the receiving end complained about the sound, or asked me to repeat things, I did a self-test.

To self-test, I call myself on another of my Sprint lines and leave a long voice mail�once with the handset, once with the headset�then listen to these both ways. If the testing location is good and the headset is bad, then listening to the handset-left voice mail should sound good when checked either way; listening to the headset-left message should sound bad. That was exactly the case. The message recorded with the Pro headset was garbled beyond recognition, which was not true with the original headset.


Maybe I�m an exception. This is a hugely popular headset. Kris Keilhack at PalmInfocenter has a very different assessment of the Pro�s microphone quality. I would like to believe I got a dud unit.

I really wanted to like this headset more. The design and ergonomics are perfect, and it seemed reasonable to expect the operational side of the product to be equally satisfying. The secure fit and substantial noise isolation are compelling enough for me to continue using it for music, but the better overall sound quality of Palm�s non-Pro hybrid headset, despite its poorer build quality, will probably keep me using it as my main wired set instead of the Pro.



Design 5
Comfort 5
Sound Quality 2
Cost/Benefit 3
(not an average)
  • Attractive and professional industrial design
  • Exceptional noise isolation from ear canal headphones
  • Extremely comfortable to wear
  • Silicone eartips stay firmly in ears
  • Cons
  • Music sounds flat unadjusted, distorts at higher volumes
  • Poor outbound voice quality
  • Single eartip size provided rather than a selection of sizes
  • Microphone only on one side of inline controller

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