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A new Techbeater

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on November 22, 2006

I have resisted blogging for a long time since the weekly Technology & You column keeps me busy enough. But it’s time to catch the wave of the future.

One thing I hope to do with these postings is to talk about some of the products and services that cross my desk but that for one reason or another don;t make it into the weekly column. I’m going to start out with a couple of interesting products from Etymotic Research, a specialist in in-the-ear audio gear.

The ety8 is an in-the-ear Bluetooth headset. The basic earphones have in-the-ear tips—you can choose from a variety of silicone rubber and foam styles—mounted on little plastic panels the size of postage stamps, and linked by a cable just long enough to fit comfortably behind your neck. The right panel includes volume controls and a play/pause button. For an extra $100, you get a little adapter that adds Bluetooth capability to any iPod with the standard universal dock connector.

When used with an iPod, the adapter and earphones pair automatically. I also tried the ety8 with a Bluetooth-equipped Lenovo 3000 laptop to watch DVD movies. Pairing was simple and used the high-quality audio profile. The sound quality was excellent with both the laptop and iPod and the isolating earphones dramatically reduced ambient noise.

My one complaint with the ety8 is that it needs to be recharged about as often as iPOd and it uses a non-standard USB cable for charging. It would have been much simpler if Etymotic had gone with the standard, flat mini-USB connector.

And a word of caution. Airplanes are a natural place to use the ety8, but the use of Bluetooth devices is officially prohibited on U.S. aircraft by Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission rules. Those rules are under review, and they seem to be honored mainly in the breach anyway, as I see lots of folks using Bluetooth mice on planes. Consider yourself warned.

The second Etymotic product is the much simpler and cheaper ETY.Plugs. These are $12 a pair ear plugs made of the same silicone material as the in-the-ear earphones. The fit snugly but comfortably and reduce sound levels by a substantial 20 dB while allowing sounds of all frequencies to get through. I wore them through a recent bout of leaf vacuuming and blowing and my ears thanked me when I was finished.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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