A neat idea for a Christmas gift for your technically challenged friend, family member or co-worker is an electronic introduction in making their lives a little less of a hassle. The use of a Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player (or similar host like a cell phone) and a wireless headset could be a great start for them. From your red-nosed friend who walks the dog in the early mornings to your red-faced coworker who jams to the Sleaze Sisters during a grueling workout in the gym, going wireless could make their New Year less of a hassle and, maybe, offer a little more motivation for a workout. There are a ton of Bluetooth headsets out there so which one do you buy? How about the Tenqa HP-109 ($59.99)? Let’s find out.
Here is the speed-reader’s bottom line
- Wrap-around style — not for everyone (and a bit big for me)
- Fold up very nicely for storage
- Nice large in-coming call button for mobile phone use
- Other control buttons a bit hard to hit correctly, consistently
- Great tech support
- Bluetooth is still a pain (Not a fault of the headphones, just a Bluetooth fact of life.)
And here are the details:
First, please note that I am a fan of anything that makes one’s life less of a hassle and dealing with headphone wires is, to me, a hassle. Therefore one would assume that Bluetooth devices would be a god-send. But if a device causes as much of a hassle as it was intended to alleviate, then I become disillusioned. The Tenqa seems to fulfill both of those extremes: from the brilliantly convenient to the head-shaking annoyance of the Bluetooth protocol.
The Tenqa HP-109 is a Bluetooth headphone that can be used with MP3 players and cell phones (provided the latter are themselves Bluetooth-enabled).
- Protocol: Bluetooth V1.2
- Range: Up to 33 feet when paired with a Class 2 Bluetooth device
- Frequency Response: 180Hz-20kHz to 45Hz-200Hz (bass)
- Charging: USB
The HP-109 is a wrap-around style headset. The wrap-around style may take some getting used to for those not used to it and, for me, it seemed a little big. And they aren’t adjustable. Trying it out during my dog walk it tended to slip down around my neck and was a bit awkward. Using it at the office, however, the slippage aspect did not bother me since I wasn’t moving around very much. Some people prefer these wrap-around styles and have different size phrenological requirements (which are even more important for those who work out) and so that is a something to keep in mind. Ha.
An extremely nice feature is integrated with the HP-109’s: it can fold up. This makes it great for traveling, for stowing in your gym bag, purse, etc. That is a great amenity for a device meant to be helpful for your life. Imagine being squeezed in an airline seat trying to pull out your MP3 player and headset and the cords of your headset getting tangled in all of the other stuff in your backpack or carry-on, not to mention the headset itself. These headphones fold up and open up nicely. (In contrast, the Bluetooth headset that I owned previously did not fold; at the time that I bought it I didn’t even realize that there were headsets that could fold down.) So mark one up for the HP-109. That is a very nice feature.
The Tenqa has a large button in the center of the right ear cup that is easy to find; this button is used to turn the headset on or off; and to answer a call when it is paired with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. The other buttons, volume up/down and channel (or track) up/down are large but were hard (for me) to find and even harder to tell which was which when the headset was in place. That too is probably something that one would get accustomed to, but for me I just couldn’t discern which of the four controls were which when they are behind my head. When walking my dog in the mornings I don’t normally need to adjust the volume, but in the afternoon, with street noises, I do need to adjust the volume frequently and I don’t have a great kinesthetic memory, causing much fumbling and grumbling. And I’d usually end up knocking the headset off when grappling for the buttons. So again, just another thing to consider.
As mentioned, the Tenqa’s are equipped with the capability to pair up with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and have an integrated microphone. An in-coming call will pause the streaming music from your phone and the large button on the Tenqa is used to answer the call. And, as mentioned, it has an integrated microphone so you can carry on a conversation. Hitting the large button again ends the call and returns to your music stream. That is the theory, at least. I could not actually test the mobile phone aspect of the Tenqa’s (my mobile phone is an el cheapo brick without a single tooth, let alone a blue one).
As for pairing with my MP3 player, however, well that was kind of an interesting three days. The very first time that I paired it up, it worked and I could hear my MP3 files fine for about 30 seconds and then the sound would go out. Then, after having turned off the devices (the headphone and MP3 player) and then later turning them back on, I still could not get the headphones to work unless (as I found after many attempts) I a) removed the entry in my MP3 player for my older set of Bluetooth headphones and b) ensured that I always turned off the MP3 player before the headphones. As I said, it took a few days of testing to eventually get the correct pattern down. During this time I did send a white flag to the Tenqa help support and received a very quick response offering to replace the headphones. But, they were not the cause of the issue: it was more likely the case that the Bluetooth implementation on the MP3 player was not exactly matched up and/or the older headset’s Bluetooth code may have confused the player. In either case, I still have to remember to turn off the MP3 player before the headsets. This could be an issue for people who are extremely busy and not paying attention to which device needs to be turned off first, again another consideration: will there be a certain pattern that you (or your friend) will have to learn in order to get the system working and then they will call you and say the headphones don’t work when in fact it is the Bluetooth algorithm on the MP3 player that may be the cause and then you have to come over to their house and diagnose the problem and then tell them how to fix the problem and then they’ll forget and then never use the device again. So much for making their lives easier, eh?
So once again caveat emptor: the Tenqa’s are a fine headphone, but there are things you should consider before assuming that they can make your (or your friend’s) life easier.
- Style: wrap around, traditional or other
- Size: need a snug fit for working out ?
- Pairing device: is your Bluetooth MP3/phone an older model which may require a certain pattern?
- Convenience (size and access) of control buttons
- Battery charging mechanism
- Footprint of the device