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Earbuds are a frequent stereo headset style--for example on the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 and the Altec Lansing BackBeat 906--but they're not everybody's choice. If you want to avoid inserting doodads in your ears, check out the $80 (as of March 22, 2009) HBS-250 from LG Electronics. The headset consists of two ear muffs and an adjustable wire connecting them. The muffs lie against your ears, secured in place with ear loops.
Though the HBS-250 headphones look a bit like humongous button earrings, the ear muffs are padded and comfortable. The fit was ideal for my small ears, which means that folks with extra-large ears may find the fit too tight. Unfortunately, every time I donned these headphones, I had to fiddle with the ear loops to get a secure attachment, and there still tended to be a little flapping movement when I jerked my head.
Music sounded good over the HBS-250, with great bass and warm tones overall. The ear muff on the right side contains all the controls. I especially liked the music enhancement feature: Press the EQ button on the top of the ear piece to toggle between five equalizer settings: Normal, Rock, Vocal, Bass, and 3D Surround. Regrettably, the EQ button is a pain to control because it lies between the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons, and all three buttons are small and difficult to distinguish; I had to fumble around the top of the headset (or take it off and look at the thing) until I got a feel for the EQ button's location. Similarly, the jog dial--which handles play/pause/stop, track skipping, and so on--felt small and cramped.
I had no problem, however, with the HBS-250's call button. To answer, end, reject a call, or the like, you tap the panel on the side of the headset. No scrambling around for this one. And phone conversations generally sounded clear (especially to me), though one caller complained about some choppiness during a conversation. Loud music in the background proved to be distracting, too.
During my range tests, calls sounded excessively crackly as I approached the range limit (roughly 33 feet for Bluetooth Class 2). The headset unceremoniously dropped one call; it was the only model of the five headsets in our review to lose a call in this way.
Consider the LG HBS-250 if you want a headset whose earpieces sit against your ears--not inside them. You can expect reasonably good audio quality as well, particularly on the music front. But if you're concerned about your image, consider this: One unkind observer described the headphones on me as looking like dorky Frisbees.
This story, "LG Electronics HBS-250 Wireless Stereo Headphones" was originally published by PCWorld.
No earbud insertion here: The earpads with LG's headphones feel comfy and relatively secure, and music sounds good, as well.