Bluetooth headsets are quite a craze. Just visit the Dubai Financial Centre and you will see what I mean *wink*. But I have never been game for them. They are small, cause my ears to twitch and look rather ridiculous on my large head. Plus, there aren’t many ‘normal’ double cup Bluetooth headsets, and if there are, they are either uncomfortable, have a stupid design or are just several hundred more than what I can allow myself to pay for them.
Arctic is looking to step into that gap with their P311 bluetooth stereo headset. They are quite normal looking, has Bluetooth compatibility with most phones and laptops and is priced at a decent $38 as well. Now, I must admit that whenever someone mentions ‘Arctic’, I go “the paste guys!”, and so I never knew they concentrated on products other than pastes and coolers. Does anybody find it ironic that a company known for reducing noise is endeavoring in delivering high quality sound?
Anyway, like most Arctic products the P311 comes in a nice sliver see-through paper box that amply showcases the stuff you are going to get. The package contains an instruction paper, the headsets, a USB cable and a hard nylon carrying case. A nice touch if you plan to use the product on the go.
The P311 features a super-aural, over the ear design. They are extremely light, though they feel slightly cheap and I believe I can snap the cups off if I apply some pressure. That’s not to say the build quality is poor, it just feels that way in your hands. The left ear cup is devoid of any controls, with the right cup having the volume and the rewind and forward keys. On a comfort level, they fit snuggly over my ears and caused no pain in most wears. But with like any headset, there is always the one ear that remains slightly edgy and the P311 is no different. I have had to repeatedly fix the placement to hit that sweet spot but was quite comfortable once I managed to pass that hurdle. That said I also found myself hesitant to freely move my head, sometimes at the cost of making foolish robotic movements. The problem is, and as it could be with any over the ear design, you cannot look above head level before the headsets starts trudging on your ears.
Pairing with the iPhone was simple and straight forward. You are required to the hold the large middle button on the right cup till the blue LED starts flashing. After that it was a matter of searching for the device on my phone and hitting connect.
For a headset as small and fragile-feeling as the P311, the sound quality was quite a surprise. I have used them for podcasts, music, games and to watch movies and have come to appreciate the full sound and excellent noise cancelling (though the latter may not be a good thing when on the drive). Of course, you will have to lower your standards as it cannot compete with proper specialized headphones, but in its class and it delivers superbly. The only complaint I have is that the sound crackles at max volume but unless you are trying to drown out cribbing wife or whiny kids, you shouldn’t max it anyway. It causes terrible headaches.
Call quality was a different matter, however. There is sufficient background hiss and makes the voice quality sound botchy, especially in a noisy place. Of course, you can turn the volume down but it also makes voice volume low too. What’s even worse is that the caller can hear the hiss as well. My suspect is the built-in mic not doing a great job with noise cancelling but it could also be the Bluetooth as well. That said, the call quality was never bad and honestly, since I will be using it only in my car, I can live with the hiss as I never had trouble understanding what the caller was saying.
In conclusion, I would say the Arcitc Sound P311 is a great choice if you plan to use it mainly for music and movies. However, if you are looking to replace them with your regular Bluetooth headset, and are finickky about call quality, they may not offer the best performance. For the less finicky among us, the P311 is a decent all-round choice at $38.