Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth wireless stereo headset Review

Introduction

When Sony announced the 6.4″ Xperia Z Ultra monster of a phablet, they also announced the SBH-52 as its companion device. So naturally after getting the Xperia Z Ultra, I bought a SBH-52 soon after.

Package Contents

Only the bare minimum came with the headset.

  • SBH-52 Bluetooth wireless stereo headset
  • Headphones (with very short cord)
  • 3 pairs of headphone tips (small, medium, and large)
  • USB to micro-USB cable (used for charging headset – again very short in length, see Figure 2.)
  • Usual manual/legal documentation

Design

The design of the SBH-52 is an improvement over the SBH-50 design. Some may disagree, but it’s a improvement in my books, because the longer shape improves; the handling – there’s now clear areas for you to hold onto the headset without fear of pressing a button, and the microphone is now closer to your mouth, providing clearer voice reception.

App Support

Like all other things from Sony, support is shockingly bad. This is no different for the SBH-52. The apps for the SBH-52 have not been updated for a while and the number of extensions for the SBH-52 is very limited.

The good thing for the SBH-52 is, it’s Bluetooth-based. This means, other Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to the SBH-52 and use it as a Bluetooth headset without the need to install special software/app from Sony.

However, in order to make full use of the functionality advertised, you will need a Android-device (does not need to be a Sony device), and have the Android app and extensions installed on your device.

To help you avoid the forest of confusion that Sony has created, I’ve listed all the apps available (at the time of writing) for the SBH-52 below.

Android App

Stereo Bluetooth Headset SBH52 app by Sony Mobile Communications

Sony Extensions

Third-party Extensions

Note: This is a paid third-party extension. When this extension is enabled, it becomes quite verbose and naturally, the battery life takes a hit as a consequence. I no longer use mine, but I’ve listed it here for completeness.

Sound Quality

The sound quality is excellent for Bluetooth A2DP v1.2. In fact, it’s so good, when playing 320kb/s MP3 files, there’s no difference between having the headphones plugged into the computer/mobile phone vs plugged into the SBH-52.

If you’re not happy with the sound quality from your SBH-52, change the headphones (the ones that came with the SBH-52 is pretty average).

Speaker

The inbuilt speaker performance is very good, much better than high-end smartphone speakers.

Headset (without headphones)

With support for HD voice, the calling experience is great. However, something to note; quite often, due to the phone not being in my hand next to my ear and, instead in my pocket/bag. The phone’s reception is greatly affected and this degrades the calling experience.

FM Radio

For those occasions when you have been listening to the same albums for a few hours and want to listen to something new, the SBH-52 is equipped with a FM radio. However, unlike smartphones with FM radio function, there’s no option to broadcast FM radio via inbuilt speaker.

Conclusion

I have had a few people say to me – so it’s a incomplete smart watch prototype or pseudo Bluetooth headset. Neither describes what the SBH-52 is, a more accurate description is, a Bluetooth receiver. It allows any Bluetooth-enabled device to connect to it and use it as a portable speaker, handsfree, and wireless headphone/headset.

So no, it’s not a smart watch prototype – imagine how silly and awkward it would be for people to have conversations talking/listening to their wrist, ignoring the privacy factor. And as for pseudo Bluetooth headset – Bluetooth headsets are designed to be used by a single person at a time – no handsfree.

There are many more features I like about the SBH-52, like NFC, sweat/water resistant, multi-point/device support, LCD screen, and how I use it with my MacBook Pro, Lumia 930, PS Vita, etc. But I think I’ve already said enough to backup my recommendation. Highly recommended Bluetooth receiver – like everything else in life, it’s not for everyone. However, if you have a 5.5″ or larger-sized smartphone and make a lot of phone calls, you should consider getting one.

Product Photos

Figure 1. SBH-52 Bluetooth headset sitting inside unopened box.
Figure 2. All the contents in the package.
Figure 3. SBH-52 bluetooth headset sitting on top of Sony Xperia Z Ultra.
Figure 4. Xperia Z Ultra with play store app open showing SBH-52 bluetooth headset Android app.
Figure 5. SBH-52 bluetooth headset connected to Nokia Lumia 930 streaming via Xbox Music app.

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