S-800 Bluetooth Headset review
Best sound quality, rich feature set,
A fairly traditional
and reasonably attractive unit, the Cardo S-800 has an
optional wire retainer to fit over your ear for a more
of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on
For most people, the most
important feature in a headset is sound quality. Nothing
else matters if the sound quality isn't good.
Here's great news - the Cardo
S-800 has brilliant sound quality, possibly even surpassing that
when using your phone directly.
With no profound negatives to
offset the positive feature of sound quality, the Cardo S-800 becomes a clear good
choice for most people seeking a Bluetooth style headset.
With a list price of $85, and a
street price of about $15 on
Amazon this is a
very well priced headset.
What you Get
The Cardo S-800 Bluetooth
headset is packaged in an easy to open cardboard
Inside the box is the
headset itself, a multi-voltage charger, and several other
things. There is an adapter cable to connect between a
regular USB port and the micro USB (not the more common and
slightly larger mini USB) connector used by the headset.
Cardo says the new micro style connector is the new de facto
standard for phone and headset charger ports.
There is a metal loop which can be added to the headset - this
loops around the back of your ear, causing the unit to be more
securely held in place.
A silvered lanyard provides
a way to carry the headset around your neck when you're not on a
call. A warranty and safety sheet, and a user guide
complete the inclusions in the package. The unit has a one
year non-transferable warranty, and requires you to send in a
registration form to qualify.
The unit lists for $84.99,
and can be found for less at the usual sorts of electronics
resellers such as
Amazon (where it is currently $15).
Use this information to
quickly understand the capabilities of the unit and to compare
with other units.
Amazon for $36,
Currently for sale (May 09) on Amazon for $15
Easy to put
on and take off
without the ear loop, you simply stick the unit
in your ear and take it out again. This is
easy to do.
Using the optional loop makes this only slightly
Easy to use
the control buttons
news - there are more buttons on this unit than
on a typical unit.
The bad news
- there are also more functions that are spread
around the various different buttons, and in
total, the unit is no easier to use than any of
the myriad of other poorly designed Bluetooth
to marvel at the inability of the industry to
make use of such simple concepts as, eg, a slide
switch to turn the unit on and off, eliminating
the sometime ambiguity of 'is the unit actually
on or off at present'.
gets zero marks for the ease of use of its
buttons, this is no worse (but also no better)
than any other Bluetooth headset to date.
was neither comfortable nor particularly secure
to wear unless you added the optional loop.
The lack of comfort is probably due to it not
coming with a range of different sized parts
that actually fit in your ear.
optional loop it was no longer uncomfortable,
because it now primarily hangs off your ear,
rather than is mounted by being wedged into your
See also the
related discussion below about the security of
the mounting options.
Can you use
small size of the earpiece doesn't interfere
with glasses at all and the optional loop is
thin and unobtrusive too.
Can use with
If you have the optional loop added, you simply
rotate this to match the 180°
different symmetry of your other ear.
mounted on ear
The unit can
be worn either with or without a metal loop that
hangs around your ear.
If you wear it without the loop, you'll
necessarily push the unit further into your ear,
which detracts from the comfort factor.
Unusually, this unit does not come with a range
of different sized ear pieces, and the size of
the bit that goes in your ear was too large for
me or for several other reviewers and 'ordinary
Perhaps it was because of the 'one size
(doesn't) fit all' policy, but I had the unit
fall out of my ear while wearing it, which is of
Adding the optional loop makes the unit much
How to carry
given some thought to this often overlooked
issue, and offer a couple of innovative
The first is
a lanyard with a type of 'dock' that you can
clip your headset into while not in use.
The lanyard loops around your neck, and has a
soft rubber type oval loop at the bottom, into
which you can friction fit the headset when not
in use, and from which you can simply pull the
headset out to put in your ear when needed.
idea? Alas, no. A dangerous idea, as
evidenced by the warning label affixed to the
lanyard's packing, which reads 'CAUTION Use Lanyard at own risk.
No replacement if headset is lost'. This is a warning that
was obviously placed there for good reason (it
seems from pictures in earlier reviews that this
warning label is a recent addition) - the
headset fell out of the lanyard several times
during my testing.
is a carry pouch that you could keep on your
belt and have your S-800 in when not in use.
The carry pouch sells from Cardo's website for a
mere $5, but not it is not clear if it will fit
the headset if/when you have the metal ear loop
added to it.
Compatible with Nectar
necklace style headset holders.
unit weighs 0.3 ounces.
Because it is short and squat, there are no
angular momentum issues and the unit has a very
low perceived weight, especially when mounted on
your ear with the ear loop.
Ease of Use
intuitive and easy to remember
writing this review and the previous review one
week earlier, I had a minor mental epiphany.
Who really cares if the headset commands are
intuitive and easy to remember or not?
thing is to know how to turn the headset on and
off, and perhaps how to place and answer calls -
anything more complicated can generally still be
done from the phone handset, obviating the need
to learn arcane headset commands.
Due to the
rich set of headset features, the S-800 has even
more commands than do many of its competitors,
which makes mastering the unit more complex.
For example, the two color status light has
fifteen different things it can signal,
depending on which colors show, and whether they
flash quickly or slowly. Will real people
ever bother to memorize the different meanings
of, eg, the red light flashing slowly and the
red light flashing quickly? Of course not
(oh, and by the way, these two different types
of flashing signal both mean the same thing -
low battery. Go figure....)
The unit has a volume wheel - you flick it one
way repeatedly to increase the volume, and the
other way repeatedly to decrease the volume.
There are eight different volume levels you can
does it turn on
about four seconds to turn on and about another
four seconds to synch with the phone.
A helpful and well written 16 page (long narrow page size
8.7" by 2.7") black and white user guide (in English) is
provided with the unit, and the same guide can also be
The manual also has German, Italian, French and
Spanish versions bound into it.
website (very rudimentary),
and (800) number - (800)488-0363. Support
hours are 8.30am - 5pm, Mon-Fri, EST.
A test call was answered very quickly, and the
(US) support rep gave reasonably helpful and
password printed on device
No (it is
0000 so in an emergency you have a good chance
of guessing what it is!)
Up to 8
hours of talk or 168 hours of standby time
timings are slightly better than normal compared to other units
on sale in April 2008.
check the battery charge level at any time
(while not in a call) by pressing and holding
the Control button for about four seconds.
The LED will flash blue for a full charge,
alternately blue and red for half charge, and
red for a nearly empty charge.
As with other headsets, the chances are by the time the battery has died,
you'll probably have bought a new headset.
bad news - the headset doesn't use a standard
mini USB connection for its power input.
news? It uses a micro USB connector
instead, and this is possibly the new common
standard type connection for miniature devices
such as phones and headsets.
Charging time is about 2 hours.
light on the headset goes on when charging and
A small brick charger.
include a cable with the unit to connect via a
regular USB plug to a power source such as a hub
or laptop, and ends in a micro USB plug to
connect to the headset or any other micro USB
Cardo also sell a car charger on their website
pairings can be stored
can store up to eight different phone pairings.
And it can
be simultaneously connected to two different
phones - eg, your home and work cell phones, or
your phone and your spouse's phone.
(?) you can only place or receive one call from
one phone at one time, but while in standby mode
the headset can 'listen' for incoming calls from
two phones at once, and will allow you to answer
whichever phone rings next.
similar to the functionality of the
profiles are supported.
profile for computers
so is presumably standard.
a claim, but tests showed good reception out to
50' with no obstructions and poorer reception to 60'.
On the other hand, with the iPhone being held in
my hand down at my hip on one side of my body,
and the headset in the opposite ear, the signal
quality noticeably diminished.
is a generous one year warranty.
policies will vary.
says the S-800 embodies 'noise reduction
technology' without providing any further
Here is a
sample recording of me using both the S-800
and an iPhone in a noisy environment with a mix
of different sound sources creating a complex
You'll note that both the iPhone itself and the
S-800 do a good job of reducing the background
noise. IN particular, notice the initial
burst of loud background noise and how it
reduces once I start speaking, which helps
either unit know what volume level to adopt and
to guess at which sounds might be my voice.
The noise cancelling/processing on the Cardo
seems to be comparable to that on the iPhone
itself, and the experience for the person on the
other end of the phone is better than it would
be without any noise processing at all.
But the Cardo's noise processing doesn't seem to
involve any 'clever' digital notch filtering,
such as is clearly the case with the Jawbone.
quality was excellent, and, for the person at
the other end it was, if anything, better than
Here is a
of me using both the headset and an iPhone
in a clean quiet environment so
you can hear the difference for yourself.
offers the best sound quality of any tested so
far, and in many cases the sound quality is
better than directly through the handset.
is simple - press the control button on the
earpiece and wait until the LED flashes blue -
this takes about four seconds.
is also simple - press the control button for
about four seconds until the LED flashes red.
Yes, but doesn't always seem to work reliably
with my iPhone.
Cardo say they sometimes have problems with the
'smarter' type phones and auto connect, but
don't know why.
(if also supported on the phone, of course).
Briefly tap the control button, then say the
name of the person you wish to call.
Press the volume control wheel inwards once.
call to/from phone
instructions say to press and hold the control
button for three seconds to transfer a call
either to the headset or to the phone, but then
says that on some phones just a brief tap of the
button is all that is needed.
a brief tap of the button can also hang up a
call. And a four second press of the
control button can turn the phone off.
opportunity for error here!
waiting/Three way calling
tap of the volume control switches between
(conference) calling is done by holding the
volume control in for three seconds.
Press and hold the control button for three
Generally you will have your headset off rather
than on. So, to answer a call, you could
it on, then, once the headset was on and paired, press the button briefly to answer
the call. This however can take a long
time - too long for some callers - so it is
better to answer the call on the handset then
transfer it once the headset has switched on and
unit is already on, a short press of the control button
will answer an incoming call.
To end a call, a short press of the control button is
The unit signals incoming calls with a
quiet ring tune ('Ride of the Valkyries') which
you'd only hear if the unit was in your ear, so
you probably need to rely on hearing the phone
Press the volume control in briefly to mute or
un-mute a call.
One innovative feature is a headset locater
feature, although note this will only work if
the headset is currently switched on, paired to
your phone, and in range of your phone.
This apparently works by calling any number from
your phone, then turning the phone's volume up
and down 'five or more times'. I tried it
plenty more than five times before giving up.
The headset was supposed to buzz, but it didn't.
The S-800 has an auto-answer feature that will
enable it to automatically answer incoming calls
'for your convenience'. Cardo do point out
this can be dangerous, particularly if a call is
answered without you realizing it, and all of a
sudden you're unwittingly broadcasting whatever
you're doing to the person who called you.
It has a button lock feature - this can be
useful if you're carrying the unit in a pocket
and don't want to accidently bump one of its
buttons and perhaps place a call. But it
is also a hassle - you have to unlock the
buttons by pressing both the volume and control
buttons simultaneously for at least four seconds
before you can even take an incoming call.
It also has a speed dial memory that allows you
to store up to three numbers in speed dial
locations (press the volume button twice for
speed dial one, three times for two, and four
times for three).
attractive and understated design in silver and
indicators on standby
a blue light flashes once every
five or so seconds
while the unit is on standby. This can be
switched off if you wish.
measures about 1.7" x 0.8" and is about 0.4"
thick, with the earpiece bit protruding out
another 0.5". Without the ear loop it is
small enough to be conveniently carried in a
increases its size to about 2" x 1.8", and the
This is a 'good all
rounder' headset with good sound quality, an
extensive feature set, and a sensibly standard recharge capability.
It lists for $85, but is currently available
Amazon for a mere
$15, making it easy to justify the slight price
premium over entry level priced and featured
Using the Cardo S-800 Headset
The strongest impression
from using the S-800 (other than the superlative sound) is that
it falls out.
It falls out of your ear.
As unwelcome as it may be (in terms of extra bulk), most of us
will choose to add the metal ear loop to the unit so as to
ensure the unit doesn't fall out of our ear.
And the S-800 also falls out
of its lanyard. No wonder there's a printed disclaimer on
the packaging for the lanyard 'CAUTION Use Lanyard at own risk.
No replacement if headset is lost'.
The very real risk of losing
the headset when carrying it in the otherwise cleverly thought
up lanyard loop of course means one has to throw the lanyard
away and resolve never to use it.
But, and assuming you
haven't lost the unit, either off its lanyard or out of your
ear, its splendid sound quality makes it a joy to use, and its
long battery life (together with battery charge level feature)
makes keeping it charged and available for use easy to do.
Problems with the unit
always linking up to an iPhone were puzzling, and Cardo offered
no clue as to what the issue (or solution) may be, instead
noting that it is an occasional problem with many of the more
high tech phones these days.
Most of the time, however,
all went perfectly, and in terms of simply answering or ending
calls, and switching it on or off, it was easy to use.
It is heartening to see good
quality high tech products being developed other than in China.
Cardo is an Israeli based company, although it too has the units
manufactured for it in China.
Connecting with phones
This was not always the
headset's strongest point, with it occasionally (rarely, but a
couple of times during a week of usage) 'forgetting' its
connection to my iPhone, and needing to be re-paired (that is,
paired again, not fixed).
It showed no problems
pairing with a Blackberry, although I didn't test it as
extensively with the Blackberry.
The most distinctive and
positive element of this headset is its excellent sound quality.
This is the first headset that I've felt unreservedly good about
using; if anything, sound quality improves via the headset
rather than when speaking directly through the handset.
In other respects, the
headset is average to good. It has average to good battery
life, weight and design, and is averagely priced. It has a
very wide array of features, but increasingly our feeling is
that most of these features are distractions rather than
benefits - it is easier to follow the on-screen helpful
prompting on your phone when you want to do something 'clever'
rather than try and puzzle out a non-intuitive series of timed
button pushes and flashing colored lights.
The Cardo S-800 has a current (May
street price of about $15 through
This puts it in the most affordable price bracket.
A mere $15 for a high
quality headset with no appreciable limitations easily makes it
a best buy.
But should you spend even
more again and choose the much more pricey
Aliph Jawbone and the newer (superior) Jawbone 2? To answer that question, check out our
comparison page that highlights
the similarities and differences of these three high-end
Update May 2010 :
After being the reigning champion for more than two years - a
very impressive achievement when you consider the rapid pace of
change with Bluetooth headsets, and the bargain basement price
of this unit, it has now finally been displaced as our favorite
headset by the BlueAnt Q1 ( although
the BlueAnt Q1 is priced considerably higher, so the cargo unit
remains as the best value choice).
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25 April 2008, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.