3.0 out of 5 stars
By DMens90 - Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2016
Decent but leaves a lot to be desired.
After 2 months of owning thus device, I believe I have spent enough time to give readers a thorough review highlighting all this device's strengths and shortcomings. As such, I have divided my review into two categories emphasizing the great and poor things the device has to offer. I do not focus much on specs because those are easily available at Sony's website, and on this website as well. Instead, I will give you a subjective experience of owning this device from a consumer viewpoint. (+)Positives ' Design - There is no denying that this is a good looking portable design. The buttons are easy to distinguish and provide good tactile feedback. After 2 months of ownership, the build quality remains solid, and it still remains very polished. It hasn't shown much signs of use, although the micro USB port does show some chipping around it. I attribute this to the tricky nature of plugging a microUSB cable to it's port. I suspect every failed attempt to get it in the right way leaves scratches behind. There is also a clip with a hinge mechanism that allows you to clip the SBH54 unto a shirt. It's somewhat less secure on thicker fabric, leaving the impression it can fall off the sleeve of say a winter jacket. On a side note, I am generally skeptical about the longevity of such spring loaded hinge mechanisms after one failed on the kickstand of my iPad mini case. I guess I will have to wait and see with this one. ' fm radio - A feature notably absent from most contemporary audio players and/or smartphones. Today, most people use podcasts and music streaming apps and services to consume most audio entertainment. However, I find FM radio players to be essential for emergency broadcasts when the data connection is unavailable/poor. It is also a zero cost alternative to eating up mobile data just to listen to local radio stations. For instance, I live in Philadelphia and I like to listen to WHYY on the go. Instead of burning through my data plan on Tuner FM radio or NPR one, I can save my mobile data plan and use the fm radio player on the SBH54 instead. ' Sound ' 3.5mm headphones - Results vary with the earphones/headphones. The bundled earphones offer noise cancellation allowing you to keep ambient noise out, but I do not use them. Instead, I use a pair of JVC HAF160B gummy earphones which are about average. They lack noise cancellation and speaking to people/listening to audio sound the same as listening to audio through open sound earphones. Bass is virtually non-existent. Mids are easier to pick up, as are highs. That said I think the bundled earphone do a better job at noise insulation. ' Built in microphone. Like previous generations The device can be used in tandem with a generic set of earphones with a 3.5mm audio jack- Sony does bundle a set of earphones with the package, see my comments on that in the negative section. Alternatively, you can tether the SBH54 to your phone via bluetooth and use it as a handset by itself just like the HTC mini plus. Call quality is quite good using the built in speaker on the SBH54. I can clearly hear the people I converse with on the other end of the call, and I haven't heard complaints from the other side. ' Battery - Below is a breakdown of the battery performance. ' According to Sony's website, the battery performance breaks down as follows:Talk time (up to 4h), Streaming time (up to 8h) Standby time (300h), Charging time (1h). For this review, I completely discharged my battery in 19 hours 1 minute 40 seconds. My streaming time came to just under 5 hours: 4 hours 54 minutes 54 seconds to be exact. 2 minutes 11 seconds went to a phone call using the 3.5 mm audio jack. ' Sony also states that it takes up to 1 hour to recharge a fully depleted SBH54. My test showed that the SBH54 took 49 minutes 47 seconds to get a complete charge. It is also worth noting that if you are in a bit of a hurry, you can charge the SBH54 from just under 5% to a 100% in 32.18 minutes to give you the same total usage time. This has been highly convenient throughout my daily use over a given week. ' Using the Drok usb meter, I observed the battery capacity to be 97mAh. I cannot find any specifications on Sony's website indicating its stated capacity, and I do not have another comparison that I can gauge this against to determine if it is the actual capacity or if I have experienced some degradation over my two months of ownership. (-) Negatives ' Earphone longevity - This is the second Sony SBH device I have owned from Sony, the first being the SBH50. Furthermore, this is the second bluetooth device from Sony where the left earphone has stopped working in just over a month. This speaks to fairly poor quality control on Sony's part given the fact that both devices I purchased came from different distributors. In a way, it makes me feel cheated that I spent $70 just to get something that did not last beyond 2 months. I guess it all went towards branding and nothing more. ' Buggy software - As the pictures show, the SBH54 comes with an accompanying app that allows you to monitor and control certain aspects of the SBH54 such as battery level, connection status, notifications, privacy, and settings. As I type this review, the app has once more shown the SBH54 as disconnected despite the fact that the bluetooth icon on the status bar clearly indicating that the two devices have established a connection.' It doesn't end there, I am often forced to do a hard reset because my phone and the SBH54 disconnect arbitrarily. Apparently, numerous customers share my complaints about the arbitrary disconnections. One only has to go to Google's play store to see what I am talking about. 'This along with the inconveniently defective earphones are my reasoning for the eliminating 2 stars out of 5 in the review. While I remain grateful to Sony for keeping features that are otherwise missing on contemporary consumer electronics audio devices, I cannot subjectively give this product 5 stars. It is plagued with software bugs that give the SBH54 a connection with a smartphone that is best described as erratic. Furthermore, the fairly short time it took for left the earphone to stop working is not in keeping with the reputation with the OEM behind this product.
4.0 out of 5 stars
By Andrew - Reviewed in the United States on April 4, 2019
Just figured out the workaround for this unit's annoying bug!
TL;DR unplug and re-plug the headphones when it drops out. I replaced an old SBH50 with this SBH54 because I loved the functionality and form factor of the old one but the battery no longer held a charge. As others have reported, the SBH54 occasionally randomly drops out during playback, as did my older SBH50. I dealt with it because I have a particular set of wired headphones I really like but I really like not being wired to my phone. The new SBH54 seems to drop out more often, so I did all kinds of troubleshooting to try to figure out what events correlate with the dropouts and how to recover as quickly as possible. The only reliable way I knew was to power it off, wait for my phone to note and drop the connection, then power the SBH54 back on and wait for the reconnect. At least 45 seconds of fiddling with it every 10 minutes or so, and I'd have to rewind the podcast I was listening to because the phone is unaware of dropout and keeps merrily playing along. I finally stumbled upon pulling the headphone plug out of the SBH54 for even just a moment and plugging it back in, which resumes playback and I've only missed a few seconds of audio. I realize that 4 stars is probably a bit generous for a product that stops working randomly several times an hour, but I'm just giddy to have found a workaround!
5.0 out of 5 stars
By firewallbill - Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2016
Highly recommended - works well with iOS
I have used a variety of Sony Bluetooth headsets with Apple devices. After they wear out, or break or get lost (as most recently happened on a flight) I come back. Recently I bought the SBH-54 and am very satisfied with it. Pros: I love the fact that I can choose the ear buds I want. The ones that ship are fine for calls and most music, but frankly I like the Klipsch ones better. The Bluetooth quality is good enough that you can really enjoy music with fine earbuds. Battery. All day. Charge at night. Simple pairing: just power up, go into iOS settings / Bluetooth and look for your model number. Good call quality. Wind / ambient noise can be a factor, but as I "live" on the road and in Starbucks that's just how the world is. And did I mention simple pairing? Good Bluetooth range - around the house. Literally. 1800SQ FT and it works. Cons: Multiple devices. This could work better. I would like to have my PC, iPad, and iPhone all paired, but that is awkward. You can select different devices and "sometimes" it will remember which device to connect to. But the results are "flaky" and sometimes the device gets "stuck" thinking "hey I'm paired to the iPad" and using the selector will not work. I am not sure the multiple device function is 100% Sony though. Without a wireshark type Bluetooth trace it's hard to see where the issue is. As an example, if I have the headset paired and get in the car, the car Bluetooth will grab the phone. After that, the phone will simply not pair with the headset after I get out / turn the car off. Further, the car will "fight" the iPhone to keep grabbing the Bluetooth if I don't select the phone in the car settings. So, bottom line, the Sony SBH series work really well. The issues with multiple devices may be part Sony, part Apple. With a little finesse and some careful planning it's a great relationship. I won't ding a star as this may be iOS / car Bluetooth and not Sony. I highly recommend them. And did I mention they look cool?
4.0 out of 5 stars
By 123456 - Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2018
Best of SONY 3.5mm headsets.
Of all sony Bluetooth headsets this is by far the best; stocking up on them. It has a screen, media controls, speaker. (After 2 years, daily use) battery is still strong, about 3hrs of music use. Clip hasn't broken yet. 2 devices used to get thru whole day. ___ I'm sold with most sony Bluetooth with 3.5mm jack = can use headphones of choice. Mw600 = better sound, but fragile clip SBH56 = better speaker, but no screen & lacks media controls. Black actually looks black.