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Fun with Bluetooth audio

05/29/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

While the concept of Bluetooth is great, I have to say that frequently the implementation of it is pretty poor. Perhaps it comes down to a misunderstanding on my part, but for something that's supposed to be simple it's sure not reliable or easy to get going outside of the most common usage.

The problem of the day is trying to get A2DP working between my PC and Bluetooth stereo headset, the Pulsar 590A. Now, I've had the headset working beautifully -- and easily -- with my Palm PDA for ages and figured that I may as well set it up to work with the PC at work too. I went out and bought a new Kensington Bluetooth USB 2.0 EDR adaptor which comes with the Widcomm Bluetooth stack. As far as I know, that's the most recent version publicly available. It also is supposed to support A2DP.

Anyway, the software is installed, the USB adaptor recognised and the headset paired in stereo audio mode. So far, so good. I then go to play some music and it comes out in a stuttered form: a second or two of music, then nothing, then another burst, then nothing and so on. The AVRCP (remote control support) is going through fine as I can control the Windows Media player using the pause, stop, next and previous buttons, but the sound is entirely foobar'd. If I switch to using the headset/handsfree mode (i.e. mono and much lower quality sound) the audio comes through just fine. I've tried using different audio programs to see if there's something inherent there. No luck. I've tried manually setting the audio device instead of letting Windows switch it automatically but that made no difference either. I've rebooted, reset, reconnected, power cycled everything, unplugged and plugged the USB device into other ports, all to no avail.

But once, just once, I managed to make it play cleanly. For twenty minutes, it worked fine. I then had to do something else briefly, stopped the music player, and when I came back, it had reverted to stuttering. I tried everything I'd done before and none of it got it working again.

When I look at the "My Device" Bluetooth settings, even when the headset is connected in stereo mode, nothing is listed as connected under any of the services, not even the expected "My Audio Gateway". I tried stopping all the services to see if there was a conflict, but the headset still connected and still stuttered.

I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. The hardware should work fine -- heck, I did have it working a year ago as demonstrated in the original review of the Pulsar 590A -- but I cannot figure out what's going on here. The Widcomm interface gives so little information as to what its doing I can't even troubleshoot it. The documentation is lacking, even online. Kensington refuses support on the ground that there are too many devices out there and Plantronics isn't a whole lot better. For example, they do have a guide to pairing a dongle with the headset which matches what I did; at the very end there's a statement:

Problem not yet understood

2. Why is the audio connection unusable if the headset is connected but there is not a music player running?

This seems to be similar to the problem I have, albeit in a rather vague way. There's a chicken and egg problem here though: the Bluetooth Stereo Audio driver is unavailable to be selected unless the headset is paired, and if it is, then this implies it won't work. AAaaaaaaah.

Anyway, back to using the Pular's bundled 3.5" A2DP adaptor until I can figure this one out or someone suggests something I've not tried...


1 comment

Comment from: Adam [Member]  

After a bit more fiddling this is the answer:

  1. Turn on the headset
  2. Connect the headset from the PC using the stereo audio profile
  3. Start the music player and play music
  4. Hammer away on the headset’s connection button until it beeps once
  5. Press the connect button one more time and the music will flow cleanly

Every time the audio player is paused or stopped, you’ll need to repeat the last three steps as the connection seem to be mucked up if there isn’t an active audio stream all the time. I can, however, get the audio working within about five seconds now.

06/04/07 @ 11:35
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