Cardo Systems Scala 500 Bluetooth Wireless Headset

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Cardo Scala 500 - Putting 'COOL' Into Bluetooth Headsets

May 30, 2005 (Updated Jun 23, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Price, Sound quality, Volume, Ease of use, Looks

Cons:Static when farther from device, No padding on earpiece

The Bottom Line: The Cardo Scala 500 proves to be a superb performer in the world of Bluetooth headsets.


Finding a headset that works well with the PalmOne Treo 650 was rather difficult at first. It seemed that the quality of Bluetooth reception on the Treo 650 was rather lacking. However despite such shortcomings, I still wanted to have a Bluetooth headset since driving while holding your phone up to your head has become illegal, the headset jack is very intelligently located at the bottom of the 650 making it a pain, and they are just plain cool! I have tried a few different headsets without much luck. The last headset that I tried before coming to the Cardo Scala 500 was the Motorola HS850 which was very cool, but a nearly $90 price tag was a bit too hefty. So after getting my money back, I looked around and saw that the Cardo Scala 500 had the highest rating on Treo Central, and then I found it for $38.99 on eCost. So after a while of usage, here's what I found with the Cardo Scala 500.

-Price-
*The Cardo Scala 500 can be purchased from about $40-$60. There are quite a few headsets that are priced around here. I have tried the Plantronics M2500 which I purchased from Cingular for $49.99, and returned it in a matter of two days. It seems that with these cheaper headsets, the quality was only marginal. It took nearly double the money to get a better quality product with the Motorola HS850. But how did the Cardo Scala 500 hold up? Did it find it's way back to eCost? I actually found the voice quality with this headset to be far better than any other I've used, including the Motorola HS850 which costs more than twice the amount I paid. While I found the Motorola HS850 to be slightly more comfortable and have more of a "cool" factor, the Cardo Scala 500 offered very consistent superior performance which left just about every other headset in the dust.

-Durability-
*The Cardo Scala 500 doesn't feel all too solid. In fact, the headset is extremely light. However, after a considerable amount of use and dropping it a few times, it has proved to be very durable. I have dropped it from table tops and there are absolutely no dents or scratches in it. The Cardo Scala 500 also securely holds on whether you use the ear loop or glasses hook. So if you wear your headset a lot and every now and then encounter "oops", don't hesistate to purchase this headset.

-Looks & Styling-
*The Cardo Scala 500 has a black and silver finish as well as a small status LED. It looks very cool indeed. I thought it looked more attractive than many other headsets offered. It's also very small since it doesn't have a large boom or anything like that. It also lacks anything behind the ear which Jabra and Plantronics incorporate. So if you're looking to make a fashion statement or at least have a fairly good looking headset, the Cardo Scala 500 makes a great choice.

-Comfort-
*The Cardo Scala 500 is extremely light. It's much lighter than many headsets that I've used. For most part, the headset remains comfortable. The earpiece doesn't enter the ear canal, but instead rests upon it. Unfortunately, there isn't any gel padding or anything to make it anymore comfortable. So after a while, the parts of my ear which are directly in contact with the earpiece become sore. After many hours (Let's say about a whole day) the headset may become unbearable to wear. But at a few hours at a time, the Cardo Scala 500 proves to be a comfortable fit. Something that constantly bugs me is that I don't feel that the headset is actually secure. It sometimes readjust it so that I can have the tightest fit. If you wave your head around from left to right, the headset will start to move. But no matter how hard I tried, it never actually fell off my head. What a relief for someone with a very active lifestyle. Also the Cardo Scala 500 offers another way to wear the headset. If you're wearing glasses, you can attach a hook onto the frames. This is a more comforable fit I think, but then again I don't typically wear glasses so I almost never use this method. Overall the Cardo Scala 500 is a comfortable headset. But nonetheless, headsets such as the Plantronics M2500 and Motorola HS850 definitely felt
more snug.

-Pairing-
*I found it very simple to pair the Cardo Scala 500 to the Treo 650. You receive a very easy to follow instruction booklet which will show you how to pair the device with your phone. I can pair my headset to my phone in a matter of seconds. When you first pair it, you simply need to find the headset on your phone, and link them up by typing "0000" in the passcode. Once they are paired, you can either go back to the menu each time you reestablish the Bluetooth connection and type the passcode, or press the smart button on the side of the headset to activate the connection. It's a very easy and pain-free process.

-Ease of Use-
*The Cardo Scala 500 is a very simple headset to use. It might not have the very neat features such as an LED for caller ID that some (very) expensive headsets offer. But it does have a very easy to use interface. You have a rocker switch which has multiple functions such as turning the headset on and off. It also adjusts the volume when you are in the call. You can also adjust the volume on your handset. I keep both at maximum so I can hold conversations in noisy urban environments. There's also a smart button which allows you to hang up calls and to pick up calls. It takes a couple of seconds (3-4 typically) for it to link up and then you hear it ring in your ear. You can also hold the button to call the last person you dialed. The rocker switch and smart button have a lot of versatility and make the Cardo Scala 500 a very user-friendly headset.

-Battery Life-
*The Cardo Scala 500 is rated to have about nine hours of talktime as well as seven days of standby time. Does it live up to its expectations? I have never pulled off nine hours of talktime in one day on my headset. But I have pulled of around four to five hours of use which many other headsets are rated at. So what I can say is that the Cardo Scala 500 has a very long battery life. I recharge it every night but you can definitely go for a couple of days of moderate use without charging it. It definitely stands out above the rest of the crowd when it comes to battery life. Absolutely superb!

-Performance-
*The Cardo Scala 500 can be worn on either the right or left ear. It's your choice. I prefer to wear it on the right ear. When I wear my Treo on my beltclip on the right side or have it on the dash of my car, I get superb consistent sound quality. You can adjust the volume by using the log dial located on the back of the Cardo Scala 500. It goes up to high volumes where I can clearly hear what people on the other end are saying. When I asked them how I sounded, they told me I sounded clear as a whistle. This is only speaking of using the devices at a very close range. Bluetooth is rated at 30 feet, and unfortunately that proves to be a joke with the Cardo Scala 500. When you even get a few feet from the phone, the headset quickly becomes staticky and crackly. It becomes difficult to hear what others are saying. Also if I were to wear my phone and headset on opposite sides of the body, the sound quality would be poor. So therefore it is wise to keep the headset as close as you can to the phone. Despite this drawback, the Cardo Scala 500 prevailed in having the highest level of sound quality with the devices in close range. I found it to even be better than the Motorola HS850 which is considerably more expensive. So even though you might not be getting those 30 feet, it's difficult to think of too many situations where you would actually find yourself so far away from your phone. Cardo claims that they have incorporated wind blocking technology so that you can use the device in windy areas or in convertibles. I have managed to carry out conversations from convertibles, but once speeds reacher 80mph+, I was no longer able to carry out a clear conversation. There is also echo-cancellation, and I have no experienced any thankfully, which was nice since in my pre-Bluetooth days, I had enough echoing on my Sanyo SCP8100 from time to time. From what you pay for the Cardo Scala 500, you get much more in performance than you'd expect.

-The Verdict-
*The Cardo Scala 500 proves to be an absolutely superb headset. While I found it to be slightly less comfortable than such headsets as the Motorola HS850, it proves to be a much better performer, even considering the fact that the Motorola HS850 costs nearly twice as much! The Cardo Scala 500 provides a lot of bang for the buck since it's a very stylish, durable, and superb performer for a very little price. Overall, the Cardo Scala 500 is a real winner!


Recommend this product? Yes

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