Every once in a while a device comes along which pairs beauty with function in an exquisite way.
The Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT is such a unit. The trouble is, even such a long name isn't descriptive enough. So what does the Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT do? Simply put, it is a wireless car kit based on Bluetooth, of which there are many in the market.
So how did we fare in our roadtest? Is that all just sleekness and beauty but does it disappoint in the audio department?
Let's find out!
Thanks to PICA Australia, who sent us the unit, we are now looking at an ultra slim Bluetooth car kit that has a funky, practical and very elegant design. The large flat panel speaker is only a few millimetres thick, yet gives a fantastic sound. On the right of the unit is the microphone arm that hinges at the top. When you swing it up it switches on the unit and signals with a few beeps that it is ready for pairing with a Bluetooth phone. At the same time the raised arm enables access to the volume plus and down buttons as well as the Talk/End Talk button. Below that, on the underside of the unit, we find it the charge point and the earphone jack.
The back of the unit is "graced" by a huge metal clip. This is to clip onto your sun visor in the car. Whilst very practical this clip seems a bit incongruous with the rest of the design of the unit. It's a heavy industrial clip, strong and sturdy and probably just what it needs to be. If it had been made out of strong plastic it would be more in line with the rest of the design. If it was easily removed it would be even better so that there would be more placement options in the car.
For instance: the best spot for me is not in the middle of the visor where the microphone arm blocks my view. I put it in the centre where the visor is not wide enough for the clip to properly hold.
The Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT is ideal in combination with a Bluetooth phone that also has something like Voice Commander so that you can simply say: "Call Jim" and you'll get connected -- hands-free. Fortunately my HTC Touch Diamond is equipped like that and after creating a voice tag for most of my frequently called contacts, the SSC (Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT) is ready to play ball.
The first thing you need to do after the initial charging period is to pair your phone. Very simple a matter of making your phone discoverable and pair it with the universal code of 0000. So now when you switch on the unit by swinging the arm up, a pleasant female voice says: "Handset Connected".
Initially I make a few calls to a co-worker here in the office to suss out the quality of the speaker.
We are actually quite surprised at how good this flat panel speaker sounds in a relatively quiet office environment. This bodes well for the actual noisy roadtest.
Some of the functions apart from the basic ones as dialling and receiving calls are: rejecting a call, the redialling of the last number, dialling a missed call. The system will alert you to this with a built-in voice which will also notify you when the car kit is connected or disconnected and when it needs to be charged. On that last subject: it needs to be charged probably four hours on average but you should only do that when the battery is low, given the lifetime of approximately 500 charging cycles for the battery. The booklet does not say what the talk time is nor the standby time on the battery when fully charged. The website states that it is 15 hours of talk time or 21 days of standby. That’s quite a decent amount in between charges. I wish they had used the standard mini USB (type B) rather than the micro USB jack. All my other devices in the car have those so it saves me juggling cables.
To make a call if you have voice recognition on your phone it's quite easy to command to dial a certain contact and the system will ask you to confirm by saying yes or no. To initiate this conversation with the Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT, you need to press the talk button first so it's not completely hands-free in that regard as you need to physically touch the unit.
There really should be a command to start the system so that no fumbling around in the dark is needed. Talking about darkness: the LED on the buttons glow softly but every 30 secs or so the darkness is punctuated by a brighter blue flash from the unit. Quite distracting at night. Probably the best thing is to have the unit off at night and switch it on when a call comes through...
Let me tell you what you get for your 100 bucks. In the box you will find the unit itself of course plus a car charger and USB cable as well as a headset for enjoying a quiet conversation. This, plus a tiny manual, is all you need and is assembled in a well-designed see-through package that is easy to open.
Our findings are that the Contour Design SURFACE SOUND COMPACT is an extremely useful device with high sound quality through the DSP noise reduction and echo cancellation speaker. It connects your phone quickly and without fuss and reads out your SMS and e-mail messages and allows you to accept calls and dial out effortlessly. A minor problem in this beautifully crafted design is that you still have to press the Talk button to say a command or to accept a call so it is not completely hands-free. Highly recommended, particularly in countries where it is illegal (as it should be) to talk on a cell phone without a car kit.
In Australia you can check out PICA by going to their website pica.com.au and see who sells it where.
Other websites: www.bluetrek.com, www.contourdesign.com
5.51" x 3.7" x 0.51" (140mm x 94mm x 13mm)
4.1 oz (116g)
v 1.2, compatible with all Bluetooth enabled devices
Up to 10 meters
Up to 104 dB / Up to 2 Watt
noise reduction and echo cancellation technology
15 hours talks time; 21 days stand by
DC car charger, USB to micro USB cable, visor clip, earphone, user guide
* Compatible with all Bluetooth enabled devices
* Switch on/off
* Support for voice dialing
* Take a call, end a call
* Call Redial
* Reject a call
* Call waiting
* Volume adjustment
* Call back missed call / Dial back last incoming number
* LED indicated charge status
* Built-in voice alert reminds you of the actions in your headset.