• Fixing “Bluetooth audio failed” Error Message on Mac OS X with Sony DR-BT50 Headphones

    I’ve been using my iPad to watch movies on YouTube and Air Video while wandering around the house, usually on my studio headphones (quite simply the best headphones I have ever put on my head – super comfy for as long as you care to wear them and amazing sound). I like close-ear headphones since they don’t fall out of my ears like earbuds do, and I can watch movies without disturbing my wife’s mission to watch every reality TV show episode ever produced.

    More often than not, I’ll get hungry or a hankering for a cup of tea halfway through a movie, and I’ll wander in to the kitchen to make something to eat. Typically, I throw the iPad on the counter and will wander around fixing a snack while listening to the movie. Although my studio headphones have a nice long cable, I’m always worried that I’m going to pull the iPad off the counter and smash the screen.

    A week or so back I caved and bought a set of Bluetooth headphones. My criteria were great sound, comfort (most closed designs hurt my ears since I have a giant head), travel-ready, and reasonably priced. I found two pairs I really liked on Amazon: the JayBird SB1Bs and the Sony DR-BT50s. The JayBirds looked cooler and got similarly good reviews to the Sonys. I was expecting to spend about $100 for a decent set, so pricing was decent for both. Ultimately, I bought the Sonys because they were foldable for travel; I plan on using these headphones both at work and at home, and I was afraid I might crush the JayBirds in my backpack.

    Headphones arrived today, and paired seamlessly with my iPad on the first try. One of the reviewers of the Sonys said that they introduced latency when watching movies (causing lip sync issues), but I’ve seen none of that with either my iPad or my MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard so the latency must have been an issue with their device. Sound quality is excellent, they are comfortable, and they came with travel bag which I was not expecting – so, mission accomplished. The only minor glitch I have noticed is occasional static when working in proximity with my Bluetooth keyboard. This hasn’t been a big deal so far.

    Although iPad pairing was seamless, pairing with OS X was not. I went through the Bluetooth Setup Assistant, which paired right away and gave me the all-clear that the pairing had worked. About five seconds after closing the assistant, I got the following error:

    Bluetooth audio failed.
    There was an error connecting to your headset. Make sure it is turned on and in range. The audio portion of the program you were using may have to be restarted.

    I tried removing the device and pairing again; same issue. So, I selected the headphones in the Bluetooth menu under System Preferences and clicked the little drop-down menu beneath the list (next to the + and – buttons). One of the options says “Configure this device…”, so I opened that up. A Bluetooth Headset Setup application opened, showing me two checkboxes for the device: “Use device as a headset for this computer” and “Use device as headphones for this computer.” I deselected the headset option, leaving only the headphones option selected. Sure enough, everything worked, and my headphones showed up with a green light in the list of Bluetooth devices, connected and ready to use.

    For those of you who might be considering a pair of these headphones for an iPad or Mac, know that the controls on the headphones for volume and stop/play are the only ones that work on the iPad/iPhone at the moment. The fast forward/rewind controls also work on the Mac, and I haven’t tried the previous/next group ones yet so I can’t comment on them.

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