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My Bluetooth headset Philips SHB6610 has several profiles. It can work as low-quality sound headset (HFP) and high-quality sound headphones (A2DP). Typically whenever I start to play the music in my favorite media player (Winamp) it switches automatically in high quality. If I receive a call on Skype it switches to low-quality. Even if I am listening to music in the background, once call is finished, it falls back on high quality again.

However, from time to time, it happens that I connect headphones to the computer and they stay in low-quality mode even if I am not in a call. Can I enforce profile manually somehow? How to do this?

The only thing that helps (but not always) is re-pairing of headphones with PC. I am using Windows 7 on Toshiba Satellite Pro P300-1CG laptop, with Belkin Mini Bluetooth Adapter.

Edit: Now I can not keep connection active at all unless I keep Bluetooth device window open. Once I close the window connection breaks.

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Is there a difference if the headphones are switched on resp. switched off when you start the PC? I mean, is the problem only if the headphones are switched on before the PC or while it is starting, and no problem when you first start the PC and then switch the headphones on? – Martin Mar 17 '10 at 14:51
I usually start my PC first and turn headphones afterwards, since automatic connection happens only if headphones are turned on after the other device is on already. In other words if I start headphones and then PC, I would have to initiate connection procedure automatically on my PC. Therefore I have never tried the other way. Next time it happens I will check this idea. – Sergiy Byelozyorov Mar 17 '10 at 14:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

After several months of experimenting I have learned more about Bluetooth profiles that are supported by my phone: HSF (headset) and A2DP (advanced audio distribution). First profile allows to stream low-quality audio in both directions (e.g. for audio calls on the cell or Skype) and the other one is designed to provide high-quality single-direction audio (e.g. for listening to music).

My Nokia phone perfectly handles these two modes since it knows definitely when I need to switch between profiles (HSF when somebody is calling, A2DP when listing to music). However, it's a different story with a PC. There are many VoIP applications (Skype, VoipDiscount etc.) that may want to use HSF while other audio applications (e.g. Winamp, VLC) will want to use A2DP. Is it not absolutely clear how should an operating system support that. One may say that they should switch to HSF when VoIP applications demand it and switch back when the conversation is over. This sounds like a good solution but it would provide inequality for apps, while the operating system must remain neutral.

Best option would be to allow the user to select from a number of policies which should be used in such conflicts. Unfortunately in all operating systems that I've tried (Mac OS, Ubuntu, Windows 7) there is no support for that. Mac and Ubuntu are better since they at least provide a way to set profile manually, which is not possible on Windows.

EDIT: Android handles this nicely. They have a special permission for apps called "Phone", which allows the app to switch the phone into HSF mode when needed, but otherwise the phone stays in A2DP. Futhermore, apps with "Phone" permission can also stop music playing from other apps when the call is in progress. This way, the user gets to choose which apps can have the permission and thus OS stays neutral.

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On Windows 7, Control Panel -> Sound -> Recording and disabling enabling the bluetooth headset's microphone, even while paired and in the middle of playback, switches between HSF and A2DP. It is useful to right click the recording devices table to ensure disabled devices are shown in the list. – stevesliva Aug 11 '14 at 19:05
I recently met with this situation that you have, and I'm curious, why do every headphones have the two profiles? Is is because of the Bluetooth bandwidth? – redbeam_ Aug 8 '15 at 11:53
redbeam_: Yes, when listening to music in A2DP - you want to use all available bandwidth to transmit high-quality stereo, while when using HSP, bandwidth has to be shared with the microphone. – Sergiy Byelozyorov Apr 10 at 9:11
I have a Philips SHB 9250 and I'd love to have Ubuntu handling its profiles properly, have been facing so many bluetooth issues I don't even want to start :\ – Miguelgraz Jul 15 at 13:08

Is the high-quality mode what the instruction manual calls "FullSound"? According to the manual, you can manually toggle FullSound on and off by holding the call button and the track forward button for four seconds.

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This will only change special effects produced by headphones to improve sound quality. They do not change Bluetooth protocol. – Sergiy Byelozyorov Mar 25 '10 at 20:27
Ahh, I see. That was my best guess from reading the manual online. – Kevin Yap Mar 27 '10 at 21:29

Windows 8.1 solution that worked for me:

  1. Go to Control Panel > Sound
  2. Right click on the non Hands free headphone (eg. Headphones, JBLE40BT Stereo)
  3. Click on Set as default device

If the hands free device is selected, the audio quality will suffer.

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