Excitement builds as I unbox the Jabra Halo. With our previous experiences in this department we are a little bit anxious: how good is the quality of the sound and how well does its Bluetooth connection function beyond a couple of metres? Let's find out!
We have reviewed quite a few Jabra products before (see here and here, and here, for instance) and we always been impressed with the quality of these items. They deliver. But they always start out with a handicap as the moment you drop the wires and go Bluetooth the quality of the sound can become an issue. But let's not run ahead and savour the design first! It truly is a work of art: it's a fairly wide, matte black headband that can be folded just above the rectangular ear cups. The whole thing is very light and weighs just 80 g. The design makes it also reasonably portable, not as inconspicuous as standard earplugs but with this design you don't mind standing out a bit....
There is only one discernible button on the whole headset and even that one is totally integrated with the design. Of course when you have only one button with multiple functions it can be a bit tricky but not with the HALO. To answer or end a call just press that button. The same with playing or pausing music. Now how do you control the volume? On the side of the headset with the button (the right side) you will see a thin grey line going up and down and marked with a plus and minus sign. It's a touch control for the volume!
It will also allow you to change between music tracks by just a double tapping on either the plus or minus sign. Now here is the clever bit: how do you switch on the unit? Simply by unfolding it and by locking the hinges into place. This is done by giving it a gentle shove up so that the hinges are invisible. Once you've done that you can then extend the band to the right length for your head.
First let me tell you where the location is for the Bluetooth indicator. Just inside the headband together with the battery LED. There is no need to have it on the outside blinking away furiously and attracting attention! If you are pairing for the first time it will be done automatically for you. But if you are not aware of this, like I was not, you will have to press and hold the only button for four seconds until the Bluetooth indicator light is solid blue. On the subject of pairing, you can be connected to 2 devices at the same time. And, by the way, the pass code for pairing is 0000. (I just wonder how many people have this pass code also for their banking pin code....)
Charged and ready to go
A lovely short USB cable slides into the cleverly disguised micro USB port on the right side and charging takes just two hours. You can already use the HALO while charging it. With a talk time of eight hours (or for playing music about six hours) you get a full day's use out of it. Not shabby at all.
There is one problem when you look at the charge indicator light. It is supposed to be a solid red when charging and turn into a solid green when done. Except in my case it's blinking green. That's no big deal but I know of many people that mentioned on forums the same problem and, thinking that something was seriously wrong with the unit, returned it to the shop. It needs to be documented that the solid red and green indicating only happens when the unit is in a fully unfolded and locked position. This is counterintuitive as you would normally only charge the unit when you are not connected up to a device, so you would have it in the OFF position. This simple omission in the documentation would have cost Jabra a lot of aggro from confused or disgruntled customers.
Here is another omission: nowhere in the documentation is there a mention of where the microphone is located. Yet it is supposed to be not only a stereo headset for your music but also a headset for making calls. Rest assured, there is a microphone there somewhere....
Now to the good bit.
The sound quality is absolutely magnificent for a Bluetooth headset. See the qualification? A wired unit will always do better in the quality stakes but I was pleasantly surprised at the rather deep bass when playing my favourite music. Well, not only does the HALO play nice with your bluetooth devices but the HALO also comes with a 3.5-millimeter cable in case your device does not have stereo Bluetooth. Great job, Jabra! The volume control is a different matter. You are either going to love it or hate it. You would love it for its clever design to make it look very unobtrusive but most people would prefer a simple rotating knob. This touch slider beeps rather annoyingly when you change the volume.
The biggest question mark would hang over the sound quality of the calls I was going to make. Not having a boom microphone and only a very inconspicuous pinhole that would masquerade for a microphone, was surely going to present problems. And yet, I made quite a few test calls and not only was the clarity quite good on my side, the other persons could hear me very loud and clear! I'm quite happy with that result. It turns out that the Noise Blackout technology that they use with dual microphones no less(!), works a treat. GN Netcom developed this technology for their Jabra brand and together with DSP technology and Audio Shock Protection that monitors incoming audio volume, there is a lot of high-tech wizardry included in the price.
Time for summing up our findings.
This is certainly one of the better units we've come across. It looks absolutely gorgeous, feels good on your head, is quite comfortable and has great sound quality. If there were no negatives we could fully justify the rather steep price of AUD 165 (or around the USD 129 mark). There are no deal breakers as far as I'm concerned but there are a few areas for improvement. Not only in the documentation but I am a bit worried about the strength of the hinges over time. They work fine, but being simple plastic they may wear out or break if you're not careful. One final warning: don't wear them when you work and have to bend down frequently. Even though they are comfortable to wear, they can slip off easily too and twice they nearly landed in my paint tray...
Where to buy?
Just Google it or here in Australia you can check out the Optus World stores or go to minidigital.com.au or Dstore.com.au
Key Specifications of the Jabra HALO:
Bluetooth® wireless technology
- A2DP for music streaming
- Auto-pairing to mobile phone
- Touch controls
- Noise Blackout™ technology with dual microphones
- Foldable headband and carrying pouch
- Talk time = 8 hours
- Music time = 6 hours
- Standby time = 8 days
- Weight = 80 grams
- Dimensions = 54mm x 165-190mm x 136mm
- Charger = micro USB
* The HALO is compatible with any Bluetooth (A2DP) ® wireless technology device and 3.5 mm. music playing device
- Cables Included 1 x USB cable|1 x adapter cable|1 x audio cable
- Included Accessories Carrying pouch , USB charger cable , AC charger , 3.5 mm audio cable
We rate it a solid 8 out of 10.