Stereo Bluetooth Headsets come in all shapes and sizes, from the incredibly tiny Sony Ericsson IS-800 to the rather large Nokia BH-604 – and most of them still involve cables, which to some extent takes away the point of having a Stereo Bluetooth headset in the first place.
Jabra have always made great Bluetooth headsets, but until recently their only Stereo Bluetooth Headset was the Jabra BT3030 – a great handsfree/headphone solution that hangs around your neck and allows you to connect any standard 3.5mm headphones to it. The ‘Dogtag’ style control unit gives you full control over your music playback and volume, but it’s unique styling might not appeal to everyone.
Earlier this month, Jabra released the Halo – a pair of stylish compact bluetooth headphones that are completely free of wires and have dual microphones to reduce background noise during calls. The Jabra Halo supports streaming music in stereo, playback controls (A2DP & AVRCP) and volume control. All sounds great on paper, so I decided to get a pair out and try them.
In the Box
Jabra are quite generous with the accessories included with the Halo. As well as a European mains charger, the Halo comes with a Micro USB charging cable that allows you to charge the headset using your PC or laptop. Also included is a 3.5mm headphone to Micro USB lead – this plugs into the Halo and enables the headphones to be used with any non-bluetooth audio device such as iPods, MP3 players, Portable Video Players – anything with a 3.5mm headphone socket. There is also a black carry pouch included, although I can’t see anyone actually using it for more than a week as it makes the headset quite bulky. The only things that aren’t included are a UK adapter and a car charger, but you can use the USB cable with a USB car charger adapter or USB mains charger adapter to charge it when you’re away from your PC.
Pairing & Set Up
As with almost every Jabra headset I’ve ever used, pairing the headset to my phone was incredibly simple. The Halo automatically turns on when you unfold it and goes straight into pairing mode. All you need to do then is search for nearby devices, select the Halo and enter the PIN code 0000 and that’s all there is to it. (Some handsets will ask you to authorise the device to make connections automatically). Pairing to a second device is just as simple, just turn the headset on and then press and hold the answer key for a few seconds to put it into pairing mode, after that’s done, the rest of the process is exactly the same – easy.
The sound quality on the Halo is fantastic. I passed the headset around a few of the guys that work here, and everyone was impressed by it. Music is crisp and clear and much better than I currently get with my standard wired headphones and my Motorola S9 Stereo Bluetooth Headset.
Audio during calls is very clear too, the dual microphone definitely makes a difference, separating back ground noise from your spoken voice so that the caller hears you clearly. We made several test calls in the office and outside on the main road and were heard loudly and clearly by the guys back in the office.
The Jabra Halo is a very sleek and stylish Stereo headset. The headband is made from a soft touch plastic with a soft velvet like lining. The earpieces are lightly padded and have the same velvet like cover. Unlike headsets from Nokia that have a padded ring that forms a seal around your ear to block out background noise, the Halo is completely flat and sits flush against your ears. For me, the earpieces don’t quite sit as firmly on my ears as I’d like, but the sprung headband keeps them securely in place. You could easily wear the Jabra Halo around town without worrying about people pointing or staring. It sits nicely on your head and is angled for a comfortable fit, as long as you remember to put it on with the controls on the right you should find it extremely comfortable to wear. When the headset is not in use you can fold the the sides in to make it smaller and more portable. Unfolding the headset will automatically turn it on, folding it will turn it off.
The Jabra Halo can be used to answer and end calls without having to touch your phone. A quick press will answer a call, a second press will end the call. A double tap will redial the last dialled number. If you have 2 phones connected it will redial the last call made on the last phone used. If you’re listening to music when a call comes in, the music fades out and carries on once your call has ended.
Some headsets can be quite fiddly to use with just too many buttons. My S9’s have 6 buttons and I’m always pressing track skip instead of volume. Thankfully though, the Halo is nothing like this. as you can see from the image below, the controls are almost none existent. Volume is changed using the touch sensitive control panel – slide your finger up to increase, down to decrease. It can be a little hit and miss sometimes, so you may find that you stand there stroking it a few times in order for the volume to change – having said that, I think that this is more of a problem with the iPhone as it doesn’t handle Bluetooth all that well, especially volume control. When we tried the Halo with the BlackBerry Curve 8900 the Halo was much more responsive.
Changing track is straight forward and utilises the same touch controls that you use to adjust the volume. Instead of sliding your finger up or down, you double tap the + to skip forward, double tap – to skip back. If you continue to tap it it will skip several tracks forward. Pressing the answer key will play/pause your music.
The battery life in Bluetooth devices has improved significantly over recent months. The Jabra Halo offers upto 8 hours talk time and up to 13 hours standby time. When I used them with my iPhone, the phone died before the headphones did, so I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a full 8 hours, but Jabra aren’t normally too far off when they quote battery life.
Why Choose the Jabra Halo?
The Jabra Halo is a MultiPoint Bluetooth Headset that can connect to two phones or a phone and a Bluetooth enabled. music player at the same time. This makes it ideal if you want to listen to your music from your PC, 2nd generation iPod touch or games console, but don’t want to miss any calls on your mobile. The fact that you can also use these headphones with non bluetooth devices makes them more useful than most stereo bluetooth headsets and means that you can still use your headphones with your phone if your battery is running low and don’t want to drain the remaining power by connecting using Bluetooth.
While the Jabra Halo isn’t the cheapest Stereo Bluetooth Headset available, It’s well worth the money. No other Bluetooth Stereo Headset looks as good, has as many features or is as easy to use. Until now my favourite headset has been the Sony Ericsson IS-800. While the IS-800’s are still great (mainly due to their size) they don’t come anywhere close to the Halo when it comes down to features and usability.