Jabra hasn’t been known for having a solid lineup of headphones. Instead, it’s made a name for itself through Bluetooth headsets for cellphones. Late last month Jabra, released a line of high end headphones. Two of the items from the lineup, the Jabra Revo Wireless and Jabra Vox, showed up at my door shortly before the official launch on March 25th and I have been using them since. Here’s what I think about the new headphones.
Jabra makes a wide variety of Bluetooth devices, including your typical Bluetooth headset for mobile phones. They also make some unique devices that break free from the same old designs. The Stone 2, Sport Series headsets, Clipper, Halo 2 and the new Solemate BT speaker are all devices that show that Jabra isn’t just a leader in Bluetooth technology, but in design as well. The Jabra Supreme UC Bluetooth headset is a new type of BT device that can be used with mobile phones as well as PCs. For those that rely heavily on both cellular and Internet calls, The Supreme UC has a very appealing set of features.
One look at the Jabra STONE2 and you’ll immediately recognize that it is like no other Bluetooth headset on the market. Its unique style and shape, combined with the charging case give it an unmistakable appearance. But is the STONE2 another case of form over function or does this little bugger have a place in your pocket or purse? Let’s find out.
- Unique style
- Very comfortable
- Includes charging case
- Voice commands
- Supports A2DP
- Answer/ignore calls by voice
- Voice prompts
- Audible caller ID
- Average audio quality
- Low battery life without charging case
- Glossy version (AT&T only) attracts dust and scratches
The review unit I received has a glossy finish that is only available from AT&T stores. The version that Amazon.com and everyone else sells is a leather-wrapped version. Feature-wise and functionally however, they are exactly the same.
DESIGN & COMFORT
As I already mentioned, the STONE2 has a very unique design. The headset’s shape looks like it might be missing parts because the distinctive shape doesn’t have a mic that protrudes out like most other Bluetooth headsets. This makes for a more discrete appearance when worn. The STONE2 must also be hooked over your right ear. If you dislike hooks or prefer using your left ear, this headset is not for you. I myself normally don’t like using hooks because it takes a little more effort to put it on. However, I found that after a few tries, I was able to put the STONE2 on relatively easily, even with one hand. Once hooked on, I was amazed at how comfortable it was. Since most of the headsets I use require the speaker to be inserted into my ear, I usually need to remove them after a couple of hours to give my ears a break. The STONE2 doesn’t need to be inserted and the speaker sort of rests comfortably beside your ear. It’s hard to explain but this is the first headset that I could wear for several hours at a time. The STONE2 comes with four eargels to choose from but the one that was already on the headset out of the box worked perfectly for me.
The STONE2 only has a single physical button, which is its multifunction button. It’s easy to locate while on the ear and easy to press. The volume control is a touch sensitive rocker that extends the length of the flat, outer side of the headset. To turn the volume up, you slide your finger from the base, near the multifunction button, up. To decrease the volume, you swipe your finger down the other way. While the touch sensitive control gives the unit a sleek design advantage, I would have still preferred real buttons.
In my tests, people on the other end all said that I sounded good and could hear me clearly. When I tested the noise cancellation, they said that they could definitely hear more noise in the background but that they were still able to hear me without too much trouble. Jabra’s Noise Blackout Extreme technology uses two mic’s to provide the best sound, but it came up a little short when compared to the noise cancellation performance from BlueAnt and Plantronics. Additionally, while I could hear the caller on the other end fine, overall sound quality was just average in my opinion. In other words, sound quality on the STONE2 is more than acceptable, just not exceptional.
VOICE CONTROL & GUIDANCE
Like many new premium headsets on the market currently, the STONE2 allows you to answer calls by simply saying, “answer” or ignore calls by saying, “ignore.” It worked as well as the BlueAnt S2 that I reviewed recently. Voice guidance is also a good feature that provides useful information by voice, rather than having to memorize what beep patterns mean what. The two messages I found most useful were battery status and caller ID. During the initial pairing process, the STONE2 requests an address book transfer for use with caller ID.
BATTERY & CHARGING
The STONE2 comes with a cool little charging case that is small enough to throw in your pocket, bag or purse. Jabra even threw in a little clip you can use to attach the charger on a belt. When you place the headset in the case, it automatically turns off and charges the headset if needed. When you pop the headset out of the case, it automatically turns on. The overall battery life of the STONE2 is rated at up to 10 hours, but only when used with the included charging case. Without the case to charge it, the STONE2 can only muster up to 2 hours of battery life. If you tend to have conversations that last longer than 2 hours, you probably shouldn’t consider the STONE2. I personally don’t spend more than 30 minutes or so on a call at a time so it works just fine for me. Also, if you use the STONE2 with an iPhone, you can download the free STONE2 app in iTunes that will display the battery life of the headset right on your phone.
The Jabra STONE2 is a unique headset that probably won’t fit everyone’s needs, because of the battery limitations and right ear-only use requirements. That said, the STONE2 is a stylish and comfortable headset with some advanced features and unique functionality. If you can overcome the battery limitations and don’t mind wearing it on your right ear, I think the STONE2 is well worth considering. I have three headsets I keep on my desk at all times and the STONE2 is usually the one I reach for first.
Available from Amazon.com.
* Review sample courtesy of Jabra
The last two Bluetooth headsets that I used were the Plantronics Discovery 925 and Plantronics Discovery 975. They were my favorite headsets among the many I have used since I started wearing them in 2005. Unfortunately, I gave the 925 to my father and my 975 had to be sent in for warranty service. When Amazon offered the Jabra Extreme for me to review, I jumped hard and fast. Would it be an acceptable temporary solution until I got my 975 back, or would it be something else?
- Attractive design
- Diminutive size
- Good sound quality
- Good noise cancellation
- Dedicated power switch
- Great range
- Multipoint & A2DP compatibility
- Multiuse (connect 2 devices at the same time)
- FANTASTIC accessories included
- Comfortable fit (for me)
- Fair battery life (5.5 hours talk/10.5 standby)
- Multiple charging options
- Great value for price point
- Volume buttons a bit tiny
- May not be comfortable for some ears
- AC charger cord length is extremely short
The unheralded Jabra EXTREME has hit one out of the park folks. Not only did I find it to be a good solution while I waited for my Plantronics Discovery 975 to come back from service, but I think the 975 may just end up becoming my backup headset. The Jabra EXTREME is very similar to the Jabra BT 530 but the EXTREME has improved noise cancellation, Multipoint, Multiuse, Acoustic Shock Protection, and A2DP music streaming. In fact, if you look at the back of the EXTREME headset, you’ll see the BT530 model # imprinted on it. Make no mistake though, the EXTREME is significantly improved.
The EXTREME goes into pairing mode the first time it is turned on and my Motorola Droid found it quickly and paired without having to enter a code.
If you have read my other Bluetooth headset reviews, you know that fit is a HUGE deal for me. The EXTREME admirably attempts to accommodate most users by providing a couple of ear hook sizes, a normal ear gel and also what Jabra calls, Ultimate-fit ear gels. Plantronics has a similar ear gel technology and I have to admit that Plantronics’ implementation is more comfortable and fits better. After trying different combinations of ear gels and hooks, I ended up just using the normal ear gel without the hooks. It is secure enough that I could probably go jogging with it and not fall out. It’s not quite as comfortable as the Plantronics Discovery 925/975, but definitely good enough for at least an hour of continuous use.
Though the EXTREME probably won’t win any style awards, I find it to be very attractive. The design is subdued and the gunmetal gray front looks sharp. Also, since the headset isn’t very large, it will probably attract less attention to the fact that you are wearing a Bluetooth headset. I used to think that the Plantronics Discovery 925/975 looked very stylish and I thought I looked ok while wearing them until I started watching “24” Season 8. Everyone in CTU wears the Discovery 975 and well, I think they all look ridiculous.
CALL & MUSIC QUALITY
Jabra has finally decided to use dual mics in their noise cancellation technology, similar to how Plantronics and Aliph have. Jabra calls theirs, Noise Blackout EXTREME. And like Plantronics’ AudioIQ2, it works. It cancels out background noise very well so that the person on the other end of the call can hear you clearly. The EXTREME also automatically adjusts the volume of the call so that in noisy environments, you can hear the caller more clearly. To protect your ears against sudden loud noises, it also has what they call, Acoustic Shock Protection. A welcome feature addition to the EXTREME is support for A2DP which allows you to listen to music from your device via the headset. It’s in mono, so it doesn’t sound great, but it is certainly good enough for casual music listening, NPR and for podcasts.
BATTERY & CHARGING
The battery life is about average for a modern Bluetooth headset and it takes 2 hours to fully charge. I found that it came almost fully charged however and only needed about 15 minutes to charge the first time. I was ecstatic with the charging options included with the Jabra EXTREME. It comes with a USB car charger and includes a detachable piece that you can use to plug the headset into and charge it through ANY powered USB port. So, you could be charging your headset on the way to work in your car and finish charging it in your office from your laptop. Awesome! I am baffled by the short cord on the AC charger though. I’m guessing they shortened it thinking most people charge their headsets from a counter-top wall outlet, but I don’t. My chargers are usually on the floor behind my desk. Lucky for me, since the headset uses a micro-USB port, I use my Motorola Droid’s charger at my desk to charge both.
A welcome feature on the Jabra EXTREME is a dedicated power switch. I have never had a headset that paired as quickly as the EXTREME. Whenever I flip the power switch on, my Droid pairs within 5 seconds. It also has an answer/end button and a volume up and a volume down button. The volume buttons are rather small, but you get used to them. Also, when you aren’t on a call, if you push either of the volume buttons, it acts as a battery life indicator. Green means 1-4.5 hours of talk time remaining, yellow means 10 minutes to 1 hour of time remaining, and red means less than 10 minutes of talk time remaining.