Welcome to my Gadling gear review of the new Jabra HALO Bluetooth stereo headphones. When it comes to Bluetooth headphones here on Gadling, I’m only interested in products that stand out in the busy headphone market. The Jabra HALO headphones fit that quite well.
The HALO’s are very stylish, and look more like a pair of DJ headphones than Bluetooth headphones. For travelers, the HALO’s have a couple of pretty handy features – most importantly, they can fold. When folded they may not be as compact as a pair of in-ear headphones, but it certainly decreases their size. . Their best travel feature is the ability to become wired headphones. Included in the box is a cable that plugs into a normal headphone jack, which means you can listen to music in-flight without worrying about the “No Bluetooth” rule.
Controlling the headphones
Controlling the HALO’s is simple – there is just one button,and a touch sensitive sliding control. Sadly, that touch sensitive controller is a pain to deal with. It is usually too sensitive, and when your hair gets in front of it, it becomes even harder to control. It is a great design feature, but not very practical.
There is no power button – to turn them on, you simply unfold them, turning them off works the same way – just fold them up. This is a really elegant solution to something that usually annoys me. This also means you’ll never forget to turn them off before flying.
The single button is for picking up a call, ending a call and pausing your music. When listening to music, the touch control adjusts volume (by sliding) and changes tracks (by tapping). As you can probably guess, this sometimes goes wrong, and you’ll change tracks when trying adjust the volume, and vice versa.
The Jabra HALO’s are very comfortable – the entire inside of the headband is covered in black velour, all the way down to the earpieces. Those earpieces can slide up and down about an inch and a half, so even those with a larger than average head won’t have a problem getting a good fit.
Because the headband fabric lacks “grip”, the HALO’s don’t sit too tightly on your head. This is obviously fine if you are relaxing in your first class seat, but don’t plan on running through the airport with them.
I put the Jabra HALO’s through a whole bunch of tests. As Bluetooth stereo headphones, they sound good – really good. In fact, I could not really detect any difference between wireless or wired mode. Audio does lack some bass, but without a pair of massive cans, you’ll always suffer from this.
Volume is good, but because the earpieces don’t go around your ears, too much ambient noise will mean you’ll need to turn them up quite a bit.
Call quality is decent, and obviously depends on the environment. In a moderately noisy room, they performed very well. The HALO’s feature dual microphone noise canceling circuitry, which obviously works hard in the background. That is, until the outside noise becomes too much for them to deal with. In a noisy location, like a train station, the HALO’s pick up quite a lot of noise. The call is still quite acceptable, but you’ll need to talk up, and the person on the other end of your call may start complaining.
Design and features
Jabra headsets have always had a strong emphasis on design, and the HALO’s continue that tradition. From the inner fabric lining to the touch sensitive controls, they certainly manage to stand out in the busy Bluetooth world.
The folding mechanism initially scared me – when you fold the HALO’s, there is a loud “click”, and the first couple of times, I was worried that I’d break them. I’ve now opened and closed them 100’s of times, and they are still going very strong, so Jabra clearly put some effort into this mechanism. The black velvety fabric on the inside feels nice, but it also acts as a bit of a dust magnet, so may need some cleaning every now and then.
The HALO’s come with multi-use technology, which essentially means you can pair them with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. This allows you to connect them to your mobile phone and Bluetooth enabled MP3 player simultaneously.
Battery life is rated at 8 hours talk/music time, which means you can use them all day long. You can charge them using the included adapter, or any powered USB port.
In order to use the Bluetooth stereo feature in the HALO’s, your phone will need to support the A2DP audio profile, and for controlling music, they need to support the AVRCP profile. Most Bluetooth enabled phones tend to include support for this nowadays, though some phones have a limited implementation. The iPhone supports Bluetooth audio and remote control, but only for pause/play, not for track forward/backwards.
Despite the average call quality, I like the HALO’s a lot. Music sounds good, but could have a little more “oomph”.
The one feature that went from quirky to annoying is the touch sensitive control – it really is a good idea, but poorly executed. Sometimes “real” buttons work best.
PROS: Great Bluetooth stereo audio, ability to fold and become wired, fold to power on/off
CONS: Confusing touch sensitive controls, average performance in loud environments
The headphones come complete with a USB charger, AC charger, audio cable and carrying pouch. You’ll find the Jabra HALO’s at your local Best Buy store, or bestbuy.com. They retail for $129.99.