Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jabra Halo BT650s: Less Wire, More Music

I’ve always been curious about Bluetooth headsets. While I get extra annoyed whenever I see people showing-off/talking loudly on these devices, truth is, I have always secretly wondered how it is to have one.

Just by looking at it, I could already tell that the Jabra Halo BT650s is not like the usual Bluetooth earpiece. Instead of looking like a hearing aid, this one greatly resembles a sports headband. Slim and elegant in its over-the-head design, this baby is actually a stereo headset. It is made of matte black plastic on the outside while the inside of the headband is covered with black felt for comfort. Weighing only 3 ounces, it folds neatly like a pair of sunglasses making it small enough to fit in your bag (but not in your pocket). It doesn’t feel like it will break easily but based on my experiences with slim devices, this baby needs extra handling with care. The battery and pairing indicators are hidden inside the headband while the answer/end/play/pause button is located outside the right earphone.

The Halo has no visible power switch. Unfolded, the Halo turns on and immediately goes into pairing mode. Folding it turns it off. On the box it says that it can connect to 2 devices at the same time. True enough, it easily connected with my Windows 7-equipped laptop and a Sony Ericsson W508 Walkman phone (reviewed separately) at the same time.

With such a slim device, I didn’t expect much regarding sound quality. Much to my surprise, it totally blew me away! Mid to high ranges were crisp and clear while the bass was uncharacteristically booming for its size. It was like a home theater in my ear and the sound never cracked even at maximum volume. In addition, music fades out when there is an incoming call. I couldn’t see any microphones on the device (the box says it has two) but I never had to talk loudly when I used it to make calls. With a listed talk time/music time of 8 hours and up to 13 days standby time, the Halo definitely makes an excellent multimedia accessory.

Using it is a bit tricky, though. The Halo’s answer/end/play/pause button is quite responsive and easy to handle but the volume/track control strip is a bit sluggish. Sliding the finger up the strip increases the volume while sliding it down decreases it. Double-tapping on the upper part of the strip plays the next track while doing the same on the lower part plays the previous track or restarts the current one. Easier said than done! The control’s sensitivity needs some getting used to. Sliding the finger too fast or too slow will result in too little or too much volume change. And since the strip is only marked by a line which I could not see while wearing the headset (ridges would have been better), I oftentimes had to tap on the earphone several times just to get the desired effect. Once, I wore it the wrong way and I ended up tapping on my ear like crazy. But I’m sure that once I get over the learning curve, I would finally enjoy controlling my phone or my media player just by tapping on my ear.

The Halo can also be used as a regular headset via an included 3.5mm jack if a device does not support Bluetooth stereo (A2DP) technology. Bluetooth features like receiving calls and touch control are disabled when using the Halo with a cable, though.

All in all, using the Jabra Halo BT650s is a great wireless audio experience. I could have never imagined that I would enjoy listening to music with all the conveniences of a wireless setup on such a slim device. I’m still on the fence if I should buy one, though. But for those who have the extra moolah, I’m sure they won’t regret it.

(Jojo Perlas, Manila Bulletin Technews)

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I just got mine as a birthday gift yesterday. I love the fit, the size, the sound quality.

I am still struggling to figure out the volume control and switching tracks. Any hints would be most welcome.