Review: Jabra Halo Smart Bluetooth Headphones Bring the Noise

Gadgets Reviews Technology
That is not me, alas. Image: Jabra.
That is not me, alas. I have much less hair.
Source: Jabra.

I had a pair of Bluetooth headphones that I loved. Crisp, clear sound, stylish, and they worked for phone calls. Except they didn’t work well enough for day-to-day use. I was disappointed but kept using them because my main focus was music listening. When Jabra offered me a test review unit of their new Halo Smart headphones, I jumped at the chance. Jabra is a trusted name in audio headsets. But would that expertise translate to headphones?

Before we get to the actual testing, let’s talk looks. The Halo Smart is, like many Bluetooth ear bud sets, a sort of half collar that you wear around¬† back of your neck, with buds that come out.¬† The collar started slipping the first few times, but I easily adjusted it to fit better. One cute thing? The collar vibrates when calls come in. It actually feels kinda nice. One nice thing about the Halo Smart is that it is so light I literally forgot I was wearing it at times.

The buds themselves have magnets that let you clasp them together or to the collar. At first I thought this a silly feature but it actually came in pretty handy. They use a flat ribbon-type cable, which prevents cable snarl. There are three ear tips you can use – none of them fit me perfectly though, which is a shame, but close enough for jazz.

Or pop. Or hip hop. Whatever. Source: Jabra.
Or pop. Or hip hop. Whatever.
Source: Jabra.

The collar has basic controls for volume up/down and a smart button. The button can launch Siri/Google Now (no news on Cortana), pause playback, and can be held for pairing and powering up. I particularly liked that the Halo Smart could pair to multiple devices at once – it’s 2016, we should not have to repair a headset when switching from phone to tablet. Rated for 17 hours of active use, I found the battery life impressive as heck.

While not officially a sport set, the Halo Smart is water-resistant and light enough to forget that you’re wearing it; in fact, I did a few times.

As for sound quality, music was crisp and clear, with acceptable bass. The only downside compared to my other, big “can” style headphones was there was absolutely audio leakage from the outside when on the train or other places like that. Which actually was a good thing – had I been wearing my old headphones, I would have missed an announcement that a train was going express and skipping my stop (no, I did not hear the announcement, but I could tell there was one and paused my music). People who want the absolute best music experience will want to avoid, but you’re really not going to find “absolute best” from any ear buds.

Picky is fine, but it's not for me. Source: Jabra.
Sometimes we make (teeny tiny) sacrifices for style.
Source: Jabra.

More importantly, the call quality was so good, you guys! People constantly told me that they could not tell I was on a headset. The only issues I had was some interference one day, and another when I tried to use it as a storm was blowing in. Despite being wind-resistant in normal situations, high winds just kill the usefulness. Seriously though, the microphone was so great that at one point a caller could hear my footsteps.

At $80, the Halo Smart is cheaper than some high-end dedicated headsets or headphones. In fact, I’d say this is the best marriage of the two form factors I’ve seen yet. The only things that could possibly improve it would be better noise canceling and maybe foam inserts to adjust to an ear. Anything to block the world out. But at that price and with those features, I strongly suggest adding these to your wish list.

Jabra provided a Halo Smart for review purposes, but no suggested playlist. Full disclosure: I listened to a lot of Weezer.

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