Top critical review
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Beautiful and sleek, but Needs an off Switch to the Sound Processing
on December 9, 2011
Halo was a popular headset, so I was excited to try this unit. The design is very minimalist and beautiful, like something out of the Bang & Olufsen line. The build quality with all plastic material borders on feeling cheap, but probably saved by the matte headband finish and velour lining. Impression on the sound quality, however, was disappointing, mostly due to "surround" sound processing that cannot be turned off. Let me try to break it down:
- Style: build quality aside, this is a beautifully designed headset that looks its part. It also managed to have extendable headband without breaking the clean lines. Style is subjective, but for me it is appealing.
- Control: contrary to many who found it problematic, I grew to like the touch sensitive volume control from initial ambivalence. It allows volume adjustment very quickly but not inaccurately. It also registers next/previous tracks with double taps on the top and bottom, which also worked well, though it can be a little tricky at first to find the right corners. Touching it accidentally is possible, but seeing how it takes 2 very long and directional swipes from minimum to maximum volume, it isn't as easy to do or as damaging as one might think.
- Easy dual pairing: I paired it with my PC and phone, both connects immediately when the headset turns on, and switches between A2DP stereo profile and headset (mono) profile readily and without problems (note: you can't hear stereo during a call/conference that uses its microphone, as it will use a headset profile. Only by using a separate microphone will allow full sound quality during voice conference).
- Using this for voice dialogues has been great--sound picks up clearly from the noise cancelling microphone and the mid-range enhanced quality of the headphones also makes for clear voice sounds.
- Uses a widely available generic micro-USB charging port. The included USB cable and charging cable are both fairly long, and you can listen while you charge.
Don't like so much:
- Fit and Comfort: The simple design also makes it feel like having a clamp on your head. There is very little articulation (if at all) of the earpads, which can sit on top of your ear in a slightly awkward way. The velour material is not well padded and does not make for a comfortable experience. The same said material also doesn't provide much friction. The headset can pivot on your ears and fall off fairly easily on movement.
- The velour lining material attracts lint fairly easily.
- This product can better be served with a real on/off switch. As it is, I don't think the folding design really saves much space at all to make it truly portable, or its tendency to fall off on movement really inspiring confidence for portable use. I use this primarily at home, and having to snap+slide the arm every time I want to turn it on and off seems like unnecessary wear and tear on the flimsy-looking plastic hinge/latch. They could have easily done it with the single physical button as an added function, without any more hardware switch implementation.
- The sound: This is my biggest gripe, with all the others being minor. There is built in "surround sound" processing. However, as we can imagine, surround sound isn't really possible on a headset. What the processing essentially does, is do partial channel cross mixing. In other words, the channel separation isn't complete. There is a bit of right channel bleeding into the left, and vice versa. This has been tried in the high end headphone amps to create a pseudo sound stage and arguably reduce listening fatigue.
However, the processing resulted in several artifacts which you may find problematic if you are semi-serious about your music. There is audible distortion in even low volumes--and yes I chose my sources carefully and understand the limitations of A2DP being lossy--and occasionally rather obvious it's distracting.
There is a veiled hollowness to the sound, a distant feel that makes you struggle to hear your favorite music track's original fullness and detail--which is no longer there. The mid-range sounds emphasized, which is great for voice communications, but that's also contributing to a slightly "tinny" quality in music tracks. The highs are surprisingly subdued. There is obviously artificial enhancement to the bass, but it is not very deep. The bass concentrates on the mid-bass region, with the deepest frequencies missing. However, for an over-the-ear transducer, the amount of mid-bass response is not unimpressive, and for many that may be enough cover up for all its other sound artifacts. In short, the frequency responses are clustered in the mid to mid-bass regions,colored by "surround sound" characteristics and distortion.
I wish Jabra had at least provided a way to switch off the sound processing. That would have at least allowed for its full potential to be revealed, or possibly achieved with some user equalization. As of now the distortion alone would ruin it beyond equalization correction. If you care about the absolute sound quality of your music, this is probably a skip. However, if you are just a casual listener, use it often for voice communication and non-critical stereo sounds, like thumpy mid-bass, don't need to run/walk around with it, the Halo2 does an decent job with a sleek design that is easy to love.