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Jabra is all talk with its Halo Smart Bluetooth earbuds

TechCrunch TechCrunch 3/07/2016 Brian Heater

At $80, the Jabra Halo Smart is in a bit of a gray area. It’s hardly what the majority of users would call “cheap,” but it still comes in well below other wireless offerings from companies like Jaybird. They’re not fitness buds, nor are they focused on sound or comfort.

Jabra, much to its credit, went a different route entirely, eschewing the focuses of most Bluetooth earbud makers for one specially tailored to the company’s strong suit: making and taking calls. The headphones are designed with business users in mind – or, perhaps, more accurately, those seeking the business casual equivalent.

The Halo Smart’s major architectural feature is a collar that sits on the back of the wearer’s neck, not entirely unlike an electric oxen yoke. It’s an attempt to solve a few of the issues currently plaguing Bluetooth buds. After all, going completely wireless means sacrificing both battery life and weight, due to the need to duplicate much of the electronics in each ear. There’s also the issue of what the do with them when not in use.

Jabra’s solution is to just wear the things around your neck all day. After all, with a listed battery life of 17 hours, it’s not like you’re going spend much time sitting around the charging waiting for the battery to top off. The company’s even built magnets into the sides of the collar, so the earbuds don’t have to dangle from your sides like electronic pigtails.

There are three buttons on-board. The one on the left mutes calls and loads your smartphone’s on-board voice assistant, while the trio on the right handle power and volume/track advance.

The collar might work for some users. And heck, I guess it’s not so bad for an office environment. The Halo Smart certainly look a fair deal less goofy than many of the other wireless headsets out there. That said, I felt a little dorky walking down the street with, essentially, a Bluetooth collar around my neck, and I’m not really sure whether snapping the earbuds up with the (somewhat weak) magnets made things better or worse.

As advertised, the call quality is solid. Not the best I’ve experience on a headset by any stretch, but certainly clear, and it did a decent job helping mask some of the wind noise as I walked down the streets of Manhattan yelling “buy!” and “sell!” into my headset like a lunatic (I like to pretend I’m an important business person sometimes). And, even with the different tip sizes available, the Halo Smart don’t exactly offer the most comfortable fit.

As for the headphones themselves, it’s pretty clear that the Halo Smart wasn’t designed for music first. There are plenty of much better sounding Bluetooth earbuds on the market – but if you’re eyeing Jabra, odds seem pretty good that listening to music isn’t your first priority. If it’s lower on your list, playback is perfectly serviceable.

It’s not a bad little headset for $80, so long as you don’t mind rocking the collared look – and if music isn’t your first priority.

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