Monday, March 1, 2010

Battle of the Bluetooth headsets

The Jabra EXTREME was very easy to set up and pair. I love that it has a dedicated on/off button and dedicated up and down volume buttons. The buttons have just the right amount tension, preventing any accidental presses while still being large enough to hit. The multiple charging methods are a definite plus, with the USB charger providing the possibility of upgrading the firmware; however, at only six inches or so, the cord on the AC charger is way too short.

The reception was very clear, with automatic volume adjustment according to the environment. Transmission was described as "crystal clear," with excellent noise reduction. The multi-point function connected and transferred easily and seamlessly from one device to another. I found the talk time from a full charge to be in the four to five hour range. I have to confess to being a bit dubious regarding the ten day standby time, and was actually surprised to find that it did indeed last for ten days on standby.

Aside from the AC cord being too short, I only had one other complaint with the Jabra EXTREME, and that is the fit system. Although it comes with two ear gels, they are both the same size; and the hooks are rather cheap, as is the method with which they connect to the headset. They simply snap on, and there's no swivel to them at all.

Of all the headsets, the EXTREME was the only one that did not offer a choice in sizes of ear gel, which it really does need. I had problems with it falling out of my ear when using only an ear gel. But when coupled with a hook, it could not be put on one-handed because the hook doesn't swivel. It would seem that Jabra put the majority of the product budget into sound quality and took a shortcut on the fit system.

All things considered, the Jabra EXTREME was one of the best of the bunch. If not for the cheap fit system this headset could have easily earned 5 out of 5, but instead comes in at 4 out of 5.


Jawbone ICON

Aliph entered the headset market a few years back with the novel feature of using the vibrations of your jawbone as a comparative filter to reduce background noise. The idea is that by comparing your speech, the vibrations of your speech through the jawbone, and the ambient noise, the user's speech can be isolated and background noise eliminated.

Available in a variety of styles and colors, the Jawbone ICON shown in Figure H is Aliph's newest incarnation of their unique Bluetooth headset.


Aliph's new Jawbone ICON. (click for larger image)

The ICON adds Noise Assassin 2.5, improved wind reduction filters, and the Voice Activity Sensor that "feels" your speech for better noise reduction.

In addition to upgradeable firmware, Aliph has launched the MyTalk Web site in support of the ICON. From the MyTalk site you see Figure I, ICON owners can change the voice profile on their headset and load complimentary software.


Aliph's MyTalk site for the Jawbone ICON. (click for larger image)

Other features of the ICON include voice prompts for battery level, incoming calls, power-up, and other functions, multi-point technology for connecting to multiple devices at once, and a battery meter displayed directly on your iPhone. And like the Jabra, it also has the A2DP programming for listening to music and other media, as well as the paired device's system sounds.