Jabra isn’t an organization afraid of veering off the main road; it seems to use many of its high-end Bluetooth gadgets as design and technology showpieces — sometimes with unfortunate results (the Stone sacrifced performance for a radically shaped body, and the Halo headphones were all kinds of awful).
But when Jabra isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s actually able to give us stuff that’s pretty darn good. The outfit’s newest creation is the high-end Jabra Supreme ($100), the first monoaural Bluetooth headset to offer active noise-cancelling technology in its earpiece, along with all the other goodies usually stuffed into a primo ‘set. So Jabra’s definitely gone the showcase route with the Supreme — but this time, the headset is also an outstanding performer.
By this time, headset makers have ironed out any initial pairing kinks. The Supreme takes it one step further — as soon I flipped the boom (which acts as the unit’s power switch: flip out to turn on, in to turn off) the first time, the headset switched to pairing mode and its voice assistant began guiding me through the pairing process; nifty, if a little overkill, since the process is dead easy anyway.
The Supreme comes with two earhooks, and two covers for its massive speaker — one smooth and flat, the other with a section that’s supposed to stick into your ear. The former felt very comfortable, the latter did not. It seemed as if it was included for users who might need something a little more secure, but I didn’t have any trouble keeping the Supreme on my ear even with the flat option.
Even though their aren’t many setup options, the Supreme is one of the most comfortable Bluetooth headsets I’ve ever used. The earhooks are rubber-wrapped wire, which made it possible to bend them into a better shape for my ears — a great idea. The big, flat speaker sits on top of the ear instead of extending into the ear canal, which made it ideal for long periods of use; I never felt the slightest irritation, even after wearing it for hours on end.
Likewise, the most important button — the call button — is the best I’ve tried. It’s massive, easy to active, and placed right where it should be. The volume buttons are a little smaller than I would have liked, but were logically arranged and easy to find. Rounding out the controls is the voice-activation button on the unit’s boom, which I found a little harder to use.
Range was extremely impressive. I walked clear across my house — easily over 40 feet of distance — and was still able to connect with almost no loss of signal. That’s huge. Battery life was about average at about 4.5 hours of talk time.
Sound was very good. Those on the other end came through loudly and clearly, and they said my voice was also very clear — a few times, surprised was expressed that I was even using a Bluetooth connection.
The Supreme is stuffed with features like A2DP, multipoint connectivity for connecting to two phones at the same time, and voice commands that’ll let you do everything from tell the headset to redial the last number to inquire about the battery status.
But the Supreme’s star feature is its active noise-cancelling technology — like noise-cancelling headphones, Jabra’s latest is supposed to block ambient noise from reaching you (as opposed to the noise-canceling tech that blocks ambient noise around you from reaching those on the other end, which the Supreme is also equipped with and is pretty standard on this class of BT headset). Thing is, headphones that use the same type of tech enclose both ears, whereas the Supreme, like every other monoaural BT headset, only covers one — so noise is free to enter the other ear.
The net result is that, even if the technology works — and because of the reason I just mentioned, I had a tough time telling if it really did — it fails because noise coming through the other ear made the feature practically useless. That’s not to say it was difficult to hear those on the other end; on the contrary, callers voices came in clearly (if a little tinny) — it’s just that they came in no more clearly than other ‘sets with great speakers, and noisy environments overwhelmed the speaker just the same. The noise-canceling feature can be turned off, to save battery life, I suppose, but that just results in unwanted hiss.
Some of the voice control features seem a little superfluous and nonsensical. For instance, the Supreme gives you the option of telling it to “redial” the last number. But in order to activate the voice command, you have to press a button on the boom; far simpler to just double tap the call button, which is another method for redial on the unit. Do we really need a duplicate hands-free version of the command that isn’t really hands-free?
The headset is actually quite good looking — the problem is, if you’re wearing one, you aren’t; this thing sticks out in ways that are just cringeable.
And what gives, Jabra — no bag for a $100 headset? With all its jutting spindliness, the Supreme could really use one.
Despite some gimmicky distractions, the Supreme is an outstanding performer, and an especially good choice for hardcore users; not for the supremely fashion-forward.