Review: Jabra’s Radical Halo Bluetooth Headset (Verdict: It’s Stuck in Purgatory)

HALO 37

I get all tingly when a manufacturer offers up a gadget with cool features and out-of-the-box design; but then it’s a huge bummer when the gadget’s features don’t live up to expectations. Worse is when those exotic features end up being a hindrance compared with tried-and-tested ones.

And that’s exactly the case with the Jabra BT650s HALO stereo Bluetooth headset.

Full review after the jump.

Rating: ★★½☆☆


Company: Jabra
Model: Jabra BT650s HALO stereo Bluetooth headset
List Price: $129.99
Compatible: Phone features work with all iPhone versions. Music streaming will work with most Macs and iPhones, but won’t work with 1G iPhones
Buy Now: The Jabra HALO is available from Amazon for $129.99 with free shipping.

The HALO tries hard to separate itself from the pack. It features touch-sensitive volume and forward/reverse track controls.

There’s no on/off switch, but simply folding or unfolding the headset will turn the unit off or on respectively. It can transition seamlessly between two gadgets you’ve paired it with.

And if you don’t like sticking things into your ear, the HALO is a great over-the-ear bluetooth stereo headset option. Then there’s the radical styling.

Best to begin with the HALO’s blessings.

Setup is a snap. I had it paired with my Macbook and iPhone in a couple of minutes. And the transition from listening to music on my Macbook and answering a call on my iPhone works beautifully.

The headset's inner surface is lined with velour and sports stealth Bluetooth and battery indicators

The set's inner surface is lined with velour and sports stealth Bluetooth and battery indicators

I’m not averse to earbuds; even so, the HALO felt very comfortable over my ears. The headset is light, and the velour fabric lining the inside of the headset adds a little plushness.

The touch controls can be seen just above the call answer/pair/play-pause button.

The touch-controls can be seen just above the call answer/pair/play-pause button.

A simple, single button on the right earpiece answers/disconnects from calls, plays/pauses music and pairs the device.

Music streamed to the headphones sounds agreeable, if not overly rousing — about on par with that of a decent set of wired headphones. Bass is pleasing, but midtones and highs could be clearer. The headset also comes with a cable for use with players that aren’t Bluetooth equipped, like an iPod.

Now for the curses.

The touch controls on the HALO are frustrating and finicky. Adjusting the volume is not easy, and requires blindly fumbling for the control’s location on the outside of the right earpiece. Trying to skip tracks is an adventure in randomness that might produce the desired result, an adjustment in volume or just a lot of ridiculous-looking, increasingly-forceful finger tapping on the right earpiece that doesn’t do anything.

Most over-the-ear headphones have some sort of way to keep themselves on your head. Not the HALO. The headset wanted to make a break for it at what seemed like the least bit of head tilt. And while comfortable, the only thing that could have been worse than the velour lining for adhesion is if Jabra had coated the inside of the headset with teflon.

An almost-violent effort is required to separate the headset’s arm joints in order to fold them and turn the unit off. I feel like I’m back in elementary school, pulling the limbs off my G.I. Joe. Only this time it isn’t fun.

As for looks, the HALO definitely makes a statement. I happen to think that statement is “WE ARE BORG.” Your opinion may differ.

Much could be forgiven if one of the HALO’s two primary functions — a device for communication — worked well. But while I was able to hear what was being said without any trouble, callers on the other end frequently complained they couldn’t hear me very well when the background turned even moderately noisy.

Some compatibility notes: The HALO’s music-streaming feature requires the A2DP Bluetooth protocol, which means music streaming from a first-gen iPhone won’t work. If using an iPhone 3G, make sure the firmware has been updated to version 3.1 or later. Also, track forward/reverse controls won’t work with any iPhone at this time (though it works just fine with a Macbook).

The HALO in transport mode.

The HALO, in folded-for-transport mode.

"I AM BORG." Notice the absence of a Cult-of-Mac emblem on the back of my head.

The headset in action; note the absence of a Cult-of-Mac logo on the back of my head.

In the box: headset, charger, cable for non-Bluetooth players, USB charging cord, case.

In the box: headset, charger, cable for non-Bluetooth players, USB charging cord, case.

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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Posted in Hardware, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G S, Reviews |