I know, I know, bottom-line readers need to finish this before the barista pushes your lattes across the counter. The HALO bluetooth headphones:
- Sound great
- Feel good on your ears (if worn right)
- Are reasonably portable
Here’s the bad news:
- You will have to call Bangalore and have the tech rep walk you through the pairing process
- You will live in fear that the hinges will break
In addition, I describe my extraordinary quest to find a set of bluetooth headphones that would pair with my iPad because I was stupid enough to take Apple at their word.
I spent three months trying to find a good set of bluetooth headphones for my iPad. My search started when I read a comment on Apple’s web site that said my new iPad would pair with my blue tooth headphones so I could listen to my music without that pesky cable.
I thought that was awesome, and that first Saturday in April (when FedEx insisted I sign for my iPad even though I left a signed delivery acceptance form on the door, exactly the way Apple instructed), I forgot about the bluetooth pairing altogether because the rest of the iPad OS was so cool.
By Sunday night, however, I decided it was time to pair my headset. I pushed all the buttons to prepare the set for pairing, went to Bluetooth in the Systems settings and the iPad said there was no device available. I tried every trick I could think of, ran through my headset’s instructions three times and what little Apple documentation I could find and any tricks I could think of two or three times as well.
I called the Apple Support Line, but they were closed, so I gave up in frustration and called the first thing Monday.
The support tech walked me through everything I already explained that I had done, assuming, of course, that I couldn’t possibly have thought of all those steps myself. No success. So he called his shift manager in, who called his supervisor in and finally someone said, “Well maybe the iPad only works with stereo headphones. Is yours stereo?”
“Don’t you know?” I asked.
“We don’t have every product spec here, sir,” whoever was speaking by now told me. “You’ll have to check your manual.”
“No,” I said. “You mean you don’t know whether or not the iPad supports only stereo headphones?”
“No one’s ever thought to ask,” he replied.
This began my three month search for a good bluetooth stereo headphone set. For a while I felt like Goldilocks. They were too small, or too big, too hot or too cold.
The first set I ordered was a Plantronics BackBeat set from Amazon that looked perfect. The phones wrap over your ears with complete touch controls. And they were awful. The earpieces were so heavy the earbuds kept falling out of my ears, and every time I tried to adjust the position, I accidentally set off a different control I didn’t want (like right when the handsome hero turns into a werewolf to maul the innocent, half naked girl, suddenly I’m listening to Talking Heads while the girl’s mouth screams in terror).
The return charge was the best I ever paid.
My next stop was to the Apple Store. I asked them what the best stereo headset was. The sales rep told me they only carried one pair, the very best. Then he put the same Plantronics headset into my hands that I had just returned to Amazon.
So I spent several weeks researching and decided the only thing to do was find a store that would let me try them on. I finally had a chance to drop by Best Buy, where I tried on several. The Rocketfish headphones didn’t even touch my ears no matter where I tried to put them on. Finally I found the Jabra Halo headphones.
Wrap this around your head
The Jabra Halo headphones wouldn’t have been my first choice. I wanted headphones that used earbuds and would wrap around the back of my head because I didn’t want to carry a bulky headphone set around. The Halo misses these criteria by a mile, but when I actually had access my first best choice, a Motorola set, after research and tried them on in my ear, I decided the ear buds may have been a little uncomfortable for long term use.
The Motorola was also a tight fit around the head. Carol says that’s because my head is so swelled by the fact that I have a fan base of two or three readers. Maybe so. I simply felt the fit was a little too tight for comfort. I think that’s because in Asia, where headphones are made, the largest head size must be 6 3/4. I can’t think of another reason why headbands would be so small.
In spite of the fact that the Halo would have been my last choice going into my search, I was surprisingly pleased.
For what they are, a hundred dollar set of portable headphones, the sound is excellent.1 I’m not talking Bose, or the kind of bass notes that clean out your ears like a sandblaster, but a better sound than I ever got from my iPhone earbuds by a factor of twenty.
This may have to do with the fact that the headphones actually cover your ears rather than hanging on by their teeth at the edge of the ear canal. I also have to consider the fact that years of Who, Airplane and Grateful Dead concerts may have killed my sensitivity to certain sounds. Not as badly, I suspect, as they would have been damaged had I followed AC-DC or Def Leppard, but enough to make me less than a reliable source on excellent stereophonic sound.
The Jabra Halo phones have a great sound for a moderate price
The phones cancel out external sounds pretty well, despite the fact that they don’t have the foam padding that seal off your ears. I figured this would make them especially useful when I’m sitting at a Starbucks typing my blog and wishing I didn’t have to listen to the tunes picked by Starbucks’ corporate management.
Sadly, Starbucks plays their music so loud, you can hear it though noise canceling headphones. I could hear my iPad music just fine, but the Starbucks music was even louder.
Would the HALO compete with a five hundred dollar pair of headphones?
I have no idea. Nor do I intend to spend five hundred to find out. On the up side, I don’t know of any high end blue tooth headphones anyway. At least not yet. So until the market picks up the slack, the point seems moot.
The iPad sounds far better with these headphones than any others I’ve used, especially the earbud variety. It also sounds much better than the sound through the iPad speaker.
I have never had a bluetooth or ear bud headset that felt good in my ear. If I wanted to hear the sound fully, I had to adjust the buds in such a way that they felt they were falling out of my ear. If I adjusted them to fit properly, I would get maybe half the volume. By the time I bought the Jabra set, I was growing weary of this.
On the other hand, the thought of carting around full-sized head phones really annoyed me. The Jabra headset has an adjustable folding head piece and square phones that fit snugly, but not tightly over your ears.
If you put them on backwards, they aren’t that comfortable. But once you turn them around the right way, the angle of the speakers allows them to slip right over your ears and you barely notice them after.
Sound doesn’t bleed through
Portable headphones have often been notorious for allowing the person next to you to hear your tunes whether they want to or not. Jabra has somehow engineered the problem away entirely. Carol and I listened while the headphones played My Generation at top volume and the headphones lay in front of us on the table. With the headphones on I could hear Keith Moon trashing his drums and John Entwhistle doubling down riffs on his bass. With the headphones in front of us, no sound escaped whatever.
This means I can listen to anything from Beethoven to Alice Cooper when I’m typing this blog at three in the morning and she doesn’t have to wear ear plugs. Now if I could only convince Apple to backlight the iPad keyboard, her life would be perfect.
In fact, I’m looking for a bluetooth converter so I can watch TV at night and listen with these headphones.
The Jabra headset isn’t one you can carry flat against your iPad as you could with the Motorola or Plantronics, but it’s far more portable than high end headphones. The head band collapses at two different joints allowing you to fold the entire unit into half its original size. You can then slip the set into the fake crushed velvet bag and slip the entire thing into your pants pocket.
Maybe I should be more specific. You can slip it into your pants pocket if you’re an old fart like me who wears baggy pants. If you’re a slender young thing whose body looks great in tight jeans, then the last thing you want is a bulky set of head phones bulging in your pocket.
I do have a couple of problems with the headphones, and these problems, it turns out, are not my usual juvenile attempts at humor.
First time pairing is a pain
Pairing isn’t as easy as you would like, not because of the headset, but because of the poor documentation. The guide says to charge the headphones until the light turns from red to solid green. What it doesn’t say is that the light will never even turn to red until you lock the headpiece arms into place.
It took a long phone call to someone in Bangalore who tried to sound American to figure this out. Yes, she agreed, they would save a lot of money in support calls if they would just post that information on their site, and, better yet, print it in the manual. No, she admitted, the company probably wouldn’t do it.
Awkward volume controls
Jabra hijacks the volume controls from the iPad forcing you to use their funky touch system on the right headphone. Unfortunately, it’s far from smooth and the floor for volume is still pretty loud. Even worse, when you tune the volume down to low and reach that floor, the headphones automatically jump back to a volume of 11. This isn’t pleasant when the band you’re listening to is also rocking at their loudest.
The hinges are fragile
The folding head band is built with a flimsy plastic fringe. Once you lock the arms into place, it’s very difficult to pill them out for folding. I cringe whenever I need to fold them because I’m afraid I’m going to break the hinge. If this actually happens, I may come back to this blog and post a nasty review instead.
The HALO headphones definitely need to be in a direct line with the iPad to pick up the signal. They will capture the broadcast through a close door, but as soon as you walk around the corner and into the next room, the signal starts to break up.
But, hey, you’ll be listening to your iPad. Pick it up and carry it with you.
Jenny Manytoes rates the Jabra Halo headphones
Jenny Manytoes purrs when she listens to the Cat Piano through my Jabra Halo headphones. She can do without the music and movie dialogue, but the Cat Piano through headphones is pretty awesome. We both agree they might be worth making biscuits, but I’m waiting to see how long those hinges last.