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Creative Sound Blaster Jam review: An ultrabudget Bluetooth headphone that sounds surprisingly good

Performance

First, the bad. I did encounter a few Bluetooth hiccups, and I also didn't think this headphone worked so well as a headset for calls, particularly in noisier environments. Callers said they heard a lot of background noise when I talked, and my voice sounded a little recessed.

It's also worth mentioning that, because this is an on-ear design with simple phone pads, it does leak sound and will let some ambient noise in.

Now for the good. The headphones' battery life is solid at 12 hours and the headphone sounds quite good, with relatively clean, dynamic sound for Bluetooth. Bass was also strong, even without engaging the bass boost button, which I didn't think added anything.

I compared it to a few other Bluetooth models, including the Kinivo BTH240, which carries a list price of $50 but can be had for $25 online. Like a lot of other budget Bluetooth headphones, the Kinivo sounds dull and lacks clarity. It also distorts with more demanding music, particularly complicated tracks (rock) and tracks with heavy bass.

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The headphone offers NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it and an integrated remote/microphone for cell phone calls. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sound Blaster Jam also had a little trouble with that sort of material, but sounded significantly better overall. For instance, Calvin Harris' "C.U.B.A." sounds pretty rough on a lot cheaper Bluetooth headphones and while it didn't sound great on the Creative, it didn't sound terrible, which is an achievement.

I haven't reviewed JBL's E40BT headphone yet, but I have it in the office and the Creative sounds just as good for half the price. The truth is, sound-wise, the Sound Blaster Jam sounds as good or better than a lot of Bluetooth headphones in the $100 range. You really have to step up to $150 or more to get richer sound and obviously a more durable, slickly designed headphone.

Conclusion

While it's not without weaknesses, the Creative Sound Blaster Jam is a strong budget Bluetooth headphone, and the first one at this ultralow price we can actually recommend.

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