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Jabra Halo Smart review: Jabra's first neckband-style Bluetooth headphone is almost excellent

After the success of LG's Tone stereo headsets, neckband-style headphones are all the rage, and Jabra's getting in on the action with its Halo Smart.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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Welcome another neckband-style headphone to the world: the Jabra Halo Smart, which retails for $80 (sorry, UK and Australian readers, no word on international pricing yet).

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7.8

Jabra Halo Smart

The Good

The Jabra Halo Smart is a sturdily built neck-band style headphone that performs very well as a headset for making cell phone calls, offers good battery life, and decent sound for music if you get a tight seal. Neckband vibrates when a call comes in.

The Bad

You may not get a secure, tight seal from any of the included ear tips, which leads to a poor fit and a reduction in sound quality.

The Bottom Line

While it doesn't do much to distinguish itself from other neckband-style headphones from a design standpoint, the Jabra Halo Smart seems sturdily built, performs very well as a headset for making calls and offers decent sound quality for music if you get a tight seal.

What's special about it? Well, since it's from Jabra, you'd hope it would work really well as a headset for making calls. And it does, with multiple microphones and noise reduction technology that helps tamp down ambient noise like wind. It's also water-resistant and has very good battery life, with up to 17 hours of talk time and 15 hours of music listening.

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What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It also has a few notable extra features. The ear buds adhere magnetically to each other, which keeps them from flopping around when they're not in your ears. You end up wearing them sort of like a pendant or you can affix the buds to a spot on the neckband to eliminate any dangling altogether (the manual shows you exactly where on the neckband the tips can be pinned magnetically).

When a call comes in, there's a vibrate feature in the neckband, and you can answer the call by pulling the ear buds apart. You then stick one or both buds in your ears.

The free Jabra Assist app for iOS and Android works with the Halo Smart. It doesn't do all that much, but you can enable a message readout feature that allows you to hear incoming notifications. These include calendar events and incoming emails (just the subject name and subject). There's also a "Find my Jabra" feature that allows you to locate your headset should you lose it.

Three sizes of ear tips are included, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get a tight seal and secure fit with any of them. I had to pull off a set of extra large tips from another in-ear headphone I was testing. Those bigger tips made a big difference.

The tip issue was really my only major gripe. Otherwise, the headphone performed well, and I encountered only a minimal amount of Bluetooth hiccups.

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The earbuds adhere magnetically to each other.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you are able to get a tight seal using one of the included tips -- and the majority of people should -- this is a decent-sounding Bluetooth headphone. It lacks a little bit of clarity but I found the bass ample and it's pretty smooth-sounding. I have seen some critical comments about the bass, but I suspect that's because the users didn't really get a tight seal. With noise-isolating in-ear headphones like this one, you lose a lot of bass -- and sound quality -- if you don't get a secure fit.

Ultimately, I think this is a likable neckband-style headset that's geared to same audience which has been gobbling up LG's Tone headphones to use as headsets (I do like LG's retractable-earbud feature found on some of its Tone models).

But I think Jabra missed out on an opportunity to make the Halo Smart a little more versatile. Yes, it's water-resistant, which means you can run with it, but chances are the tips will fall out as you run and sweat. A wing-style tip would easily turn it into a sports headphone. Bose, Monster, Plantronics, ​Jaybird and even Samsung include these types of tips with some of their in-ear models. Jabra also does -- but only with its Sport Coach and Sport Pulse Wireless.

Some small changes and more included tips (particularly an XL tip) would bump this into excellent territory (it's close). While it doesn't do much to distinguish itself from a design standpoint, it seems sturdily built, performs very well as a headset and offers decent sound quality for music if you get that tight seal.

Here are the Halo Smart's highlights, according to Jabra.

  • Jabra Halo Smart Silver Edition is available exclusively at Best Buy stores and online at www.bestbuy.com in late June with an MSRP of $80 (around AU$110 or £55, converted).
  • Jabra Halo Smart is also available in black on their website.
  • Fits the 79 percent of users who want one set of headphones for both calls and music, but find the call experience on most music devices inadequate.
  • Built for calls, Jabra Halo Smart uses high-quality microphones with integrated wind-noise protection for enhanced in-call quality, and subtle vibration alert to ensure calls are never missed.
  • Excellent sound quality thanks to 10mm speakers and Jabra's audio capabilities.
  • Neckband wearing style for comfortable, all-day use and seamless switching between calls, music and media.
  • Extended battery life provides up to 17 hours talk time and up to 15 hours of music listening.
  • Dedicated Google Now or Siri button gives you access to voice controls.
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7.8

Jabra Halo Smart

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 7Value 7
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