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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).
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.
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.
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.