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Jabra Revo Wireless headphones review: Bluetooth headphones with a superior design

Despite a somewhat high price, superior comfort and design help the Revo Wireless distinguish itself from its Bluetooth headphone competitors.

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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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Jabra is best known for its wired and wireless headsets, but it's now ventured into the premium headphone market with two on-ear models, the Revo ($200) and Revo Wireless ($250), as well as a more affordable in-ear model, the Vox ($99).

Jabra_headphones_Revo_35624756_03.jpg
7.8

Jabra Revo Wireless headphones

The Good

The <b>Jabra Revo Wireless</b> headphone is an excellent fit and finish, is comfortable to wear, and folds up into a more compact form factor for storage. It also features touch controls and NFC pairing for devices that support it.

The Bad

Sound should be a bit cleaner, and the protective carrying case should be more luxurious at this price point.

The Bottom Line

Despite some small flaws in sound quality and a somewhat high price, superior comfort and design help the Revo Wireless distinguish itself from its Bluetooth headphone competitors.

Both the Revo and Revo Wireless have very similar designs and they're among the more comfortable and well-designed on-ear headphones I've tested, with a sturdy fit and finish and a folding design. I liked both models a lot, and found them great for everyday use, though I thought the Revo Wireless reviewed here could have offered a little better sound quality for its fairly high price tag. For Bluetooth it sounds pretty decent, but in terms of clarity, it's not on par with some other similarly priced premium Bluetooth headphones, such as the Harman Kardon BT.

Design and features
The design of the Revo Wireless is arguably its biggest strength. When it comes to on-ear headphones, I'm usually very picky (I prefer over-the-ear or in-ear models), but I had no problem with these. They have memory foam in their earpads, and they conform to your ears nicely and seal out a good amount of ambient sound. It's also worth noting that they don't fit so tight as to pinch down on your ears, so they offer a secure fit -- but not too secure.

The headphones feature touch controls. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones feel sturdy and have a nicely air-cushioned headband, with metal armatures. I also appreciated that the earcups are labeled "right" and "left" on their interiors, so it's easy to figure out which is which.

As noted, the headphones fold up. And while they don't turn into a supercompact package, it's fairly compact.

I can't say that I was impressed with the carrying bag that comes with the product. It's thin, lightweight, and very basic. At this price, I'd expect something a little more luxurious. For instance, the Klipsch Image One Bluetooth comes with a nice hard case (those headphones fold flat).

The headphones fold up but the carrying case is very basic. Sarah Tew/CNET

On a more positive note, the Revo Wireless, like the $400 Parrot Zik, offers touch controls -- you simply swipe your finger in a circular motion around the outside of the right earpiece to raise and lower the volume (Jabra refers to this as "Turntable Touch Controls" because of the grooves on the earpiece give it the appearance of a turntable). You tap twice on the front of the "turntable" to skip a track forward and tap twice on the back of the "turntable" to skip a track back. Tap the "multifunction" button in the middle of the turntable to pause/play tracks and answer/end calls. To reject an incoming call you hold the button down for a second.

The Revo Wireless also offers NFC pairing for smartphones and other devices that support it (you hold up the device up to the "NFC Zone" on the left earcup to pair). It works -- I tested it with the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- but I just don't think NFC pairing is much of a feature. For instance, I also used the headphone with an iPhone 4S, which doesn't offer NFC (no iOS device currently does), but after setting up the initial pairing, they automatically paired to the phone once turned on (the Bluetooth on the phone has to be activated, of course).

A few other things worth noting: the headphones do come with a detachable cable -- it has an integrated remote -- so you can use the headphones as wired headphones (yes, the headphones sound cleaner when used in wired mode).

Battery life is rated at 12 hours -- you charge via USB. Sarha Tew/CNET

You can also connect the headphones to your PC via the included Micro-USB charging cable to get a direct digital connection. Bluetooth can be a little finicky with PCs (you should be able to use the headphones wirelessly if your PC is Bluetooth-enabled, but you can sometimes have a problem pairing, depending on your system). The headphones will charge when you have them connected to your PC via USB and you can also connect you phone via Bluetooth while they're charging. (Note that the headphones only ship with a USB charging cable, but not an AC adapter).

In all, the Revo Wireless has an impressive feature set. The only thing missing is a noise-canceling feature.

The earpads feature memory foam. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
Judging the performance of the Revo Wireless is a little tricky. One of the issues is that you can choose to run your music through Jabra's Sound app, which is available as a free download for iOS and Android devices with an included code. The app allows you to tweak the bass and treble and gives you the option of turning on Dolby Digital Plus processing, which changes how your music sounds. Some will think that the Dolby processing improves the sound and others might not think it really makes it better. You also have the option of activating a "Mobile Surround" mode, which gives the impression of a widened sound stage.

Audio purists probably won't like any of this stuff, but, as I said, some folks will prefer the Dolby processing. Regardless, the only problem is that the app works only with your iTunes library on your phone (or music library on your Android phone) and not with music services like Spotify and Rdio, which more and more people -- including me -- are using.

The headphones could sound slightly better for the price. Sarah Tew/CNET

What I can say is that, overall, this just isn't the cleanest-sounding Bluetooth headphone I've tested. It's decent for Bluetooth, just not great. While the headphones deliver a good amount of bass, audiophiles will think it sounds a tad muddy, which one would argue should not be the case with $250 headphones. If you're looking for a more natural, clear-sounding Bluetooth experience, the Harman Kardon BT, Parrot Zik, and Nokia Purity Pro by Monster, are going to deliver better sound quality.

I also compared these with the Klipsch Image One Bluetooth, which also has a great design (I actually like the Image One's design slightly better). I expected the Klipsch to sound as good or better than the Jabra Revo Wireless, but the Jabra came out on top (the Image One has lots of bass, but it's mushy). I also like liked the Jabra's better overall than the $279 Beats by Dre Wireless. To put it another way, this model came out sounding slightly better than some models in its price class, but fell short of the top-sounding Bluetooth models.

Using the Revo Wireless as a wired headphone yields better results, ergo cleaner sound. And while I can't tell you what's different about the internal design of this model versus the standard, wired Revo, in terms of pure sound quality, the standard Revo's going to deliver the same or slightly better sound. (To be clear, I'm comparing the Revo versus the Revo Wireless in wired mode).

Battery life is decent. It's rated at 12 hours for music streaming, and I managed to use the headphones on my daily commute to and from work (a little more than an hour total) for a week without a problem.

Finally, as with most stereo Bluetooth headphones, the Revo Wireless can be used as a headset for making cell phone calls. As you might expect from a company that has been in the headset market for a while, call quality was good -- callers said they could hear me well and indoors at least; they said I didn't sound like I was on a headset.

Conclusion
The Revo Wireless is one of those products that's hard to attach a final score to. It's got so much going for it in terms of a strong design and excellent comfort level, as well as an impressive feature set, that you can overlook some small performance issues and the lack of a swankier carrying case.

If you're a stickler for sound quality, these headphones may not cut it for you, especially at their elevated price of $250. But as day-to-day "mobile" headphones, I found them to be a pleasure to wear and could see people using them at the gym, though you'll probably want to be careful about sweating on them too much (putting them over a hat is an option).

Those considering the wired Revo might have noticed that while its price is $199.99, it can be found online for closer to $150. Ideally, we'd see a similar $50 discount on this model, but it's still recommendable at $250, despite its small performance drawbacks. However, I'd rate it four stars if the price were to come down a bit.

Jabra_headphones_Revo_35624756_03.jpg
7.8

Jabra Revo Wireless headphones

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Sound 7Value 7
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