Despite the rise of data-centric smartphones, quite a few people still use their handsets for simple voice calls. And for some of those people, a quality Bluetooth headset is a great solution when talking in the car or chatting for long periods in noisy places. For $99.99 the Jabra Supreme brings decent features and quality performance, though its design wasn't what I hoped. Read on to see if this advanced wireless Bluetooth accessory is right for you.
Jabra's Supreme certainly bucks the design trend for Bluetooth headsets. At 0.63 ounces, it's very light and seemingly compact at first glance. But after unfurling the device's long boom arm it quickly becomes clear that the Supreme is a much bulkier contraption than your typical mono headset. Not only does the microphone arm protrude a good distance forward, but also the main headset body itself juts a full 1.2 inches from the ear. That girth makes the Supreme veritably plump next to sleek models like the Jawbone Era (0.72 inch).
Also adding to the Jabra Supreme's real estate is its large ear loop. Though the adjustable loop is thin and flexible, it didn't latch firmly onto my ear. It also didn't help that it can slide up and down vertically within the headset's base. At first I thought my fit issues were due to my wearing glasses, but I had problems even after removing my spectacles. But even so, the Supreme never fell from my ear once attached.
Buttons on the headset include a Voice Control button that sits in the middle of the mic boom, a large answer/end button on the device's front face, and volume keys on the edge closest to the ear. Here too is a flap covering the Supreme's Micro-USB port. Tiny lights on the bottom edge display alerts about the headset's battery, charge, and Bluetooth status.
It's clear that Jabra envisioned the Supreme to rely heavily on its voice-recognition features. After flipping open the boom mic to turn on the headset the first time, the Supreme guided me through a set of voice prompts for pairing it with my phone. Though essentially it told me what I was going to do anyway (open my smartphone's Bluetooth settings and connect to the headset), I appreciate the Supreme's friendly voice chirping the default pairing code so I didn't have to flip through the manual to find it. Also, I like that it announces that it's connected each time I used it, leaving no room for misunderstanding.
Jabra makes much of the Supreme's voice dialing prowess, which I admit it is impressive. Pressing the Voice Control button on the boom arm kicks the device into listening mode. Then, it will prompt you to say a command. Options are many, including "redial," "pair with new device," and most importantly, "phone commands." Saying the latter activates a menu for conducting primary phone functions like "call John Smith" or "dial 555-1212." You even can instruct the Supreme to open your calendar or tell you how much battery life is left. If you forget what commands are possible, asking "what can I say?" gives you all spoken word options. Finally, pressing the Answer/End button will push the headset directly into the phone command voice-control menu.
When calls come through, just say "answer" or "ignore," and the Supreme will do your bidding. I was able to screen my calls easily this way, perhaps a little too well since my knee-jerk reflex is to bat dialers away.
Of course, if your phone doesn't support PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile), which makes many of the Supreme's functions possible, the device also acts as a simple manual headset. What's more, all of the physical buttons double as traditional headset controls. For instance, hitting answer/end accepts calls, while double-tapping rejects them. You also can shut off voice prompts by swinging open the boom arm while holding the Voice Control button.
Another key Supreme feature is its active noise-canceling abilities. Activated by default, Jabra promises that it will noticeably squash unwanted ambient noise like wind, or the drone of highway traffic. An additional twist is the Jabra Supreme app, downloaded from the Android market, which automatically detects headsets and allows for tweaking of noise canceling settings. You can use preset profiles like "office," "outside," and "car," an Audio Note tab brings the ability for recording personal voice recordings, and a call log pulls in recently made calls for easy access. Forget about that paper manual, too, since the app also saves the Supreme's instructions.
The Supreme can also stream multimedia audio, such as podcasts, music, and Internet radio, from phones. I honestly wouldn't use this feature often, only under extreme duress like if my more suitable stereo headphones self-destructed or ran out of juice. Still, it's good to have a backup in a pinch.
Pairing the Jabra Supreme was a cinch. I just flipped its boom arm open, told my Android phone (actually used both like Meizu MX running Gingerbread and Galaxy Nexus featuring Google ICS) and was connected in minutes. My experience with the Supreme app was a different story. After downloading the software from the Android Market and opening, the app told me flatly that my headset wasn't running the latest software. That's a big issue since the only way to finely control the Supreme's noise canceling is through the application. Resolving the situation wasn't too difficult, though--it was just a matter of flashing the headset with updated firmware using PC software found on Jabra's site.
As for noise canceling, the Supreme seriously cuts down on background din. On my test calls walking at midday and during rush hour on New York City streets, callers reported that the rumble of cars and wind noise was practically nonexistent. On the other hand, callers also said that there was a distinct background hiss and that the beginnings and ends of my sentences were clipped, perhaps by aggressive audio processing. On my end, audio pumped through the big earpiece sounded very clear and had plenty of volume, forcing me to turn the headset down.
Jabra claims the Supreme delivers 6 hours of talk time and 15 days running on standby. I personally had my test unit running for at least 3 days both on standby and having placed multiple calls plus listening to streamed audio. At the end of it all, the Supreme still had 4 hours of talk time in its reservoir.
The Jabra Supreme sure has a bold moniker and definitely promises a lot, including powerful noise canceling and advanced voice-control features. For the $99 price, though, it's not a huge step over smaller and cheaper headsets like Plantronic's Marque and LG's HBS-700. But if you absolutely need clear calls in hectic environs, can live with the fit, and are willing to spend a little more, the Supreme is worth a look.