Jabra Halo

What's your style for stereo, earbuds or earmuffs? I go for the earmuff or earpad approach every time, and Jabra's Halo headphones fit well. They're sleek, unobtrusive, sturdy, and very comfortable.

The adjustable band that connects the two earpads goes over your head, instead of resting at the back of your neck, and this increases the comfort factor. I obtained a snug fit, and the pads felt soft and somewhat velvety against my ears. I had someone with a larger head than mine try the Halo. He achieved a good fit, too, but the pads didn't sit quite as flat, due to the contours of his face. The Halo stayed firmly in place on my ears even when I moved my head or body around.

The pads themselves are slim, lacking the bulk of other earpads, and the headphones fold up nicely. In fact, folding (or reopening) the two arms of the headband acts as the Halo's only power off/on mechanism, so you always know whether the unit is switched on or off.

The Halo delivered impressive music quality. My tunes sounded warm and rich, with deep, pleasing bass. The right-side earpad has just one button for play/pause, and it's extremely easy to find. The volume and track-skipping controls on the side of the right-side pad were a bit of a pain to use, though. For volume, I had to try several times before I figured out how to press the pad with the right amount of delicacy. Though increasing or decreasing the volume doesn't take much pressure, you get virtually no tactile feedback when you press the pad; I would have liked more. Similarly, to jump forward or back by one track, you double-tap the volume up or volume down portion of the pad--again, with practically no tactile response from the device. This lack of feedback is the product's main drawback.

Another shortcoming: The Halo's call quality did not match its music quality. Overall, my voice sounded far away, faint, and sometimes muffled, though people did not have trouble understanding what I was saying. Call recipients complained about choppiness at times and some minor background noise (like chatter). Though a handful of calls were noticeably better, they averaged out to be acceptable for business and personal calls--but not for a lengthy client conference call, say. The main call button, which doubles as the play/pause button, lets you answer a call, end a call, and redial.

Of course, wearing headphones with earpads doesn't give you the same in-your-ear music experience that the seal from earbuds provides, so I found myself occasionally holding the pads down over my ears with the heels of my hands to bring the audio closer.

Macworld's buying advice

If you're looking for nonearbud headphones to handle music and calls--but primarily music--the Halo is a good choice. You'll just have to tolerate the unfriendly volume and track-skipping controls.

[Aoife M. McEvoy is a contributing editor for PC World.]

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