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Sep 15

Jabra Evolve 30 MS Review

I was recently given this device for free from Jabra. Keep that in mind while reading the below review.

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Evolve30The Jabra Evolve 30 is an entry level headset in the Evolve line that Jabra released in October 2014. The Evolve series of headsets “…Boosts Productivity in Noisy Work Environments…”. Jabra also says that this line of headsets features “…large ear cushions with specially designed foam adapting the padding to the individual, blocking office noise”. Finally, they say that these “Incorporate[s] high-end sound quality for both professional communication and entertainment.”

So does the entry level Evolve 30 match up to Jabra’s claims?

Let’s start with the first claim that the Evolve line has “large ear cushions with specially designed foam adapting the padding to the individual, blocking office noise”.

I can’t vouch for any special foam as the speakers are wrapped in some semblance of leather/plastic so I can’t see the foam. The ear cushions feel a bit stiff but not at all in a bad way. I actually like the feel on the ears. So I imagine some of that stiffness is due to the foam. This headset is light and comfortable to wear. It doesn’t press in on your head and rests nicely over your ear-holes.

I can’t say that the alleged foam actually does anything useful. In my home office where I have a HP ProLiant DL360 G6 in a closet behind me (with the doors closed), I can’t tell much of a difference in white noise levels with or without the headset covering my ears. The “technology” being used here is “Passive Noise Cancelling” as there are no electronics or anything to assist in muting the background noise. And that’s OK given the $76USD price point of this headset. However I can’t tell that it’s blocking much at all.

Simply wear the headset to eliminate high-frequency noise, such as human voices – all thanks to the specially designed ear cushions. We call this “passive noise cancellation.”

I have the TV on in the living room right now with the volume turned down to “barely audible”. I can’t make out a word being said but I can hear talking. With the headset in place, I can hear the same level of talking. So if this headset really was designed to “boost productivity in noisy work environments”  and to “eliminate…human voices” it sure isn’t due to the Passive Noise Cancelling.

Firing up a Lync call blocks out the TV noise in the background but only while I hear a voice in the speakers. When the voice stops, I can still hear the background noise just fine.

As for the “large ear cushions”…well…define “large”? Because I can still touch the tops and bottoms of my ears with these headsets situated in such a way as to cover as much ear as possible. But then I’m (6’7″)/(202cm) so my ears are probably larger than standard.

I can vouch that the top-of-the-line Evolve 80 has large ear cushions. That thing is a monster and wraps all the way around my ears. But the 30? Not so much.

Maybe they mean that the microphone is really good at blocking noise.

Here is a recording of me via the Skype for Business “Test Call Quality” feature. Keep in mind that there is a server about 10 feet behind me in a closet with the door closed and the TV is quietly talking to itself in the living room. The audio you here is exactly what my PC hears and is not recorded via the speakers on the headphones. I say the nonsensical phrase “I want a pair for supper”.

 

The audio has been normalized to -1.0 Db

The next claim is that the Evolve line of headsets are “Made For Music & Voice”. You can hear the voice above. As for music? I thought the Evolve 80’s had fantastic music play back so I was really excited to try these. I was hoping for above average quality – certainly not as good as the 80’s but better than the competition.

Sadly…these things are all midrange, some semblance of bass, moderate treble. There is no separation so it’s all muddled and it’s a huge disappointment.

On the Jabra web page, they actually say this:

World-class speakers are built for both voice and music. Switch easily between conversations and listening to your favorite tracks.

That first line is absolute malarkey. There is nothing “world-class” about these speakers unless “world-class” means “there’s a world of speakers out there that outclass these“.

And while I’m being a Negativa Nancy, now is as good a time as any to point out a major flaw with the design. The microphone boom can be adjusted up and down, so when you aren’t speaking you can push it up out of the way. If a call comes in, you can pull the headset down to be near your mouth.

This is nothing fancy. Pretty much every headset can do this.

Except no other headset I’ve some across has “gears” on the headset assembly. And there is a perfectly good reason for this. Below is a recording of me pulling the headset down and then back up.

 

The audio has been normalized to -1.0 Db

Do you really want to have someone hear that as you are pulling down the microphone at the start of a call? When I first tested with coworkers I asked if they could hear the ratcheting. One of them asked “Did you just rip one”? How did this make it through the design phase and into production?

On the upside, the cord on the Evolve 20 is plenty long so no issue there.

Evolve 20 in line controllerThe in-line controller is a rather large, round puck with easy to press buttons. It’s designed to sit on the desk and not be clipped to your lapel like some inline controllers. The back is covered in foam so that the puck doesn’t slide around. That works well enough but the weight of the puck is too light to effectively keep it from sliding around. A heavier puck would work better here but the tradeoff is that a heavy puck would be a negative if you are standing. I imagine a properly-weighted puck would start pulling your head to one side or bang into your stomach at times. While I think there can be some improvement here I do like the big controller. This puck would be perfect in a call center scenario where a busy agent can easily see the in-line controls and easily answer/hang up a call.

You can also turn the volume up/down on the puck. As seen in the picture, there are 2 LED’s, one turns green when you are in a call and the other lights red when the call is muted.

Unlike some of the other Evolve headsets, this one doesn’t have the “busylight” feature in the outside of the headset.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to use inline controls
  • Long USB cable

Cons

  • Limp audio for music
  • Passive noise cancelling doesn’t do much
  • The price

For a suggested retail price of $76USD this just seems overpriced. Other than the comfort factor, I don’t see it as a drastic improvement over a $40-50USD headset. However, because of the inline control puck and the comfortable fit, I would recommend looking at the Jabra Evolve 30 in call-canter scenarios.

 

1 ping

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