Jabra Evolve 65 Review

I got this headset free through work and not from Jabra.


Jabra Evolve 65I recently got my hands on a Jabra Evolve 65 Bluetooth headset. My employer has recently begun handing these out to those who want them. And I want one because I need all the toys!

 

This is one of the newer headsets from Jabra and the only wireless headset in their Evolve line. According to Jabra, this headset has the following features:

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

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.”

In-line call controller gives you easy access with large buttons and LED indicators. Pick up or end calls, control volume, or simply mute the line.

The special “busy light” turns red to let people know when you’re on the phone. You can also turn it on manually when you don’t want to be disturbed.

When you’re not on a call, you can tuck the boom arm away into the headband to keep it out of the way.

Bluetooth® Class 1.5 lets you walk up to 30 meters (100 feet) away from a connected device. This gives you great freedom of movement.

Get up to 10 hours of talk time on a single charge. Use the charging cable when you run out of battery.

Connect the headset instantly to any NFC-enabled device. Simply tap the two together and you’re ready to talk and stream music.

So let me compare their claims with my reality and see how this thing comes out. 

I do want to say at the outset that I think these are fairly stylish. Jabra seems to have decided on a simple and understated look and I think it stands out from the competition.

Now, to the features:

Like the Jabra Evolve 30's, these have very underwhelming speakers with regards to music playback. However they do sound noticeably better than the Evolve 30's (I just did a test. Man do those 30's sound terrible with music!). The music is not nearly as muddled on the Evolve 30 and there is decent bass and treble separation. These could be used for music headphones if you are one of those who is not too picky about how good your music sounds. These don't hold up at all against the Jabra Evolve 80's or the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC headset.

Their statement "Switch easily between conversations and listening to your favorite tracks." is a touch misleading as you can't actually change music tracks using the headset. The headset does stop the music while you are on a call and starts it up again when the call ends. But skipping forward to a next song is a no-go. Same with play/pause features.

The speakers do a fine job with voice.

As with the Evolve 30's, their "Passive Noise Cancellation" is well exaggerated. Putting anything over your ears will cut out some background noise. And that's about all that these provide. If you want to really block out human voices with these things, play music at a decent volume. This "feature" seems like an attempt from Jabra to make their headsets more feature complete than they really are. If you work in a super noisy environment, get something with Active Noise Cancellation as these provide no more noise cancelation than any other decent headset on the market.

Evolve 65 ControlsThe call controls are on the outer shell of one of the speakers. They seem to be logically aligned. I've not accidentally hit a wrong button or anything like that. They are also pretty responsive and act exactly as you would want them too. One minor issue is that in their design of using as few buttons as possible, muting and unmuting has a bit of a delay. To mute, you press and hold the "volume down" button. According to the manual you are to hold this button for 2 seconds to mute or unmute. I don't know about you but 2 seconds is a very long delay for a mute operation. In reality it doesn't seem to take the full 2 seconds to take effect. However a co-worker who has been using this headset for quite some time lamented that the mute operation took longer than he'd like it to take.

One great feature of this headset is that there is a busylight feature. When you are on a call, a red ring appears on the outside of the headset. But it only shows up on one of the 2 speakers meaning there is a 50/50 chance that someone walking up to you form the side will see that you are actually on a call and not just listening to music. It also can't do anything else but light up red when you are on a call. So unlike the Blync or Kuando busylights, this won't show green if you are available or flash red if you are in a meeting. 

Charging the headset is easy enough by simply connecting the provided USB charging cable into the headset. Jabra avoids the mess Plantronics came up with and they skip a charging base entirely. All things equal I prefer not having a base to having the limited use port-waster that Plantronics ships with the Voyager Focus UC.

The USB dongle is also less obnoxious than what Plantronics ships but, like Plantronics, Jabra are super-impressed with lights on a dongle too. Fortunately the light on the dongle doesn't blink for no good reason like Plantronics does. But this one does change colors seemingly randomly and the light stays on the whole time. And like the Plantronics, there is no way to turn off this light. Hey guys, take a note from everyone else and stop with the lights. Or at least give us an option to turn it off. It's distracting.

The boom microphone work pretty well however, just like the Evolve 30, it sounds like your farting when pushing the microphone up or pulling it down. Don't believe me? Well listen to this recording of me pulling the boom microphone down from directly vertical to horizontal.

Why they released this headset with that "feature" is beyond me. People on the other end of the call absolutely hear this.

So how well does the microphone work? Jabra does claim active noise cancelling with the microphone. I'll let you be the judge how well it works. I've called the Skype for Business "Check Call Quality" feature. Behind me is a server in a closet spitting out white noise. The TV is on in another room and I can hear it with my headset on my ears. I am saying the nonsensical phrase "I would like a pear for supper".

Jabra says this about the boom arm:

When you’re not on a call, you can tuck the boom arm away into the headband to keep it out of the way.

Unless you have a very small head, this statement is absolute rubbish. Yes, there is a magnet in the head band. And yes, when the speakers are pushed all the way up into the headband then the boom arm attaches to the magnet. I've made a video showing this. All Jabra had to do was make the magnet longer. The groove is there for the headset but they put in too small of a magnet. Which then makes us at work wonder why they even bothered in the first place. 

Aside form the random lights on the dongle, Bluetooth range is pretty good. It may actually be better than the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC but I didn't do scientific testing. I walked to the water fountain at work and the Evolve 65 seemed to break up less than the Voyager Focus. I can walk to all corners of my apartment and there aren't any dropouts.

I also tested the NFC pairing feature with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone. I enabled NFC in the phone settings. The NFC zone on the Evolve 65 is on the speaker with all of the controls. So I tapped the back of my phone randomly onto the back of the speaker because I'm not entirely sure where the NFC zone is on the back of my phone. After the third tap, My phone perked up and asked if I wanted to pair it with the headset. I clicked yes and presto! My phone was paired. This worked really well and is a lot easier than any other Bluetooth pairing I've done.

Fortuitously, my dad called my freshly-paired mobile phone. I asked him how I sounded and he said I sounded as good as ever. Keep in mind that I still had a server hissing out white noise behind me and the TV on (and audible) in the other room.

In short, this is a perfectly functional Bluetooth headset. My major gripe is that the speakers are still not good enough for listening to music, at least for my tastes. The Evolve 80 and Plantronics Voyager Focus easily exceed the music playback feature of this headset. And while there are some half-baked features in this headset (busylight, boom magnet) I find it a quality Bluetooth headset for those looking for something a bit more professional-grade than what they may be currently using. 

This headset currently retails on Amazon in the US for $179.99USD. That's about the same price that you can get the newer and much better Plantronics Voyager Focus UC. As such, I find it hard to recommend this one at this time. Should there be a nice price drop then I'd have to think that the Jabra would be worth a go. This headset is also approaching a year old. Jabra is definitely on the right path here and I'm eager to see what the next generation will bring. 

 

 

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.

 

Speakerphone Audio Quality Comparison

While there are a lot of reviews for Skype for Business certified speakerphones, I have never come across a review that lets you hear what they sound like.

I took the three speaker phones I have (caveat: all given to me for free by the vendors) and made some recordings for you to hear.

Three speakerphones

Plantronics, Sennheiser, and Jabra

I used the “Check Call Quality” feature in the Skype for Business client to run the test. The back-end is also a Skype for Business server pool.

I used a Yeti Blue microphone to record me saying the same phrase each time. That phrase is:

I would like to have a pear for supper.

It doesn’t mean anything other than it has some “plosives” to add a little complexity. It’s also a short phrase that fits within the time window provided by the Call Quality test.

To record the dialog I used a Yeti Blue microphone which is a pretty good USB microphone I picked up recently. I placed it about (8 inches/20 cm) away from the center of the speakerphone.

You may hear some background white noise. That is my Hyper-V server which is running my Skype for Business lab. I also normalized all of the audio files to -1.0 db which may enhance some of the white noise.

Note that everything you hear is recorded via the Yeti Blue microphone. So when you hear the prompts, that is a very good example of how the speaker sounds. When you hear the recording of my voice played back, that should give you an idea of how good the microphone is.

First is the Plantronics Calisto.

calisto_p825

Next is the Jabra Speak 510

accessories-4730b-450x350

And finally the Sennheiser SP20.

Sennheiser SP 20 ML

Sennheiser SP 20 ML

 

I won’t say which I liked better or worse. I don’t want to taint your opinion. Also keep in mind that sound quality is a very important factor when selecting a speaker phone but it isn’t necessarily the most important.

  • Some of these support Bluetooth,
  • Some have a built in battery
  • One has a portable microphone
  • One has a jack to to play music off your phone with
  • Plus other unique features