Jabra Stone2 hands-on
There's a stack of budget Bluetooth headsets on the market today, and they all do a reasonable job. Indeed, Jabra even makes a fair few of them. However, those using their mobile device all day every day, and specifically while driving or using their hands for another purpose, are well advised to spend a bit more. It really is worth it.
Certainly, one of the headsets at the higher end of the scale that came out in 2010, and caught the eye as much as the ear was Jabra's Stone. It combined sleek design with top of the range audio tech tomfoolery, and soon became a big hit with the traveller and urban professional alike.
Now its back, rejigged and mottled, and almost every aspect has been improved upon.
The basic concept is simple. The pebble part of the equation is both a protective housing for the earpiece and a battery. When charging the device, this is the part you plug into a computer, it then transfers charges to the headset itself. And on this year's model, there are three green lights, which tell you how many charges remain in the stone, before you have to repeat the process.
You shouldn't have to too often, though, as it promises up to 10 hours of talk time, with two hours in the headset alone. There's 15 days worth of standby time. Impressive.
Obviously, it's compatible with pretty much any Bluetooth device, but can be paired with a staggering eight of them in total. And it can be used with two at the same time, allowing for switching between personal and work phones, for example.
Range is around 10 metres, and we've certainly had no dropped signal while testing the device. Plus, as the headset part is only 7g, you can happily wander about with it firmly attached to your ear at all times.
It also looks nicer than last year's model, with a faux leather mottling on both pieces, and a new silver strip across the earpiece. Apparently, this is for Jabra aficionados to be able to tell who's up to date and who's not - kind-of like the tech equivalent of the business card envy in American Psycho (book and film).
Another new feature this time around is the ability to answer or reject calls by using your voice alone. The headset understands the commands "answer" and "ignore", and responds to both respectively. Plus, it now sports Voice Guidance, talking you through options and start-up, in order to ensure that you're getting the most from the device without the need to read the manual.
To be honest, as it took us a while to find the device through the menu system of an iPhone 4, the female commands kind-of grated a bit - came across like a nagging teacher. But, once paired, we didn't hear from her until we needed to. It would certainly help if you're driving and need to find something in the set-up options.
In the box, there's extra bits and bobs, including alternative eargels in wacky shapes and sizes, a belt clip, and USB and charge cables. But the most important aspect of any Bluetooth headset, of course, is audio quality...
In our initial tests, receiving audio was spot on - crisp, clear and meaty on bass. However, the voice signal at the other end of the line was a touch more flat. Jabra has included its proprietary Noise Blackout Extreme technology to clean up ambient audio for better vocal performance, and it seems to work, but we have had slightly better results from other devices at roughly similar price points.
Most notable of these is the Bose Bluetooth Headset, costing £119. It's £20 more expensive, but the audio is better at the other end of the call.
That said, the Jabra Stone2 is still an excellent product, and is unsurpassed for playback. Plus, at £99, it is much more feature-laden than its rivals - and sexier to boot. It's got more bells and whistles than a referees' convention in a whisky distillery, so will be a better choice for those who are willing to trade off a touch of audio performance for gadget wizardry.
Which do you prefer, audio performance or multiple features? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...