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TechnologyTell Review: Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

Sections: Accessories, Audio, Communications, Headphones, Reviews

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If part of your day involves lots of phone time, it pays to have a good earpiece. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in an office, mobile office, or just chit-chat with people frequently. That earpiece is going to be your best friend for quality, wireless communication.

I have used many Bluetooth earpieces throughout the years, but never for very long. While they excelled during conversations, the comfort never quite did it for me. Maybe I’m too picky. When devices fail to stay in through normal movement, or if they require some tricky fitting around my ear, I end up giving them away to someone else.

Jabra just released their latest Bluetooth earpiece, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, people. No one is getting it as a freebie from me; this one is a keeper!

Design & Connectivity

The Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset has a great size and form to it. It’s small, pocketable, yet neither super-tiny nor delicate. Having seen so many Bluetooth earpieces with “clever” or intricate designs, it’s good to see one that’s more grounded- and less ridiculous-looking. There are no folding parts, obtuse buttons, or a wide microphone boom. The Jabra Stealth conveys professional sophistication with its clean looks and symmetrical shape.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset box

Full assortment of gels and hooks

The Jabra Stealth is tiny, which gives a notion about its weight. It’s a bit of a shock once you start handling it, since this gadget is lighter than expected. Not only is it a featherweight in the hand, but the bulk of it rests in the ear as well.

If you’ve ever had an earpiece that ended up being too heavy in the microphone boom, you’ll appreciate Jabra’s design. Since most of the weight is at the base, you can move more freely without dislodging the fit. I can’t stand earpieces that require constant fiddling.

I like the simplicity of the buttons as well as the placement. The in-line button, which answers/ends calls, is located at the back and needs only a light touch. The voice command button lies along the length of the boom – bottom if worn on the right, top if on the left. Or you can just swap for the left side earhook, if you care about the button staying on the top. The location is smart, since pressing it involves a gentle pinching between thumb and index finger. This keeps the earpiece in place, as opposed to poking at a button and, ultimately, pushing the device towards the face.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset buttons

The inside of the Stealth has port for charging and switch for power

Both the power switch (I happen to love switches over press-hold buttons for power) and Micro USB port are tucked away on the inside of the boom. Again, a thumbs-up goes to design aesthetics. Sleek and simple.

However, some may find the Jabra Stealth to be a little too simple, in that it lacks dedicated volume buttons. All the volume is controlled via the Bluetooth connected device. I like having one less reason to handle the earpiece, but at the cost of less total volume range.

There aren’t that many commands through the Jabra Stealth itself. Performing a press-hold on the voice command button prompts user input. As with most Bluetooth earpieces, saying “what can I say?” invokes a recited list: redial, call back, phone commands, battery, pair a new device, and cancel.

When it comes to checking on the battery life, the Jabra Stealth leaves no mystery. Instead of indicating power as low, medium, or high, you’re told the amount of talk-time remaining. It’s quite accurate, too. If it says there are 3 hours remaining, and then you use it for 18 minutes and check again, it will tell you that 2 hours and 42 minutes remain. Give or take a minute. A full charge is good for 6 hours.

Asking the Jabra Stealth for phone commands should trigger the list of commands the connected smartphone knows. My Samsung Galaxy Note 2 pops up S-Voice commands by default. It also works with Google Now and Siri. Jabra has also included a locating feature through a separate app. If you happen to misplace or drop the Stealth, the app lets you zero in on the GPS coordinates of when the earpiece was last connected. But if you happen to switch it off and lose it sometime after, you’ll be out of luck unless you remained in that same general area.

Comfort

Typically, I don’t like Bluetooth earpieces because of the way they sit. I can’t stand the over-ear attachments, and most eargels aren’t comfortable for me. I find most closed loop eargels rather generic and ill-fitting. However, the Jabra Stealth comes with these silicone earhooks that have me, well, hooked.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset mic

Slim is in, especially when hanging off an ear

The open-ended design of these earhooks is what clinches it for comfort. It’s soft, flexible, and follows ear contour with the perfect amount of pressure. Not only does it feel so light, but I can move my head vigorously without losing the good fit. You can headbang to music, no problem.

But if the earhook isn’t your thing, Jabra includes an assortment of eargels and attachment options for customizing. The eargels aren’t half bad (I too tempted to refrain from trying them out), but I certainly prefer the hooks.

Regardless of which you choose, the Jabra Stealth is so lightweight that it’s easy to forget it’s in your ear. With a secure fit and no wiggle, it moves as extension of you. The earpiece sits right outside the ear canal and funnels in sound. This is good (likely proper), since you can hear sounds going on around you better.

Voice & Audio Quality

The Jabra Stealth packs some business-quality microphone tech that seriously zeroes in on voices, ignoring background noise. I can drive on the freeway, with music playing in the vehicle, and also have conversations going on among passengers, without the Jabra Stealth being confused. Even when others try to bark separate- or similar-sounding directions (because we purposely tested), my voice is the only one the earpiece pays any attention to. Between the microphone quality and Google’s voice recognition engine, everything I say is accurately and quite consistently understood.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset rear

The call/end button is hidden at the end. Stealthy, yes?

Phone conversations sound great on both sides. The Jabra Stealth clearly reproduces voices with little digitizing, if any. Weak cell signals from either/both devices crap out the quality (this is universal with all phones/earpieces). For the most part, background noises, such as fans or TVs, are blocked out. However, background voices are picked up by the Jabra Stealth. But they’re also kept in the background. So if one of my kids is nearby and screams, “Hi, I miss you!!”, the other person on the phone will hear.

The biggest complaint about the Jabra Stealth is the overall level of volume. Even when maxed out, I find the audio in my ear to be on the lighter side.

Regardless if the other party is speaking to me via speakerphone, earpiece, or just the phone itself, I can’t help but want more volume. Just a little more oomph for those noisier environments so I don’t have to strain. This low-volume aspect also affects music playback, if you happen to be in the mood for tunes through the Jabra Stealth. This issue is likely a drawback from it not having any on-board volume adjustment. But at least you know you can’t blow your ears out while listening to music.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset wear

The hook contours and fits without forcing

What’s interesting (or frustrating, depending on mood) is that the volume output seems to be fine with everything else. Smartphone notification/prompt sounds are absolutely ear-piercing if the volume is over 60 percent.

I also have no problem listening to GPS directions, even with freeway driving. The volume doesn’t need to be maxed out either. So it’s strange, since all output to the Jabra Stealth is controlled by the device’s Bluetooth volume level.

Naturally, an earpiece can’t compete with a set of top-shelf audio headphones in the same price bracket. But if you ever have an urge to bump music from a file or video, the Jabra Stealth does a pretty decent job. Vocals take up most of the soundstage, which makes perfect sense considering the type of product. The lows are light, the highs a touch bright, and the mids do well to support and perform.

Overall, the audio quality comes out crisp and quite enjoyable to listen to. Just don’t expect a whole lot of depth, especially since it’s a mono speaker. I’ve actually zoned out with music playing and didn’t realize it for over an hour; it’s a testament to the featherweight design and quality of audio output.

Bluetooth

The Bluetooth signal range is excellent. I can walk about 20 feet away and maintain a solid signal, even with a wall in the way. Without any obstructions, the Jabra Stealth is good for over 35 feet. When the limit has been breached, the connection sharply drops off. But while in range, I have yet to experience wireless static, skips, or echo.

Pairing and repairing time is very quick. After turning the earpiece on, or stepping back into range of a paired device, the connection notification is almost instantaneous. This is an important aspect to me, since I may not always be actively wearing the Jabra Stealth. When I receive a call while driving, I’ll switch it on, and it’s ready for me before it’s fully in my ear. I rarely miss calls or let them reach voicemail this way.

Verdict

The Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset ushers in a new standard for wireless earpieces. While some people may like bulky- or funky-looking designs, I don’t. I prefer slim elegance, especially when no (or little) sacrifices are made to performance. The Jabra Stealth delivers excellent voice communication in a lightweight form that’s comfortable to wear. I find the placement of the buttons to be very smart.

Voice command compatibility with Android S-Voice and Google Now have worked very well for me. I assume that Siri works just as well (never tested it). Although the list of commands specific to the Jabra Stealth may be minimal, they get the job done. The only complaint that some may encounter with this earpiece is the volume threshold. Phone conversations could use a little more, even when the connected device has volume set to maximum.

If powerful, comfortable, and discreet are what you’re looking for, you probably won’t find anything better than the Stealth. At least, until, Jabra decides to create the next-generation, follow-up model.

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