Review: Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset | webOS Nation
 
 

Review: Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset 22

by Derek Kessler Wed, 28 Apr 2010 10:47 am EDT

  Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

Jawbone headsets have been regarded as the gold standard in both audio quality and design for years, a tradition that the Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset continues with aplomb. Going back to the original wired Jawbone headset from 2004, Aliph’s headsets have always been at the forefront of aesthetics and noise cancellation. The new Icon series of headsets does not disappoint, picking up a more compact design while still packing in even better noise cancellation technology. Even better, the Icon recently snagged a firmware update that adds in A2DP for Bluetooth music listening. As always, the newest Jawbone is easily one of the best headsets available on the market.

Audio Quality

First things first, a Bluetooth headset has to transmit your voice to the other side, as well as the other side’s voice to your ear. The Jawbone Icon does this with ease, as you would expect. The military-grade NoiseAssassin noise cancellation tech has received a substantial bump to version 2.5, and it is superior to most, if not all, noise-canceling headsets on the market.

As with all previous Jawbone headsets, the Icon’s distinguishing feature is the Voice Activity Sensor, a little rubber nub on the inner side of the headset that rests against your cheek and picks up the vibrations of your voice. This isn’t a bone-conducting headset - the vibrations are used merely to determine what from the microphone input should be kept, with the rest discarded. This secret sauce mixture works incredibly well; I was able to test the Icon driving down the highway with the windows down and The Beatles blaring on the stereo, and the other end of the phone conversation was able to understand me as I spoke at a perfectly normal tone.

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

Of course, I couldn’t hear myself speaking or what that person was saying. Despite how well the Jawbone Icon works at cutting out external noise on its end, there’s nothing it can do about noise on the other side, or noise in your other ear. That said, the speaker still puts out extremely good quality and adequately loud voice audio.

You’ll notice that I said voice audio. The Jawbone Icon was the recipient of a recent software update that bakes A2DP support into the headset, essentially turning it into a mono Bluetooth headset. And you’ll notice that I said mono Bluetooth headset. Between my Pre and the Icon, only the right audio channel of stereo audio tracks was transmitted to the headset. Ninety-eight percent of the time this won’t be an issue for ninety-eight percent of users, but when you’re listening to something with very distinct left-right channels (such as certain tracks of the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog soundtrack). That said, the Icon shows its stripes as a built-for-voice headset when listening to music; human voice comes through beautifully clear, but instrumental tones, especially bass, are less-than-impressive. Then again, A2DP isn’t really a headline characteristic for the Icon, is it?

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

Controls

Alongside high design and voice quality, minimal controls have always been a hallmark of the Jawbone line. The Icon both exemplifies and turns its back on its predecessors. Older Jawbone headsets came with a power/talk button and a volume cycling button, both artfully disguised as part of the outer shell. While this made for clean designs, it could also be frustrating to use the headset without any tactile feedback as to where you were pushing.

The Icon dumps the hidden buttons, opting to put the call button at the rear of the headset as a defined rectangular button with a ridged texture. The power button has been separated from call functions (a trend we’re really digging) and turned into a small fingernail switch on the inner face of the headset. The volume button, however, has disappeared, a loss we’re not mourning. The status light is the typical Jawbone subtle, pulsing white and red around the Voice Activity Sensor.

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

What the Icon has picked up is voice feedback. The headset now talks to you, communicating battery levels, on-off status, and incoming call numbers to you in a soothing female voice. The same browser-based portal used to update the Icon’s software for A2DP also allows you to install new voices. Our favorite: the cheeky “The Thinker.”

Comfort

As is also typical for Jawbone headsets, a veritable cornucopia of fit customization options are provided. Due to the headset’s newly stubby size, it fits and stays in place perfectly well without the included ear hook. Three differently-sized earbuds with loops are provided for non-hook wear, while four circular earbuds are included for use with the ear hook. With seven different options for wear, not finding a comfortable fit means you’re probably doing it wrong. The re-engineered design of the Icon also swings the Voice Activity Sensor more firmly against the cheek than previous iterations, meaning the chance of losing contact, and subsequently noise cancellation, are greatly reduced.

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

Style

The Jawbone Icon comes in six different versions, all of varying aesthetic designs. For this review we took a look at the subdued dimpled matte-finish The Hero. Also available is a wavy gold The Bombshell, the soft platinum The Catch, sculpted silver in The Ace, a patterned matte silver surface similar to the previous generation Jawbone Prime in The Thinker, and lastly The Rogue with subdued flame red accents on a shiny black base. As with the fit choices, there are more than enough options for style with the Icon, though if we had to make one knock on the headset we’d ask for interchangeable faces, but then that would impede the solidness of what would otherwise be one of the best-built headsets available today.

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

In the Box

The Jawbone Icon’s packaging is typical for a Jawbone headset, though it is a touch smaller than previous headset boxes (fitting, for the smaller headset). The layout is logical, though the fit and finish of the packaging didn’t leave us as impressed as we have been with older Jawbones. Regardless, the box does contain the previously mentioned two extra earbuds with loops (the third being pre-installed on the headset sitting on a clear plastic pedestal at the top to of the box), four round earbuds, one plastic ear hook, the requisite instructional and safety pamphlets in English and Spanish, a compact but not-that-small AC-to-USB power adapter, and a 2.5-inch-long micro USB power cable. Yes, the Jawbone Icon has switched to a standard micro USB port (though awkwardly angled) in place of the nifty-if-proprietary magnetic charging port from the Jawbone 2 and Prime.

Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset

Conclusion

The Jawbone Icon easily comes out of the box with best-in-class noise cancellation, styling, and comfort. Considering that the class is the highest tier of Bluetooth headsets, that speaks very strongly of the headset’s shear quality. When you mix in a price of below $100, the value case becomes clear: bang for your buck you can’t go wrong with the Jawbone Icon.

The Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset is available from the PreCentral Store for $96.95, it was provided for review by the PreCentral Store

Pros

Superior noise cancellation

Cons

Only right-channel stereo A2DP

22 Comments

I have 4 ear things cause you can't drive without them in Ontario Canada. all of them 10 bucks, don't think I've used them once, I don't see the need to buy 100$ one? I bought the whole phone for less the $200, it better be able to surf the web too. HAHA



First

Derek, is this the one you were showing and talking about on the Palmcast last night?

I had abandoned my Jawbone II for the Jabra BT530 just for the A2DP feature. Now that I can listen to podcasts with the Jawbone Icon I may never use another headset again!

Very nice review Derek.

FYI, you can adjust the volume now using the button on top. Just hold it and the volume slides up and down.

I thought that BT was pretty standard...and that cheapo BT headsets should get the job done. Not so. I actually represent a line of inexpensive BT products that sell in large electronics chains. I have tried dozens of these....and they are not very good.

I bought a Jawbone Prime last year, and then one of these Icons a couple of months ago. EXCELLENT. The noise cancellation is truly phenomenal. I have used them on a motorcycle, in a convertible, and loud restaurants. There is some "muffling" of my voice in very noisy environments...it removes some of the highs and lows making you sound a bit unenthusiastic or flat, but it totally eliminates noise. Just amazing.

I just tried the A2DP update. It confirms it has installed and updated my Icon. I have deleted and re-paired with the Pre, and rebooted the Pre. But still music is routed through the handset not the Icon....hmmmmmmm???

Just bought the Hero from PreCentral's store. Was glad to see the 10% off code they sent weeks ago from the Palmcast which I hadn't used yet still worked! :)

I picked this up yesterday at Sprint store - $75 + tax with the 25% Premier discount. They only had The Thinker in black. I wanted The Hero but I needed a headset ASAP and was happy to save the $25 and shipping costs.

So far, it's been great. I miss the pause/play & skip controls of the stereo BT headphones I had been using, but those broke and the voice quality is WAY better according to people I talked to.

Another key feature you missed, Derek (unless I overlooked it) is the ability to pair to more than one phone at a time. For me, this is HUGE!. I have my Pre, but I also (unfortunately) have to carry a BB 8830 for work. My jawbone II (a great headset in its own right) doesn't do this. The multipoint functionality first appeared on the "Prime".

But this is probably a big selling point for many users. (For example, you can connect to your phone and PC at the same time)

You've hit on the biggest problem with the jawbone series thus far -- oftentimes when you're in a situation where noise is a problem, it's a huge leap forward if people can hear you... but it is pointless if you can't hear them.

Aliph needs to make a jawbone with an in-ear canal earpiece.

the three ear pieces he is talking about that dont need to ear loop are inner ear canal and work very well. i dont even have to turn down the volume on my car radio when i use the headset

As far as the A2DP feature goes, will our GPS turn-by-turn directions from Sprint Nav be transmitted into the headset if it's on?

yes. i have used it several times already for it. its also awesome that it can charge on any cable charger for our phones. not necessary second charger or iGo tip

Really cool, i've been looking at this also for the multi-device feature. My question to anyone who has done this with this device...

Will this work with my Pre and PS3 at the same time? (i.e. use the headset for gaming on the ps3, and when a call comes in switch on the bluetooth and i'll be able to mute the game speech and talk on my pre without having to take off the headset or anything). I get annoyed when calls come in and I have a bluetooth on one ear and im holding the phone up with my shoulder because my hands are on the controller.

I agree that a key feature not included in the review was the ability to pair a second Bluetooth device.

i updated mine to include the a2dp functionality and the volume is low even at the highest setting. Battery life gets killed but I guess that's to be expected...

This is the best headset ever! I just upgraded from an earlier Jawbone model. I carried on a conversation while mowing the lawn yesterday - the person on the other end had no idea.

Another nice little feature is that you can tap the button and the voice will tell you approx. how many minutes of talk time are left on the battery.

As for me, I'll stick with the voice controlled BlueAnt Q1. Can't beat it! And you can get it now for about $70 bucks on Amazon down from the original price of $129.

Some of the Jawbone Icon models are selling for under $80 on Amazon, and if you are sprint Premier, you can get it for $75.

How do you update the firmware? Cause their site has nothing about downloads...

you have to make sure that your headset is plugged into the usb port and charging. then go to website. you will need to create an account, then download software (site provides clear, concise directions)and the site should walk you through updating and/or changing other features

This may sound like a stupid question, but does the Icon have the ear loop like the Prime does in your photo? I have a Prime and use that thing since these don't fit me without it.

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