Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Decent sound and noise cancelling, price
- Not quite up there with Bose's QCs yet
An excellent choice of noise canceling headphones for the budget conscious.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
Not typically a company associated with noise canceling headphones, in the c820s Jabra has nonetheless produced an impressive device. Offering a great balance between performance and price, they provides some serious competition to other manufacturers such as Bose and Etymotic. We took to the skies to compare the new pretender against another popular model, the Bose QuietComfort 3.
From the minute we began listening it was clear that with regards to sound quality, the c820s are a little lacking. Though they generally sound pretty good, they just aren't quite sharp enough. The highs lack clarity, the bass notes lack punch and everything feels a little clouded. Obviously they aren't designed to be an ultra high fidelity masterpiece, which is reflected in their price, and we think most people should be happy with the sound quality.
Of course, the most important aspect of noise cancelling headphones is their noise cancelling abilities. We took the c820s to a variety of noisy environments, and found that though they performed fairly respectably, the QCs from Bose had the edge. We also took the c820s onto a street and in a bus, and while many external sounds were dulled or blocked out, they still weren't quite as good as we had seen with Bose's product.
The real test for noise canceling headphones however is on a plane. Nothing challenges them quite so much as a jet engine roaring in the background, so we took the c820s up to 30,000ft to test them out again. Here, the differences between the Bose and the Jabra were less marked. We'd still give it to the QCs overall, but the c820s did a sterling job of blocking out most sounds. One excellent feature that gives a notch to Jabra's belt is the ability to listen to music without battery power. Obviously noise cancelling doesn't work in this mode, but should the battery die at least you aren't without music. Bose is yet to implement this feature on any of its noise canceling headphones.
Using an ear covering design, Jabra is one of the few manufacturers that has managed to match Bose's clever concealment of the battery compartment within the earpiece, negating the need for a weighty external case. This is excellent news for the frequent traveler. The c820s takes a single AAA battery which lasts for an impressive 50 hours of playback.
Jabra, like Bose, has also included the full range of accessories. There's a hard carry case and a wide range of adapters so that the c820s can connect to in flight entertainment, mobile phones with 2.5mm jacks or HiFi systems using 6.7mm jacks. We also thought the c820s were well constructed, and Jabra has done a decent job of making the headphones look attractive. Comfort is obviously a priority, and for the most part we found the c820s pleasant to wear, even for long periods. On a few occasions we felt minor discomfort on our ears, but shifting the headphones a little solved the problem.
Overall, it should be clear that the c820s aren't quite up to the standard of Bose's headphones. They're pretty good though, and are superior to most of the competition. However, what we have yet to mention is price. The c820s retail for under half the cost of Bose's competing products. For most people this fact alone could be the deciding factor. The Bose headphones are better, but the value for money offered by the c820s may tip the scales for many buyers.
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