Jabra has been a household name in Bluetooth headsets for years, surviving competition from the likes of trendy names like Aliph and newcomers like BlueAnt. And there's a reason why: Jabra usually delivers quality headsets. Like the BT8040 and the JX10, Jabra hopes to once again revive the Bluetooth headset market with something new, and it's called the Jabra BT530. Though it's neither DARPA-approved like the Jawbone 2, nor does it have the voice command capabilities of the BlueAnt V1, it still delivers excellent noise cancellation. And for $99.99, it's not a bad deal at all.
It's clear from the looks of the Jabra BT530, that it's a function-first, design-second sort of headset. Measuring 1.9 inches long by 0.7 inch wide by 0.5 inch thick, the BT530 has a decidedly business-like appearance. It is long, slender, and wrapped in a soft-touch black plastic with a skinny strip of perforated chrome in the middle. Two volume buttons are on the upper half of the headset, both of which are easy to find by feel. Between the two volume keys is the multifunction call key, which is raised above the surface of the headset so it's easy to press.
The skinny strip of chrome is actually home to two noise-cancellation microphones, which helps a lot in reducing background noise. On the left side is a dedicated power slider-switch, which we like to see, since it makes it easier to power down the headset when not in use. On the top is the charger jack. In between the two volume controls is an LED indicator.
Turn the headset over and you'll find the earpiece and a place for an ear hook. The BT530 comes with two kinds of earpiece covers--a simple gel tip that sits just inside the ear, and another of the same gel tip with an additional rubber loop that fits snugly within the ear folds. For the former, you need to wear an ear hook or it won't be stable; with the latter, an ear hook is not required. We thought both variations felt quite comfortable, and we could see ourselves wearing the headset for hours. The BT530 comes with a variety of gel-tip sizes, so it's easy to mix and match for different size ears.
Of course, the main feature of the headset is its noise-cancellation technology. The BT530 is part of Jabra's new Smart Series with Noise Blackout technology. With the help of the two noise-canceling microphones, it promises crystal-clear sound, good volume, and even audio shock protection. And of course, it also has the typical headset features, such as answering, ending, and rejecting calls, voice dialing, last number redial, call mute, call waiting, and placing a call on hold.
We paired the Jabra BT530 with both the Apple iPhone 3G and the LG Lotus. We have to say that we were very impressed with the noise-canceling capabilities of the headset. There were some static issues at times, so audio quality wasn't perfect. But overall, callers reported the lack of background noise, especially compared with when we weren't using the headset. On our end, we could hear them loud and clear, too. That said, voice quality did sound a little harsh, and not quite as natural as we would like. However, the BT530 did its job by canceling out most background noise in a variety of situations--in the car, in a busy crowd (we tested it in a busy restaurant during lunch hour), and in the office.
The Jabra BT530 has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 10.4 days standby time.