When Aliph released the first Jawbone Bluetooth headset two years ago, it became CNET's highest rated Bluetooth headset because of its amazing sound quality and eye-catching design. Many of our readers agreed with our assessment, but there were two big complaints against it: it is bulkier than most headsets out there, and it has an unusual ear hook that made the Jawbone difficult to position correctly. Well, Aliph has listened, because the new Aliph Jawbone 2 has laid those negatives to rest. Not only is it smaller and lighter, the Jawbone 2 also has a simpler ear hook design and a fancy new look that leaves its predecessor in the dust. Its noise-canceling technology has even been upgraded from the "Noise Shield" to the "Noise Assassin," which promises to be more aggressive in canceling out ambient noise. Aliph claims that this Noise Assassin technology has been tested by the military and approved by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the U.S. Department of Defense's independent research branch. The Jawbone 2 is not cheap--it will retail for $129.99--but if you wish to get the ultimate in Bluetooth headsets, it is definitely worth it. The Jawbone 2 is available in black and rose gold.
Like the first Jawbone, the Aliph Jawbone 2 was designed by renowned industrial designer Yves Behar, and it shows. Instead of the perforated front of its predecessor, the Jawbone 2 has a beveled diamond pattern all along the front, which results in a three-dimensional texture that glides smoothly under our fingers. The big difference from its predecessor, however, is its size. The Jawbone 2 is almost 50 percent smaller than the original, measuring 2 inches long by 0.5 inch wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighing 0.35 ounce.
At first glance, it may appear there are no buttons on the Jawbone 2. But though you cannot see the controls, you can feel them--there's the Talk button on the front of the headset, while Aliph's patented Noise Assassin button is on the top. On top of the Talk button is a very slim sliver of an LED light, which glows white when the headset is powered on. You also have the option to turn the LED off completely. Though these hidden buttons result in a streamlined design, we did think it would be better to have a more obvious Talk button instead of having to feel around for it. Also, since the LED light is directly on top of the Talk button, it makes it difficult to press the button and see the light at the same time.
We should note that there's no real volume rocker since the Jawbone 2 is configured to adjust the volume automatically according to the environment, thanks to its Noise Assassin technology. If you wish to turn the Noise Assassin off, you can do so by hitting the Noise Assassin button. And then if you wish to adjust the volume manually, the Noise Assassin button also acts as a singular volume control, meaning you have to cycle through different volume levels to get to the right volume. All that said, we would've preferred a volume rocker anyway, for ease of use.
Turn the headset around and you'll find a rubber earpiece, an optional ear hook, and a tiny white rubber nub that acts as the Voice Activity Sensor. In order for the voice-amplification technology to work, you must wear the headset so that the sensor lies against your cheek, allowing it to detect the vibration of your voice. Unlike the first Jawbone, the ear hook is completely optional. You can choose to wear the headset with or without it, since the earpiece fits more securely in the ear. Aliph also packages a few different size earpiece covers plus different ear hooks for a better fit. As a bonus, some of the ear hooks are made from real leather. We found the fit to be a lot more comfortable than the first--we could wear it very easily, and positioning the voice-activity sensor was easy to do, as well. Since the ear hooks are so flexible and thin, they can also be used when wearing eyeglasses.
Looks and fit aside, the most important reason to get the Jawbone 2 lies in its superior noise-canceling technology. It comes with a dual microphone array that helps to reduce wind noise, a technology that protects your ear against unexpected loud noises, and the aforementioned voice-activity sensor and Noise Assassin technology that helps to amplify your voice and drown out ambient sound. We tested this with the RIM BlackBerry Pearl in a number of environments: in a crowded restaurant, in a car, and outside on a windy day. The results were definitely impressive. Our callers could hear us loud and clear in all the situations. They did report some minor clicking and shuffling in the background, but it wasn't anything significant. In one particularly windy area, our callers didn't even realize we were outside. Similarly, we could hear them without any problems. We then compared the sound quality of the phone without the aid of the headset, and we were surprised to note that the sound quality was much improved with the headset than without.
The Jawbone 2 has a rated talk time of 4 hours and rated standby time of more than eight days. Some other features include voice command support, call waiting support, and a low-battery status indicator. It also comes with a magnetic charging base.