At $99.99, the Jabra BT530 isn't a budget headset, but for one that offers noise cancellation--make that good noise cancellation--it's a steal. While its noise-canceling performance and design aren't as impeccable as some of its pricier competitors, the BT530 offers good style and quality for those unwilling to spend $130 on a headset.
Design and Fit
With its satin black finish and perforated metallic strip running down the middle, the BT530 looks elegant and interesting. Compared with theMotorola Motopure H12, whose sparkly accents border on bling, the BT530's dull metal accents look conservative. At 1.9 x 0.7 x 0.5 inches, it's fairly long and thin in shape, although not as exaggerated as theAliph Jawbone.
The small metal button at the end of this strip is the pairing button. The volume controls are located on the headset's main face, on the side closest to the ear; raised plus and minus signs make it simple to tell which side is which. Finally, a dedicated sliding power switch is on the side, which means you don't have to hold down a button and count the seconds.
The BT530 comes with two hard earhooks and six tips in three sizes. We loved how sturdy the headset felt in our ear, even as we moved our head around, but, as with other Jabra headsets, the hard inner ear piece grew uncomfortable over time.
Versatile by Design
The BT530 includes two charging options: an AC adapter and a USB cable for plugging it into your notebook. Moreover, it can pair with up to eight devices at once. That's something the Jawbone, the reigning noise-canceling headset, cannot do. If you're a mobile professional forced to wield separate phones for business and personal use, this is a useful feature.
Noise Canceling Performance
The BT530 uses Jabra's proprietary Noise Blackout technology, which eliminates background noise using dual noise-canceling microphones, and Jabra's DSP technology enhances the sound of your voice. When we placed a call from a noisy restaurant, our caller heard a good deal of background noise but could still easily make out what we were saying. When we called from a quiet room, the call quality was almost flawless; our caller enjoyed good clarity and comfortable volume. In both situations, the volume was a bit too loud on our end (more on that below).
Against the Competition
To test the BT530's noise-cancellation, we compared it with the Aliph Jawbone, our favorite noise-canceling headset at the moment, which at $129, costs thirty dollars more. In the noisy restaurant, the Jawbone did a better job of reducing background noise; our caller found it less distracting than when we used the BT530.
The differences between the Jawbone and the BT530 were more subtle when we placed calls indoors. The Jawbone was still the clearer of the two--our caller said we sounded as if we were sitting next to them--but the BT530 also delivered clear sound and comfortable volume. Given the $30 price gap, the difference in quality between the two headsets isn't so great.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The BT530 also has Intelligent Volume Control, which detects the noise level and automatically adjusts the volume (talk about hands-free!). While talking in a noisy restaurant, the volume was high on our end by default, although occasionally uncomfortably so. In a quiet room, too, the volume was too loud on our end, although our caller said it was just right. That said, the Achilles' heel of many cheaper headsets is their poor volume, so the BT530's being too ample shouldn't be a deal breaker by any means.
Battery Life and Range
The BT530 has a range of 33 feet. Our connection broke up slightly as soon as we walked away from the phone, but we could still hear our caller at about 50 feet away--far beyond the claimed 33-foot range.
The BT530 has a rated talk time of 5.5 hours and a standby time of 10.4 days. After keeping it on for a full day and placing intermittent calls, the battery was still going strong.
Although the Jabra BT530 isn't clear or comfortable enough to steal an Editors' Choice from the Aliph Jawbone, it still offers good noise cancelling performance and a sleek design for about thirty dollars less. It can also pair with up to eight devices at once, whereas the Jawbone has no multipoint technology. If you want a better-than-average headset for not that much money, the BT530 delivers a great deal.