Jabra Supreme UC: A headset for both smartphones and Skype

It's becoming more and more useful to have a "hands-off" headset for use with your smartphone -- and with your Internet-based phone system (such as Skype). The Jabra Supreme UC can handle both tasks at once.

The Jabra Supreme UC ($94 - $111 retail) is a Bluetooth headset that works with both mobile devices and Internet calls. It comes with a USB adapter for communicating with computers, a car charger (a nice add-on), a USB cable and AC charter, and a carrying case. According to the company, it offers six hours of talk time.

Convenient design

This is a handily designed headset: The 2.25-in. boom arm folds out to turn the unit on and folds in to turn it off -- a very neat way of making sure the device is powered up when you want it, and powered off when you don't. (It also makes it easy to store the Jabra in the included case.)

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The answer/end call button on the back of the unit is large and very easy to access; while the volume up/down buttons (on the back edge of the device, on either side of its micro USB charging port) aren't quite as handy, they are accessible.

The Jabra uses voice controls to allow you to start a call, answer a call, ignore a call, find out your battery level or pair a new device. A voice control button, which is located on the boom arm, allows you to use a number of voice commands -- you can redial, call back, check the battery, pair a new device (you can pair up to two devices simultaneously to the Jabra; I had no problem pairing it to both my Android smartphone and my MacBook Pro) or cancel. One additional command -- "voice commands" -- gives you access to your smartphone's voice controls, so that you can then, for example, make a call hands-off.

The Supreme UC comes with two ear cushions and an ear hook. The ear hook is a necessity, since the headset rests on top of the ear rather than inside it. On the one hand, this is great for people who dislike having a headset inside the ear canal; however, the headset never felt completely secure to me. (One of the two ear cushions does hook inside the ear and provided a bit more stability, but not quite enough.) You can bend the ear hook a bit to push it a bit more firmly against your ear, if you need to. It should withstand a reasonable amount of movement, but if you need to run for a bus, I'd hold on.

Sound quality

The sound quality was quite good -- I had no problem hearing my callers, especially when the active noise cancellation was active. It wasn't perfect -- when I made a call, it seemed to take a second or two for the headset to pick up the initial dial tone (even if the two were already connected). In addition, there was a very audible hiss during moments of silence.

On the other hand, my callers reported that the sound of my voice was excellent (one described it as "being very like using a landline phone") and background noise was minimized.

You can improve the sound quality with the Jabra Connect mobile app (available for iOS and Android). I played with the Android app a bit, and it turned out to be a handy and useful addition. The app allows you to enable active noise cancellation (which improves sound quality noticeably, especially on noise New York streets), and to choose one of three difference sound profiles -- outdoor, office and car/headband. You can also record audio notes.

However, I thought the most useful feature of the app was the fact that it saved the location of the Jabra whenever you started or stopped it, so that you could then locate the device on a Google map. If you left the device on, you can enable a "beacon" -- an increasingly loud alarm that makes the Jabra easier to find (assuming it's within earshot).

Bottom line

The Jabra Supreme UC is a nicely designed headset that offers excellent sound quality on the whole, although I had some quibbles. It is comfortable to wear (although it feels somewhat insecure, especially with glasses), and switches adroitly from smartphones to Internet calls. While I wouldn't recommend it for joggers, businesspeople who do a lot of calling might want to give it a try.

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