Can you shift, steer, clutch, hold your coffee, and hit the brakes all at the same time? We can, but only just. Add in a ringing cellular phone, and something is going to get dropped. Usually it is the freshly bought coffee directly on the delicate part of our lap. Since we started carrying a cell phone "for emergencies" we have tried a plethora of headsets and none of them have worked. Until the Jawbone.
None of our Jeeps are quiet: The tops flap, the mud-tire lugs slap at the pavement, and the exhaust that has been so carefully tuned for free flow isn't silent-not to mention the radio or the noise when the windows are out. So since that first "just for emergencies" phone, we've been looking for a way to not burn ourselves when the phone rings.
After hundreds of dollars over the years, we one day stumbled across the site for Aliph, the manufacturer of the Jawbone Bluetooth headset. It touts Noise Assassin technology and boasts the use of battlefield-proven algorithms for noisy helicopter cockpits. We'd heard it before. So many of those hundreds of dollars went to headsets that touted "less ambient noise," "less background noise," and the like that we were skeptical.
Then, on the Jawbone Web site, we saw a video of a construction site in which there's jack hammering, gas-powered sawing, and generators running, and a person is able to make a call and the viewer can hear what the difference is with the Noise Assassin on or off. Another video shows a person in a dirt track race car with the same effect. We were sure there was some trickery going on but decided to take a gamble and blow another hundred bucks, and we are glad we did.
The package arrives with the Jawbone headset, four metal ear loops, five different rubber earpieces, a charger, and an instruction manual. We put the thing on charge and took the windows out of the Jeep, and after a simple pairing procedure with our phone, went for a drive and called people. Even over the mud tires and the exhaust noise, people on the other end could hear us. We then turned on the radio, and they could still hear us with no problems. In fact, they didn't know we were driving until the wind blew across the headset.
We then took out the M-715, which at 55 mph has a decibel level from 100-110 dB. As you might imagine, a phone call in the M-truck is quite impossible unless you're going under 20 mph or, better yet, stopped. With the front windows down and the back window rolled up, we hopped out onto the highway and up to 55 mph, then made a call. The person at the other end could hear us and we could hear them. They knew we were driving but thought we were in a TJ, not the big loud army truck.
The way it works is by using what the company refers to as a Voice Activity Sensor (VAS) which detects when you are speaking and can capture the frequencies of the user's speech. Then it compares those frequencies to all the noise coming in through the "normal" microphone and cancels out whatever doesn't match. It works so well, in fact, that it also cancels out 99 percent of the voices around you, to the point that if someone you are with wants to talk to your caller, either you play the mimic game two ways or you shut the headset off. The headset also uses that normal microphone input to determine the ambient noise level and automatically adjusts the volume to the wearer so that they can hear the person on the other end better.
We have noticed some issues with this headset, however. We never did find an included rubber ear bud that fit our ears and ended up using an ear gel from another old headset. The metal ear loop seemingly breaks at a glance but replacements are available at a reasonable cost. We went through eight of them before discovering we didn't need it anyway.
In a Jeep, with the top down, the direct wind confuses the unit. So with the top down, the headset has to be worn on the ear nearest the center of the Jeep. Also, if the wind is coming in from the back as it tends to do, sometimes a slight turn of the head is needed to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
Overall, this is a great headset that not only keeps us legal but stands up to the abuse even we dish out. It actually allows a conversation to occur in not only a regular Jeep but a big loud army truck, too.