Monday, August 18, 2008

Review on the Jawbone Bluetooth earpiece

California recently passed a new law stating that people operating thier vehicles MUST use a hands-free device if they talk on the phone.  This law went into effect July 1st 2008.   The two laws were the result of SB 1613 and SB 33, authored by Senator Joe Simitian and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2006.

[caption id="attachment_340" align="alignright" width="176" caption="Jawbone"][/caption]

In any result, the law has been in effect now for over a month and a half now and if you don't abide by the law, the 1st offense is a $20 fine, 2nd offense is $50 and it goes up consecutively.  In any case, I'm not here to discuss the law, I'm here to talk about the Jawbone.

[caption id="attachment_341" align="alignleft" width="165" caption="Top picture of my Jawbone earpiece, the Aliph Jawbone  (black)"]Top picture of my Jawbone earpiece, the Aliph Jawbone 2 (black)[/caption]

I've had a bluetooth headset piece for quite some time however, the prior one I had was a pile of crap.  When I was driving nobody could hear me, all they would hear is the sound of wind blowing inside my car (my air conditioning doesn't work) and as a result, the call quality was terrible.

However, I was recently given (for free) a spare Jawbone earpiece.  The particular model I have retails on Amazon for approximately $80.  The main feature which has made the Jawbone so popular is its noise canceling technology.  Jawbone call this feature the "NoiseAssassin".  NoiseAssassin is an advanced algorithm which was under development for a number of years for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

[caption id="attachment_342" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Graph representing how the NoiseAssassin filters out the background audio making your voice easier to understand in noisy environments."]Graph representing how the NoiseAssassin filters out the background audio making your voice easier to understand in noisy environments.[/caption]

The original design for NoiseAssassin required powerful noise suppression algorithms for use in the most extreme acoustic noise environments including battlefields and helicopters. The algorithms use Jawbone's two microphones and the VAS to accurately model the noise environment. (1)  Essentially it detects when and how a person is speaking, models the noise, and aggressively eliminates it.

A minority of people have complained that the audio quality when using the Jawbone was hard to understand, I did a test myself, listen to the audio samples below.

Audio test using the Jawbone earpiece:[audio:]

Audio test not using the Jawbone earpiece: [audio:]

Judging by my tests, the quality using the Jawbone isn't really all that bad.  I sound a bit louder using the Jawbone but I think that's due to NoiseAssassin actively filtering out the background noise and trying to compensate by boosting my voice.  To further my testing, I called Corion on the phone to get a second opinion on the quality of the call, this is what he had to say:
There was no major loss in quality between using the earpiece or the phone itself.

Aside from the noise-cancelling technology, the Jawbone also has additional features including:

  • Ability be worn on either ear

  • 4 earloops made of medal and 5 earbuds for a custom fit

  • Ability to be charged via USB (using proprietary cable); also includes a wall charger

  • Audio volume control indicators to let you know the audio level as you adjust the volume

  • LED to let you know when the earpiece has been fully charged or turned on/off

  • Up to 6 hours talk time and 120 hours standby time


  1. Jawbone - NoiseAssassin information