Jabra c820s

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  • User Reviews (1)
  • Buy Now 3
Jabra c820s
  • Jabra c820s
  • Jabra c820s
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5
  • User Rating

    4.50 / 5 (of 1 Review)


  • Decent sound and noise cancelling, price


  • Not quite up there with Bose's QCs yet

Bottom Line

An excellent choice of noise canceling headphones for the budget conscious.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 3 stores)

  • Jabra Spare Headband for PRO 920, 930 (14121-27) 19.96
  • Jabra PRO 920, 930 Spare Charger (14209-03) 51.50
  • Jabra PRO 920 Spare Headset (14401-08) 131.33
See all prices

Not typically a company associated with noise canceling headphones, in the c820s Jabra has nonetheless produced an impressive device. Offering a great balance between performance and price, they provides some serious competition to other manufacturers such as Bose and Etymotic. We took to the skies to compare the new pretender against another popular model, the Bose QuietComfort 3.

From the minute we began listening it was clear that with regards to sound quality, the c820s are a little lacking. Though they generally sound pretty good, they just aren't quite sharp enough. The highs lack clarity, the bass notes lack punch and everything feels a little clouded. Obviously they aren't designed to be an ultra high fidelity masterpiece, which is reflected in their price, and we think most people should be happy with the sound quality.

Of course, the most important aspect of noise cancelling headphones is their noise cancelling abilities. We took the c820s to a variety of noisy environments, and found that though they performed fairly respectably, the QCs from Bose had the edge. We also took the c820s onto a street and in a bus, and while many external sounds were dulled or blocked out, they still weren't quite as good as we had seen with Bose's product.

The real test for noise canceling headphones however is on a plane. Nothing challenges them quite so much as a jet engine roaring in the background, so we took the c820s up to 30,000ft to test them out again. Here, the differences between the Bose and the Jabra were less marked. We'd still give it to the QCs overall, but the c820s did a sterling job of blocking out most sounds. One excellent feature that gives a notch to Jabra's belt is the ability to listen to music without battery power. Obviously noise cancelling doesn't work in this mode, but should the battery die at least you aren't without music. Bose is yet to implement this feature on any of its noise canceling headphones.

Using an ear covering design, Jabra is one of the few manufacturers that has managed to match Bose's clever concealment of the battery compartment within the earpiece, negating the need for a weighty external case. This is excellent news for the frequent traveler. The c820s takes a single AAA battery which lasts for an impressive 50 hours of playback.

Jabra, like Bose, has also included the full range of accessories. There's a hard carry case and a wide range of adapters so that the c820s can connect to in flight entertainment, mobile phones with 2.5mm jacks or HiFi systems using 6.7mm jacks. We also thought the c820s were well constructed, and Jabra has done a decent job of making the headphones look attractive. Comfort is obviously a priority, and for the most part we found the c820s pleasant to wear, even for long periods. On a few occasions we felt minor discomfort on our ears, but shifting the headphones a little solved the problem.

Overall, it should be clear that the c820s aren't quite up to the standard of Bose's headphones. They're pretty good though, and are superior to most of the competition. However, what we have yet to mention is price. The c820s retail for under half the cost of Bose's competing products. For most people this fact alone could be the deciding factor. The Bose headphones are better, but the value for money offered by the c820s may tip the scales for many buyers.

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Audio quality, decent looks, value for money.
Plastic construction is possibly fragile.
• • •

I bought these headphones for exercising so I didn't want anything too fancy, but I was so impressed by the audio quality that these have become my everyday headphones.

First impression is quite good. The headphones are packaged in a hard case with felt-lined interior. Cables and adaptors tuck neatly inside the case within a removable velcro bag. The speakers turn to lie flat, allowing for a slimmer case. The overall package is neat and professional. Ideally suited for storage and travelling.

The headphones look decent with subdued highlights and a pleasant overall shape. However my first complaint is the plastic construction; although the headphones have a metal strip hidden inside the head band for added strength, the rest of the body is made from plastic. The headphones are unexpectedly light, which doesn't inspire confidence in the overall product strength. I've had this pair for a few years and there are no cracks yet, but durability is an ongoing concern.

The headphones sit comfortably on the ears with nice leatherette pads and padded headband. The band length is adjustable and easily accommodates my gigantic head. The pads completely enclose the ears which can get quite warm, especially when exercising, but this is true for all headphones of this design. The noise reduction from the pads alone is good - about 30dB by my best guess. I can and have worn these headphones for several hours without discomfort.

The battery compartment is concealed under the phone arms and accepts one AAA battery. The battery is required for active noise cancellation but the headphones also work perfectly in passive mode without battery power. As passive headphones these are really quite excellent. There is no discernible hiss, no popping, and no hum when the track is silent. Playing a rock guitar track (Jeff Beck) the drums are slightly subdued, indicating a smallish driver, but in practise this means more emphasis on voice and guitar, which for most people is desirable anyway. The audio is not as good as a pair of AKG studio headphones but they easily reach within 85% of that goal. I was pleasantly surprised.

With active noise cancellation enabled the headphones become much punchier. Listening to some drum&bass (Friction) the low-end expands and the dynamic range increases. I would say they are actually bass heavy and I tend to use the EQ on my player to put some high-end back, but this is personal preference. The noise cancellation is spookily effective. Clapping my hands in front of my face is nearly silent. The normal background noise of the gym/home/work disappears completely.

I adore these headphones to the point where I use them more often than my AKG studios, and for the price they simply can't be beat. I only regret not buying a second pair when I had the chance. There are other headphones that offer marginally better audio quality, but nothing that offers this kind of value for money.

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