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Jabra C820s Headphones Review

by January 27, 2007
  • Product Name: Jabra C820s Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Jabra
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: January 27, 2007 17:19
  • MSRP: $ 199

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 22 kHz
Impedence: 64 Ohm
Noise Cancellation:  up to 22dB
Dimensions:  6 9/10” x 6 4/10” x 3 1/10”

Weight:  less than 7oz (200 grams)
Power:  1 x AAA battery
Battery life:  up to 50 hours


  • Excellent Active Noise Cancellation
  • Very comfortable
  • Removable headphone cable
  • Good value


  • Sound can be a bit bright at higher levels and with rock music
  • Noise cancellation feature slightly degrades sonic quality of music


Jabra C820s First Impressions

The name Jabra has become synonymous with Bluetooth earpieces for wireless phones. I have owned several and, in fact, I am currently using the BT250. I have come to expect quality products from Jabra, so I was very excited to find out about their new C820s corded stereo headphones. The C820s include Jabra's Active Noise Cancellation technology powered by a single AAA battery in an over-the-ear style stereo headphone. Over the years, I have traveled quite a bit, and have always been interested in noise canceling headphones, but price always kept me away. Spending upwards of $350 on a pair of headphones from you-know-who was something I could never bring myself to do.

I must admit, I was very excited when Jabra offered me a set of these headphones for review upon visiting their booth at the 2007 CES. On the flight out to Vegas, I had used a pair of noise canceling ear buds I had picked up for about $30, and let me just say that you get what you pay for. They did not fit my ear very well and the noise-canceling feature did not work very well at all.

I began writing this review in the air, flying home from Las Vegas, wearing the C820s headphones as I typed. Initially, I did not have the headphone cable attached (being able to remove it is a simple yet very thoughtful feature), as I just wanted to try out the noise cancellation feature while on a noisy little CRJ airplane. And I was not disappointed.

Upon opening the box I was immediately impressed with the build quality of the product. There are soft leatherette pads on the earpieces as well as the band that sits on your head. They feel very solid, but not too heavy. The design is simple and clean, with only one on/off switch on the outside of the left earpiece. There is a small, flush battery compartment door near the pad on the left earpiece for the single AAA battery that is required for the noise cancellation feature. Jabra claims a battery life of up to 50 hours – I have not yet used the headphones this long, but so far I have had no problems with the included battery. The cable actually detaches from the left earpiece for storage when not in use, for those long flights where you just need some silence.c820incase.jpg

Included in the package is a very nice black case that unzips to hold the headphones. The earpieces swivel so you can lay the unit flat in the case. There is a small zippered pocket that velcros into the top half of the case and holds the cord and the adapters, which include a 2.5 mm standard stereo audio cable, a two prong airline adapter and 3.5mm-6.5mm stereo adapter. There is also a connector cable for music phones with adapters.

I immediately found the comfort of these headphones to be top-notch. They are very easy to adjust, and they cupped over my ears without any problem. The soft ear pad cushions made a nice fit to my head that sealed out noise before even turning them on. (They seem to use that squishy memory foam that is found in those expensive Swedish mattresses and pillows.) But once I did turn them on, there was a dramatic shift.

The noise reduction sort of kicks in slowly - as if adjusting a volume control. I clicked the power switch on and was able to count to "one-one thousand, one" before the effect fully kicked in. The noise reduction is most effective on the lower frequency sounds, which is what makes the headphones so effective in a plane or automobile. It basically takes the "edge" off, and allows you to feel considerably more relaxed. These headphones will make my next flight to China much more tolerable.

Jabra C820s Sound Quality and Conclusion

c820closeup.jpgCan a company that has focused on mono earphones made for phone conversations make a great sounding pair of stereo headphones? The answer is yes, absolutely they can and they have. I was very pleased with the sonic character of the C820s. On the airplane, I used the included adapter to listen to the in-flight movie and music, both of which sounded very good – for an airplane at least. I found that in this environment, having the noise reduction feature turned on definitely boosted and improved the sound and overall experience. The source material on the airplane leaves something to be desired in terms of fidelity though, so I moved to my MacBook Pro laptop. I plugged in and listened to some songs from my iTunes library. I was really impressed with the fidelity. After trying different styles of earbuds, there is no question that I am ready to go back to a fully enclosed over the ear headphone. Even with the noise on a flight, I enjoyed rich fidelity at moderate volumes, and could crank it up extremely loud when I so pleased.

Back home in my office, I began testing the C820s again. This time I listened to CD's, my iPod, and my iTunes library. The first thing that I noticed, in this relatively quiet environment, was that the noise reduction feature degraded the sound considerably. This is not a criticism of the headphones, rather an observation on how to use them. When there is no real ambient noise to be reduced, the circuitry seems to find whatever it can, and the result is a muffled, more muted sound. It kicks the overall volume up a bit, but at a cost of fidelity.

Turning off the noise reduction revealed a very high quality stereo headphone. The C820s handled anything I threw at them. Deep, rich lows, with very bright high end - a tad bit too bright on some rock material at higher levels, but overall a very balanced and pleasing sonic experience.

Author’s Note: For those of you not familiar with Active Noise Reduction technology, here is a simplified explanation of what is going on: A microphone on the headphones measures the ambient noise. Then the noise cancellation electronics generates an inverted copy of the noise itself which when combined with the original sound disturbance results in a lower level of noise perceived by your ears. Sound confusing or bizarre? Maybe so, but it works. And it is really cool!

Conclusions and Overall Perceptions

The Jabra C820s excel as active noise reduction headphones, and are more than adequate as stand-alone stereo headphones. (When listening at home, you will want to keep the noise-canceling feature turned off.) If your primary need for headphones is in your home listening room, you will probably want to consider other options. But if you are like me, and find yourself all too often listening to your music and movies on an airplane, subway, bus or train, these headphones offer exceptional value and flexibility. The quality is equal or superior to other active noise reduction headphones on the market costing significantly more.

While the C820s is not cheap, with a MSRP of $199 it is still well over $100 less than the leading competitor. For more information visit: http://www.jabra.com.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Over the years J. has constantly found himself to be an "early-adopter," spending way too much money on "new" technologies such as Compact Disc, LaserDisc, and DVD. He is one of the few people who actually purchased (and still owns) a CORE programmable remote control (bonus points if you remember this product).

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