Tech News on G4

Sound Blaster JAM Budget Bluetooth Headphones

Sep 21, 2015

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin' - G4 Canada

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Creative Sound Blaster JAMFinding a pair of budget headphones that has both a recognized brand name and wireless is not always the easiest thing. So when I discovered the Creative Sound Blaster JAM is Bluetooth enabled, supports NFC  (near field communications) and retails for under $50 U.S., it certainly piqued my curiosity.

Sound Blaster Jam looks like a typical set of charcoal grey pre-millennium on-ear headphones fitted with a pair of traditional foam cushions except without wires.  They have an operating range of up to 15 m, a little less than typical Bluetooth, but then again, the further you stray from your music source, the more breakup you'll probably get.

Earcup Controls

The controls are located on the right side with most set inconspicuously on the right ear cup, where you can play, pause and tune, adjust your volume and even take a call.

There's also a hidden omnidirectional microphone built-in so not only can you listen, you can also talk and walk as you go. I found the pickup better than expected in calm indoor/ outdoor environments. However, because of the distance from the microphone to your mouth, if you're walking somewhere like through a mall or bus terminal, you might find that there's quite a bit of noise pickup.

I also discovered while at the checkout of my local Safeway that Siri was having a few challenges fully understanding what I was trying to say. Also, if I needed to stop and talk to somebody, let's say the cashier, as long as I turned down the sound I didn't actually have to remove the headphones to be able to hear her. Of course the tradeoff is that if your volume is cranked up, beware that there will be some sound leakage through the foam or you may not be a very popular seatmate, especially when flying in economy class.

Creative Sound Blaster JAMBehind the earcups are a pair of 32mm neodymium drivers that do a decent job of sound reproduction. At full volume, you may get some distortion and a little loss in the highs. Some callers did complained of some tininess during phone calls. Of course, the sound is nowhere near a $200 pair. Regardless, it certainly exceeded my expectations, especially for a Bluetooth enabled headset, which by nature still does not offer exactly the same fidelity as wired ones. JAM does support Bluetooth A2DP, AVRCP and HFP, but not aptX compression that could account for some of it.

Bass Enhancement and 12-hour Battery

One really neat feature JAM offers is bass enhancement. Simply push the feature button on the right earcup and it automatically engages.

Jam also offers great battery life. Its built-in rechargeable 3.7 V 200 mAh lithium-ion battery should give you up to 12 hours of listening pleasure. Of course results will depend on how loud you set your playback and how often you use the microphone. To alert you when you need to recharge, you'll get a low battery tone beeping when you reach about 15 minutes of remaining power which I did get after about a week of on and off use.

USB Connectivity

JAM also allows for USB connectivity, through the micro USB port, which is also the charging port, so you can stream your audio through your Mac or PC. Unfortunately, there is no provision to connect it to a standard headphone jack.

Creative Sound Blaster JAMOverall, Jam offers a great wireless solution for consumers on a tight budget or those looking for an inexpensive spare pair. They are not for the audiophile purist or fashionista, but they feel well made, have great battery life and ideal for listening to streaming audio and podcasts, which I listen to on a daily basis.

One nice feature I would like to have seen is the ability for them to full down fold down for easier storage, but the decent quality and functionality not to mention the price wouldn't make this a deal breaker.

And finally, I was also pleasantly surprised that although there is no foam or rubber padding in the headband area, the headphones are ultra-light (83g), sit nicely on my head and are very comfortable to wear even for extended periods of time.

The Creative Sound Blaster JAM headphones include a bright red 1m USB cable and retails for $49.99 US (about $63 CDN). It's available directly from Creative and on Amazon.

Pros
Bluetooth, NFC, USB connectivity
Low cost
Comfortable
12-hour battery life

Cons
Not foldable
No headphone jack or aptX
Some sound bleeding

Rating: 4 / 5

Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net , GadgetGreg.com , or on Twitter @GadgetGreg

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