Jabra Evolve2 65 Bluetooth Headset Reviewed

The virtual landscape of lockdown has left a few people in the lurch without sufficient camera/microphone/headphone setups for wasting hours in endless video meetings. Some of those people asked me what I’d recommend, and some common issues were raised which – I’m afraid – precious few Bluetooth headsets really address.

While the Jabra Evolve2 65 aren’t the panacea I was hoping for, they bring some great features to the table that have made them my go-to Bluetooth headset for the time being and deferred my plans for grabbing a 2.4Ghz wireless headset. They have good range, a comprehensive range of settings, great accessories and accompanying software that isn’t completely awful.

First, let’s get the common issues with Bluetooth out of the way since they affect virtually every product I’ve tested and are- broadly- just par for the course unless your headset includes a very specifically engineered dongle that does Weird Things to circumvent them.

Good stereo audio, or Microphone. Pick one.

Basically every Bluetooth communications headset I’ve tested with my PC, once connected, will show as two different audio devices. One is generally “Stereo Audio” or something to that tune- in Jabra land this is “Headphones (Jabra Evolve2 65 Stero)”. The other will be a “Headset”- in Jabra land this is “Headset (Jabra Evolve2 65 Hands-Free AG Audio)”

The “Headphones” device has no microphone support, but delivers high quality audio for music or video listening. It’s what you’ll use when you’re *not* on a voice call. This is excellent for a mobile phone where the desire for super high fidelity audio *and* microphone input is basically non existent. You’re either listening to music or on a call, but not both.

However, on a PC you have edge cases. Lots of edge cases. Specifically a Windows computer likes to open the microphone device for myriad reasons and will abruptly shunt your audio from lovely-sounding-wonderful-music to tinny-awful-garbage with basically no visual feedback as to why this just happened. This confuses the heck out of people- I’ve talked to 2-3 people directly about *just* this problem, and at least one has given up and favoured a USB headset.

If you’re a gamer you’re probably already screaming that a Bluetooth headset is a no-go. The Jabra Evolve2 65 isn’t marketed at you. Go away! That said, I’m a gamer too- I just swap to some wired headphones because the convenience of Bluetooth far outweighs the drawbacks of juggling extra devices.

Hi, I’m your phone, Notice me. Hello!

Similarly every headset I’ve tested has a small problem of audio-device-fighting when using multi-point Bluetooth. For those of who (everyone, probably) who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about “multi-point” is the concept of having your PC and phone connected to the same headset at the same time. Most of the time this is great and it’s really nice to be able to answer a call *anywhere*, grab the headset and have it Just Work.

Most of the time, however, it also manifests the troublesome using of the phone – chiefly my iPhone seems to be a nuisance for this across multiple headsets – fighting the PC for control over the audio device, resulting in sound frequently cutting out. I’ve developed a casual habit of disabling Bluetooth on my iPhone when trying to use a headset with my PC and this is… kinda contrived, but it’s what works for me.

Another potential solution for users of the Evolve2 65 is to “Prioritise computer audio” under settings in the Jabra Direct desktop app, but this may have unintended consequences if you’re using audio from your phone and – for example – a computer notification sound pops out of the blue.

So what makes the Evolve2 65 good?

First off, Jabra have put together a cracking little headset here. Albeit the emphasis is somewhat on the little. I’m not a particularly big boi and this headset feels a little on the small side for me. The microphone boom likes to get cosy with my face and it isn’t possible to reposition it like a goose-neck one might. The on-ear design also isn’t my favourite, but it’s certainly cooler and less imposing than larger, over-ear headphones.

But, despite being a little on the small side I’m finding the Evolve2 65 to be extremely convenient for one key reason: they – optionally- ship with a charging stand.

The charging stand changes everything.

It seems like both a small accomodation and a seemingly obvious one, but the Jabra Evolve2 65 are the first headset I’ve tested that come with a stand for direct charging. Heck even the SteelSeries Arctis Pro have a swappable battery instead of a stand, and most headsets suffice with just a port and a USB cable.

In the past I’ve run my Bluetooth headset until I can’t stand the low battery warnings anymore, then stuck it on charge – awkwardly hung over a monitor stand with an AC adapter plugged in – and grabbed another pair to continue listening. With the Jabra Evolve2 65 they are *always* on charge, so I’ve never had to worry about them running out. It takes a little practise to locate the headset correctly on the stand- requiring proper alignment in two directions- but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.

In addition to keeping the battery perpetually topped up, the charging stand- assuming (and you should) you train yourself to return the headset to it- provides a sensible, predictable place for your headset to be and it’s always easy to grab when you get an incoming call. Couple this with the ability to answer a call by just donning the headset and swooping the boom microphone into place and the whole experience is really fluid and nice. It’s just a shame it’s Bluetooth.

The charging stand lets me down…

Here’s the thing, though. The charging stand has a USB cable. “It’s just for power?” I hear you say, unsure of yourself because you know what’s coming. “NO!” It’s got a data connection. It has FIRMWARE. It does *things*. Yet one of those things is not Bluetooth. Why, Jabra, WHY!?

Indeed the charging stand presumably has some functionality to relay back to your OS when the headset has been picked up, this is pretty cool, and indeed it does have firmware and I’ve even updated the firmware on it. I updated. The firmware. On a charging stand. What? But it completely fails to incorporate any additional wireless hardware which could have transformed the Jabra Evolve2 65 from a hamstrung-by-Bluetooth great headset to a Gosh-Darned-Amazing headset.

Since Plantronics optionally ship their Voyager 8200 headphones with a magic Bluetooth dongle (BT600) that trades range (all of it) for good audio *and* a microphone in perfect harmony, it would seem only logical that Jabra make their stand do the same. But it doesn’t. And that makes me sad.

There’s a USB dongle though, may… NOPE

The USB dongle, which took me an embaressingly long time to locate in its own pocket in the lucsious leatherette case that ships with the Evolve2 65, is- insofar as I can tell- a regular, run of the mill, boring Bluetooth dongle that serves no purpose other than to add Bluetooth to computers which don’t already have it or improve it where it’s not quite up to snuff. For most people this might be entirely superfluous but there are plenty of devices out there with old Bluetooth implementations that it could handily replace.

The dongle supplied with the Jabra Evolve2 65 is the Jabra Link 380 and the Jabra software provides a handful of options for configuring it, one of which is “Wireless range”. This is the option I’d have expected to grant me a better stero audio + microphone experience when set to “Very low”, but firing up some tunes in Spotify and hitting record in Audacity still turned my audio from bassy, lovely (quite decent actually), punchy and listenable into a tinny mess. It’s a good way to simulate what it’s like to listen to a song as hold music, but otherwise disappointing.

From the specs the Jabra Link 380 basically brings Bluetooth 5.0 to devices that don’t have it, including HFP 1.7, DIP 1.3, A2DP 1.3.1 and AVRCP 1.6.0- these are Hands-free Protocol, Device ID Protocol, Advanced Audio (A2, haha) Distribution Profile (for slightly less sucky than normal sound), and Audio/Video Remote Control Protocol for… well I think you can figure that out. Unlike the Plantronics B600 which can barely get high-quality audio through a sheet of paper the Jabra Link- even with range set to “Very Low” – appears to cover my entire house. No, really, I tried every corner of the house and even outdoors and there were no obvious range related dropouts, just the odd crackle every now and then in seemingly random locations *closer* to my computer.

While using either the Jabra Link or laptop’s built-in Bluetooth I noticed it takes about a second to pick up PC audio when starting or resuming playback of – for example – a YouTube video. I believe this is pretty standard for multi-point Bluetooth setups, but it can feel a bit jarring if you’re used to the immediacy of wired headphones. This is the case even when only a single device is currently connected to the headset.

The Jabra Link dongle allow allows wireless configuration of the Evolve2 65 headset, which appears to be normally only possible when connected to your computer via a wire (noting that my workstation has Bluetooth 4.2 and the dongle 5, which might make a difference here). With only the dock showing in Jabra Direct I plugged in the Jabra Link and the Link and Headset appeared promptly. While I did suspect the Bluetooth version might play a part here, setting up the Jabra Direct software on my Alienware m15 r3 with Bluetooth 5.0 and pairing the headset with the built-in Bluetooth did not reveal any settings. It would seem to be a dongle thing!

This cements the usefulness of the dongle and again makes me really wish it was either built into the desk stand, or had a port it could be inserted into to avoid the Jabra Evolve2 65 eating *two* of my USB ports. To be fair I plug the Jabra Link directly into my laptop and the desk stand into my Thunderbolt 3 dock, so it’s not a problem for *me*, but not all setups have USB ports abound.

Headset updates

There was also a firmware update for the headset itself waiting in the intertubes once I’d installed the Jabra app. Interestingly it wasn’t just a bugfix release, and included even support for USB audio which is… pretty cool.

I did test USB audio and it doesn’t provide any advantages over Bluetooth- having the same mutually exclusive relationship between good audio and the microphone being enabled- but it’s a nice-to-have feature none the less.

A e s t h e t i c & Construction

The Evolve2 65 also look good. Real good. This doesn’t matter all that much since you’re trapped at home, alone, in a ceaseless abyss of social isolation… but you can hook up a mirrorless camera for company video meetings and look great in your slick, black and grey headset and mismatched pyjamas.

The main arms of the headset, connecting the ear-cups to the headband, might look plastic at a glance but a quick touch tells me they’re solid aluminium with a luxe matte finish. This – of course – means they will outlast the rest of the headset, but they’ll look darn good doing it. The rest of the headset is sleek, minimal and unassuming with basically nothing superfluous. These are unashamedly discrete and professional headphones designed to look at home in an office.

The Evolve2 65 come with the usual complement of buttons but I haven’t really used any of them. Most features are pretty much automatic and I have audio play/pause and volume controls on my keyboard should I ever need them.

The headset speaks to you in plain ol’ English to indicate power and connection status, this is a nice touch that I’m already used to from Plantronics headsets and preferable to the alarming tones and beeps that some headphones like to scare the bejesus out of me with… usually just as I’m drifting off.

There’s no immediately obvious way to remove the ear pads, but I promise you that a little push outward on either side will pop them off relatively effortlessly. It was easy enough to feel this out by twisting and pushing gently until they gave in just the right way to suggest plastic clips. A good firm push will lock them back in place. The leatherette cups are glued to a plastic base and the part is replaceable as a whole. A cursory glance over Amazon found only packs of 6 pairs of replacement pads, however, running at around £68 or roughly £12 a pair. The same set of 6 is available from Jabra for £72 again £12 a pair. This is a pretty decent price for a set of replacement cups, with Plantronics running around £15 for third-party-cups-of-dubious-origin but I can’t find any obvious way to buy *just one set.* They’re built well, but I strongly suspect these headphones wont outlast 6 changes of ear cushion.

Comfort/Fit

Harking back to my original comments, the Jabra Evolve2 65 are pretty small. They benefit from being lightweight and relatively cool to wear over long durations, but have felt a little hard on my ears sometimes- albeit not all the time. Perhaps what I’m really feeling is the four walls – that have been my continuous, uninterrupted existence during lockdown – crushing in on me. While the Evolve2 65 stay planted on my head during long sessions of sitting in front of the computer, they’re not well suited to strenuous lockdown activities such as nodding, standing up, or looking at the floor contemplating the meaning of existence and wondering if life will ever return to any semblance of normality.

These are, without a shadow of a doubt, not headphones I would use while skateboarding, or even outdoors at all. Played to their strengths, however, they are a truly stellar sat-at-my-desk-for-eternity companion that will supply music while I do Professional Adulting elsewhere in the house. Even if I do have to adjust the fit frequently. It should be stated that my right ear is something of a surgically reconstructed half-miracle, half-frankenstein monster and it doesn’t often work well with on-ear headphones. Your mileage may vary when it comes to these staying put on your head.

Software

As I’ve aluded above, firmware updates were available for the Jabra Link 380, Evolve2 65 and the Deskstand. These were all served via the Jabra Direct app which seems to be relatively unassuming and gets by on around 50MB of RAM.

All connected Jabra products can be selected via a clear, pictoral menu along the bottom and a basic but functional way to browse the various settings.

The settings for the Jabra Evolve2 65 number just over a dozen and cover things like audio volume protection, sleep time, sidetone configuration and lots of toggles for various features that may irritate you if it weren’t possible to turn them off. Notably things like “Button sounds”, “Boom arm mute” and “Auto resume audio by motion detection” which are what I might call “marmite” features.

Surprisingly there’s also an option to enable “Firmware upgrade lock” which shows Jabra’s pedigree in producing headsets for commercial settings. I imagine I don’t need to explain how enormously useful this feature is, but if you’re unfamiliar with unexpected software updates raining hell on tech support… it’s a thing.

Another feature not unique to Jabra but welcome nonetheless is the ablity to customise the voice notifications from the headset to one of a handful of languages- French, English, German and what my English-addled brain can only assume are Chinese, Japanese and Korean (Google translate confirms this, and I even got them in the right order so I’m not a total idiot). Even if you’ve purchased a US English headset you can swap it over to French if it takes your fancy or- uh- you speak French.

Overall

I’d recommend the Jabra Evolve2 65 if you’re comfortable dealing with the quirks of a Bluetooth headset and want the freedom to roam your house, make a cup of tea, or just pace back and forth thoughtfully as you deal with another soul-crushingly extraneous and long-winded virtual meeting. They are a cracking pair of headphones with a great set of features, a solid construction and a sensible business look and feel.

They aren’t the best physical fit for me, but this is difficult to extraploate to other users and even in spite of this they’ve been my go-to now for most of November and I haven’t reached for any other set of headphones- apart from my iFrogs for in bed- since. The convenience of a charging stand just can’t be beat.