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Jabra CRUISER Bluetooth Speakerphone

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

Previously, I reviewed the Jabra Stone Bluetooth Headset. Personally, I am not a fan of wireless headsets for talking on my cell phone, although I was impressed with the capabilities of the Stone. When driving, however, I do prefer to use a hands-free device—especially since this is the law in Chicago. However, I would prefer not to have a headset stuck in my ear, no matter how stylish or inconspicuous it may be. Luckily, several companies make Bluetooth speakerphones, including Jabra. Their new Cruiser device allows you to sync with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and place and receive calls and communicate via speakerphone instead of a headset. As an added bonus, the Cruiser can also stream audio and broadcast calls and music over FM-band so you can listen in with your car speakers.

Setup

To begin using the Cruiser, you must first pair it with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. I had no problem pairing it with my HTC Fuze phone. Even those who are not overly tech-savvy shouldn’t have any problems thanks to voice prompts that guide you through the pairing process. While I did not need to enter a four-digit PIN code for my phone, you may be prompted for one. You can pair the Cruiser with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, although you can only use one device at a time for placing or answering telephone calls. Once I paired the Cruiser and my cell phone the first time, the two devices did so automatically with each subsequent use.

The Cruiser has a clip that allows you to install it on your sun visor. This positions the Cruiser’s two microphones directly in front of you to provide voice pickup for calls and voice commands.

Placing & Receiving Calls

After pairing the Cruiser with my cell phone, I could either dial a number using my phone’s keypad or by pressing the Cruiser’s call button and using voice commands for hands-free dialing (this option is not available with all cell phones). I did not have any problems with the Cruiser recognizing my voice commands.

When receiving calls, the Cruiser will announce caller ID information. If you are able to sync the Cruiser with your phone’s phonebook, the voice announcement system will announce the caller’s name. Otherwise, it will announce the telephone number of the caller.

Streaming Audio

Beyond using the Cruiser for hands-free calling, it can also stream audio over Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)‎. So, if your phone doubles as a media player, you can broadcast the music on your phone over the Cruiser’s integrated speaker. Since you can pair the Cruiser with two Bluetooth devices at the same time, you can also pair it with a dedicated audio player for streaming audio. The Cruiser has buttons on its front to skip forward and back and pause your songs (another reason why you will want to clip it on your sun visor, so its easily accessible for streaming audio operation).

Sound Clarity

The Cruiser has two microphones on its front and offers DSP noise reduction, which allowed others to hear me clearly while making speakerphone calls. Once, when driving a Ford Focus, I found that the Cruiser was almost directly above my head with the visor up (even though I had the seat all the way back), although it didn’t appear to impact my ability to be heard. I did find that I was looking up while talking to I ended up putting the visor down so I was looking directly ahead while driving and talking.

There is an integrated speaker on the back of the Cruiser that did a good job of broadcasting incoming voices, although they were slightly tinny.

For streaming video, the integrated speaker provided only average sound quality. There was no depth to the sound due to a lack of bass.

FM Transmission

If you find that the integrated speaker is not sufficient for hearing calls, or if you want to use the Cruiser for streaming audio, you are better off using its FM transmission technology. The Cruiser has a built-in FM transmitter that allows you to select an FM-band frequency over which it broadcasts calls and music. After you a select a frequency with the Cruiser, tune your car stereo to the same frequency to hear audio over the car’s speakers. One thing to keep in mind is that this transmission is not secure—anyone within range of the Cruiser can listen in if their radio is tuned to the same frequency.

Using the Cruiser to transmit streaming audio over FM definitely improved the audio quality of streaming music, although not to the point where I would use it for extended periods of time. For calls, it does allow you to increase the volume, making them much easier to hear.

Keep in mind that audio quality over FM is also impacted by how crowded the airwaves are in your area. Around metropolitan Chicago and Detroit it was harder to find a clear FM frequency than it was while driving through rural Indiana and Michigan.

BatteryLife

According to Jabra, the Cruiser offers up to 14 hours of talk time and 13 days of standby. I was able to use the Jabra almost continuously for either calls or streaming audio during an eight-hour roadtrip without recharging. For charging, the Cruiser has a micro-USB port.

Bottom Line

I found the Jabra Cruiser to be an excellent hands-free phone accessory. The call quality over the integrated speaker was more than adequate and the background-noise cancellation technology allowed others to hear me clearly as well. The added functionality of transmitting calls and streaming music over FM-band radio puts the Cruiser in a class almost by itself.

Jabra Cruiser Bluetooth Speakerphone
www.jabra.com
$99.99

Pros

  • Easy setup and use
  • Streaming audio capability
  • FM transmission of calls and music
  • Portable charger

Cons

  • Quality of FM-transmission streaming audio impacted by location
  • FM transmission of calls not secure
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @AAII_CI.