Ever since Apple announced that the iPhone 7 would no longer feature a 3.5mm audio jack and instead would launch wireless earbuds called AirPods, the wireless headphone and earbud market had a massive leap in sales*, resulting in Apple taking a large slice of the pie. Similar announcements by a number of other leading phone brands have only increased the demand for wireless audio, so it is of no surprise that we are now seeing a flood of hundreds, if not thousands of wireless headphones enter the market. If you were an audio brand, what would be a good way of distinguishing your products from everything else out there? One innovating way would be to integrate fitness monitoring, which is exactly what Jabra have done with their latest earbuds dubbed Jabra Elite Sport.
Jabra, previously known for their hand’s free devices and office audio equipment, took a jump into the consumer audio arena several years back, having produced both traditional ear buds and headphones, alongside Bluetooth speakers (one of which I still use to this day). The decision to launch Bluetooth earbuds was no doubt bolstered by the trend in ditching the audio jack and the improvement in Bluetooth audio quality. By combining with a heart-rate monitor, Jabra has produced quite a unique audio product that is not only wireless but also durable (i.e. sweat proof) making it perfect for those sporty types.
* Source: Intelligent Slice
- True wireless smart earbuds
- Waterproof up to 1 metre
- Jabra Sport Life for Apple iOS and Android
- Bluetooth version: 4.1
- Music and calls: Elite Sport is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices, including Apple iPhone, Android, and Windows devices.
- Performance tracking: Elite Sport is compatible with Bluetooth smart ready devices supporting Apple iOS and Android.
- Jabra Sport Life app is compatible with Android and Apple iOS.
Battery and charging case
- Talk/music time (with or without tracking): Up to 4.5 hours continuous play time
- Charging case provides additional 2 full charges of up to 13.5 hours
- Bespoke bass-enriched speakers with 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range
- Passive noise cancellation
- HearThrough channelling external ambient noise into earbuds for awareness
- Advanced calling with 4 x digital MEMS microphones with advanced noise cancellation technology
- Microphone sensitivity: -38 dBV/Pa
- Microphone frequency range: 100 Hz to 10 kHz
- General controls: volume, HearThrough, pair mode, Siri / Google Now activation
- Music controls: play, pause, track forward, track backward.
- Call controls: call answer, end, reject.
- Tracking controls: open Jabra Sport Life App, start/stop and pause work-out, real time coaching feedback
- Clinical grade in-ear heart rate monitor
- TrackFit motion counting sensor [tri-axis accelerometer]
Earwings & eargels
- 3 sizes of earwings (S, M, L)
- 3 sizes of silicone eargels (S, M, L)
- 3 sizes of foam tips (S, M, L)
- Time, speed, distance, pace, steps, cadence, calories, heart rate, heart rate zone, VO2 Max estimation, repetitions*, real-time audio coaching
- *Varies by activity and requires Jabra Sport Life
- Waterproof rated to IP67
- 3-year extended warranty against perspiration damage (requires registration through the Jabra Sport Life app)
The Elite Sports come in a pretty standard box, grey-scale with the Jabra yellow theme. The front can be opened to display the earbuds behind a window.
The Elite Sports come in in a plastic shell, which can be lifted to reveal the different buds and wings. There are three sizes of the foam and silicon buds and 3 sizes for the silicon wings. A short micro USB cable is supplied along with a quick start guide and other warranty information.
The earbuds themselves are fairly large. Out of the box, you get to select the buds you want, although a pair of wings is fitted as standard. These can be easily replaced. On the right earbud, you have a microphone, heart rate monitor (bottom edge) and the buttons to control the app (top) and play/pause/power/answer call button (bottom). The left earbud has volume up/next track (+) and volume down/previous track (-). The two small holes on each earbud are microphones for noise cancellation, calls, and HearThrough.
On the reverse of the earbuds, you have the charging points. You can just about make out the heart rate monitor on the bottom of the right earbud.
Software / App
The Elite Sport earbuds use standard 4.1 Bluetooth, so can be used with any device that can connect to them. This means whatever your app, the audio can be streamed directly to the earbuds, allowing you to make use of the standard audio controls and wireless nature.
Jabra does provide a fitness app that is required if you want to make use of the heart-rate monitoring. The app, called “Jabra Sports Life” can be downloaded from the Play or App Store, however, you must also download the Jabra Service app, which contains their library. I’m not 100% certain as to why Jabra have opted for a second app to make this compatible, however, it is lightweight and can just sit in the background.
The app itself is designed for fitness tracking and monitoring, so has a ton of features to help you do that, such as VO2max, cool down and other tests. When you first run the app it talks you through pairing your phone with the Elite Sports and then asks for some information on yourself and then some short calibration tests to ensure the heart-rate monitor is a good fit. If it isn’t, it suggests you change the wings to get a better fit.
You can now log exercise when you press and hold the lower button on the right earphone. You are also able to view your current heart-rate, which is not that far out from my FitBit Blaze I wear – although I suspect it is slightly more accurate considering it has a tighter fit.
I can only scratch the tip of the iceberg with this review as the app is incredibly in-depth allowing you to record and track your exercise routines, displaying all sorts of information, allowing you to optimise your workout – perfect for those that frequent the gym or are really focused on their wellbeing.
Performance and Testing
As with all audio reviews, it can be quite subjective when testing, as some peoples’ hearing is different from others – adults tend to miss out the higher-pitch ranges, so take this review with a pinch of salt.
The earbuds were very easy to set up. Essentially the right earbuds do all the work – it pairs to your phone, houses the microphone and heart-rate monitor. They communicate automatically with each other via near field magnetic induction
Not being a massively sporty person, I decided to go for a quick run. Firstly, I must point out that the Elite Sports have a great fit and I couldn’t feel any movement. One of my biggest worries was that they’d come loose and fall out, which isn’t ideal when you’re on a jog down a country footpath. The medium wing tips seemed to fit best and there was a big difference in noise cancellation when using the foam earbuds over the silicon.
The audio quality is fantastic for earbuds – I must expect I wasn’t anticipating any real depth to them, but the Elite Sports seem to have that little extra to the bass, although not as much richness as you’d get from the larger headphones. Mids and highs were spot on and the range is decent too – no matter what genre I throw at them, the sound reproduction was crisp and pleasant on the ears (pun intended).
An interesting and incredibly useful feature is the “HearThrough” ability – where the right earbud uses the microphone to allow background noise through so you can hear yourself and others clearly when speaking.
Call quality was probably one of the best I’ve experienced with headphones and earbuds – no doubt because Jabra is king when it comes to hands-free communications and commercial-grade comms. I wasn’t expecting great quality audio for those I was on the phone to considering the microphone placement, however, the audio was clear and crisp.
Jabra boasts an IP67 rating, meaning it can withstand being submerged in 1m of water for 30 minutes, whilst I didn’t really fancy putting this to the test, I did brave the shower. The tight fit of the earbud ensured I still go clear audio throughout, although I can only see this featuring being useful when caught in the rain or you get extra sweaty in your ears.
I managed to eek out about 3.5 hours of life from a charge, which isn’t quite a marathon for some but would cover most exercises. When not in use you simply put them back in the case, which provides up to another 2 charges before the case itself requires charging. A bit of a faff, but does mean you can charge them on the go.
I went into this review a little apprehensive, as this is Jabra’s first set of wireless earbuds and the fact that they had been combined with a heart rate monitor, microphone and IP rating, means there is a lot that could let it down.
All negative emotions were quickly dismissed once I had set up the earbuds and starting piping music to them – the biggest factor for me was the quality and I was impressed at the sound coming from such a small driver. Whilst it didn’t have the richness you’d get from fully fledged headphones, the bass was deep and the highs and mids crisp – perfect for most genres. Naturally, the call quality was also superb but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Jabra considering their background. Of course, if you don’t find the audio perfect yourself, you can tweak the EQ yourself in the app.
The paired app is fantastic for those that are really into their fitness, with the ability to monitor nearly everything about their exercise and paired with the fact that the heart rate monitor is fairly accurate, means you had solid readings to analyze your work out. I did notice that the app drained my phone’s battery somewhat – caused by the constant GPS use to track my routine – I couldn’t find a way to turn this off without disrupting the main functionality of the app.
Battery life is pretty good, although at 3-4 hours, you may not be able to run a marathon, it would be sufficient for most fitness activities. The charging case is also good for another two uses, although you would have to charge that up also. Unlike other wireless earbuds, the charging case cannot be used to charge any other devices – quite a few other brands allow you to do this.
Whilst I love the fact that Jabra has crammed so much into such a small earbud, some could say they are a little large – they do extrude somewhat from the ears, but don’t look anywhere near as silly as some other wireless earbuds. I do feel like I am out of a Sci-Fi series, but the snug fit and portability get me past that and I suspect it will for most also.
Price: Now, at £229.99 (at time of review) these could be considered expensive, but if you have a moment to think about what you are getting (which is a great deal), you would quickly change your mind. Bearing in mind Apple AirPods is £159, but not perfect by all means, you get better audio quality, more features and a comprehensive fitness app, then it is priced about right.
Overall I am incredibly impressed with the Jabra Elite Sports. Whilst they may not be that visually appealing to some, the performance and features far outweigh the limited battery life and price point. For these reasons, I’m giving the Jabra Elite Sport our gold award!
– Great sound
– Useful features: HearThrough, Heartrate Monitor
– IP rating.
– Comprehensive App.
– Quite large.
– Not a massive battery life.
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