Saturday, 17 December 2016 13:54

Jabra’s Elite Sport earbuds (review)

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These are earbuds on steroids – they are for athletes who want rugged use, an in-ear heart rate monitor, and superior sound.

I am a Baby Boomer, certainly no athlete, so I asked my millennial son — a personal fitness trainer and coffee shop proprietor — to review them. Apart from tidying up the grammar (private schooling was not a total success here), this review is his. He owns a set of Bose SoundSport Pulse wireless headphones that do very similar things and alternatives like Samsung’s IconX are in the same ballpark.

Let’s position the Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds – they are a pair of premium, Bluetooth earbuds, largish without being overly so, that they are “cord-free” with no strap around the neck like the Bose.

He writes:

In the box

  • A left and right bud.
  • A charging case and micro-USB cable (no charger).
  • Replaceable ear wings in small, medium and large, for perfect in-ear fit.
  • Silicon tips and foam gels in small, medium and large for sound isolation.

Comfort

Jabra elite in earYou are going to have to experiment to get the fit right. Ambient sound isolation and music quality can be very good if you get that right. Unless you have funny ears you will find the right combination.

They are comfortable enough, although not for prolonged or all-day use. There is almost no chance of them falling out once properly fitted.

I guess the Bose strap style is a little more reassuring that if they ever did fall out, you would not lose one of them. But the same could be said of the Samsung Galaxy Gear IconX or the new Apple AirPod, so it is not a deal breaker. Jabra has a Sport Pulse at $229.99 with the strap design.

Use

Download the app, pair with the phone and that is about it. Set up the app with your vitals and do a fitness test, and you are away.

There are two multi-function touch buttons on each bud., The right is for on-off and other functions like accept a call, and the left is for volume. The right bud can be used alone for calls and mono music. Call quality was good, and callers reported no issues with hearing me during calls.

The four mics also provide a good mix of background ambient noise – a hear through feature helps you keep sharp when running or exercising. The mics can also be used for Siri or OK Google.

But the buttons are fiddly, and it is all too easy to press too hard often resulting in some ear pain. Be gentle.

IP67

They are IP67 “waterproof” which means dust/dirt protection and immersion up to one meter for up to 30 mins.

You can wash them under a tap, but they are not designed for swimming – as water and sound don’t mix. It has a three-year warranty against “corrosive” sweat damage if you register via the app.

Heartbeat

Heartbeat is recorded using an in-ear monitor and shows in the Jabra Sports Life App. It is critical to get the right fit using a silicone or foam gel tip, else the heart rate measurement will not work.

Accuracy seems as good as any fitness band.

Battery life

The buds are advertised as having nine-hour battery use.

I only got about two and a half, to three hours during running or workouts. Still, three hours is not bad, and my ears needed a break.

Nine hours includes using the charger case which stores a further two charges. A micro-USB cable is supplied but no charger. I used a 5V/2.1A charger and charging the case, and buds take just over three hours. Remember if you lose the case you cannot charge the buds.

The Sports Life app

Jabra eliteThe buds require Jabra Service and Jabra Sports Life to be downloaded and installed. The “sports” button on the right bud launches the Sports Life app. I recommend you use the phone first and then work on using the buttons as you get used to it. Delays from loading an app to actuation are from 5-15 seconds.

The app is very comprehensive – workout, training plans, interval training, cross training, cycling, different exercises like squats and more.

You may not need all of that – if just want to use it as an automatic heart rate and walking/running tracker and music that is easy. All I am saying is there is much more you can do.

The app works on iOS and Android. It gives in-ear audio coaching to optimise your exercise.

Music and sound

A good fit is critical – if it is too, loose bass suffers.

Bass is recessed, mid and treble is clear, so it is classified as “warm and sweet.” I would say it rates about 90% in comparison to the Bose SoundSport that I am used to – that is good.

I liked

  • Easy listening, sound signature, and noise isolation almost equalling the Bose.
  • Single or dual use (there are times when one is better for use as a handsfree phone).
  • The iOS and Android app is overly complex but should suit fitness fanatics – if not it can use a host of other apps like Strava.
  • In-ear coaching when you set it up.
  • Heart rate seemed accurate. Not sure about VO2.
  • Charging case is good and provides full bud recharge in 45 minutes.
  • Near field magnetic induction pairs the left to the right (main bud).

Not so likable

  • Fiddly push button controls.
  • 3 hours use before charging.
  • Largish but not too much.
  • Not comfortable enough for all-day binge listening.
  • App is fully featured but complex.
  • Needs the smartphone in your pocket for most things.
  • A price of $330 is not cheap.

Conclusion

It is hard to say buy Jabra over Bose over IconX – certainly, these all do similar things.

If sports is your thing, then it is ahead with the IP67 rating.

If music is your thing, then you have a lot more to choose from including Samsung’s IconX with 4GB storage on board that eliminates the need for a smartphone.

Jabra is not as well-known as Bose, but I think it has the credibility from its office products to make it here.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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