Over the past couple of years, I’ve had opportunities to try out various Jabra earbuds, from the Sport Pulse, Sport Rox (discontinued), and Sport Coach. Earlier this month, the new kid in town, Elite Sport dropped and I had the pleasure of putting them through some routines consisting of workouts of various paces and some cross-training. Marketed as “True Wireless Smart earbuds”, Jabra has somehow managed to incorporate the everything but the kitchen sink into the Elite Sport. In a (large) nutshell, here are what the boffins at Jabra managed to squeeze into 2 typically premium built buds:
- HR monitor
- Tri-axis accelerometer Motion sensor
- 4 x digital MEMS microphones with advanced noise cancellation
- Passive noise cancellation, with HearThrough feature streaming in external ambient noise for awareness.
- BT 4.1, completely wireless between left and right units
- IP67 rated to be waterproof in fresh water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.
On top of the usual volume and playback controls, the user can enable HearThrough (more on this below), activate Siri/Google Now, and manage calls. When paired with the Jabra Sport Life app (iOS and Android), the user will also be able to start/stop/pause a workout and get realtime coaching feedback as well. In short, the JES is a souped up Sport Pulse and Sport Coach.
My first experience what somewhat a clumsy one on my part when, to my horror, I dropped it as I was unboxing it. However, the JES is made of sterner stuff and no harm was done. My heart rate shot up for a brief second though! As you can already guess, the JES comprise of 2 wireless earbuds where the connectivity is not only wireless between the playback media device but also between the left and right earbuds. That means, each unit houses its own battery. The clamshell case that comes with the JES functions not only as a storage but also a power bank. With a full charge lasting around 3 hours, the case holds enough juice to charge the earbuds twice, extending the number of hours before the next top up to 9 hours.
This is great for travelling but unless you’re a very fast marathoner, you won’t have enough charge to last your race. Nevertheless, under normal use it’s a perfect option.
As usual, prior to using any new piece of electronics, it’s a good idea to charge it up. In the case of the review unit, the battery level indicator was already in amber. You can get an indication by opening and closing the case. A 2-hour charge later via the supplied micro USB cable and you’re good to go. Basically the front indicators reflect the earbuds’ charge level while the side indicator, the casing’s charge level. The casing has a little rubbery feel, so it won’t easily slip out of your hands.
Note: Charging isn’t NFC charging but instead via the contact points on the earbuds and the casing, so you’ll need to place them in the correct left/right position.
Once the trivialities are done, it’s time to have a good look at the JES. They’re small but not as compact as the Sport Pulse and a little larger than the Sport Rox. The right bud functions as the Master and houses the HR monitor which you can see from the photo (right) below. The right unit also controls the power, pause/play, call answering functions, while the left (let’s call it the Slave unit) controls the volume and track selection.
Pairing the JES to a media device is ridiculously easy. I’ve used the JES with the iPhone and iPod with no issues and they always connect at the first instance.
The Jabra Elite Sport allows a great degree of fit customization. Choose from 3 sizes of EarWings, EarGels or opt for FoamTips. All bundled, of course. The availability of the FoamTips hint at its premium leanings.
- 3 sizes of EarWings (S, M, L)
- 3 sizes of silicone EarGels (S, M, L)
- 3 sizes of FoamTips (S, M, L)
It took me a while to find a good fit especially with my right ear but I finally found the best position to wear them – at a slight upward tilt. Different wearers will find their best fitting, of course.
It’s amazing that the BT connection goes from the device to the right unit and to the left with little to no noticeable lag. Once paired, pressing the play/pause on the device resulted in near instant response from both Master and Slave. There’s a very very slight lag, only noticeable if you’re really paying attention. I suspect, the JES has some kind of memory buffering. The sound quality is trademark Jabra – punchy and clear in the mids and highs. Definitely enough kick to get you going.
So it has been 2 weeks since I got hold of the Elite Sport. I’ve worn it for weekday running outdoors and on the treadmill. I also wore them while performing core exercises on the mat. On the treadmill, they’re paired to the iPhone, running the Jabra Sport Life app. Outdoors, they’re paired with the iPod because I dislike lugging a phone around. The HR detection and readings are pretty accurate, within 3 bpms of the Garmin chest strap’s readings. Only twice did the readings dropped over the weeks’ usage, which is admirable.
aired with the app, the Sport Elite can provide audio prompts for Time, Speed, Distance, Pace, Steps, Cadence, Calories, Heart Rate, Heart Rate zone, VO2 Max estimation, Repetitions, and Real Time audio coaching. To read more about the cool functions of the Sport Life app, pop over to my review of the Jabra Sport Pulse or Sport Coach. P
Another observation I logged during my weeks’ of use was that I noticed the connectivity range between the Master and Slave units are very short. Remove the right unit from the ear and connection to the left unit will be cut. Remove the Slave unit however, and the Master keeps on pumping the tunes while the Slave is silenced.
While the units are as solid as can be – their weight palpable in the hands – it isn’t an issue when worn. In fact, the longest period of time I wore the Sport Elite was 2.5 hours. I put them on as I left the office listening to music from the iPhone. As I was walking along Jalan Ampang towards KLCC, the evening traffic was at its worst. A double tap on the Master enabled the HearThrough function which immediately amplified the ambient sound. The music continued streaming from the iPhone in my pocket but there was a heightened sense of awareness of my surroundings, without having to remove the buds. Jabra relied on the built-in mic to amplify the sounds, in case you’re wondering. Neat! The feature can be enabled/disabled via the Sport Life app.
Call handling was seamless and sound came out excellent. The caller on the other end of the line could hear me clearly, even with the background traffic noise and placement of the mic at the ear level. I’m very impressed with this. In case you’re wondering how the units look like when worn, check out the photos below.
The bottomline? The Jabra Sport Elite’s total wireless features will prove the most appealing to gym and fitness buffs where cables and cords often get in the way of gym equipment. Whether you’re on the mat or going through high intensity routines, you wouldn’t want any semblance or cords to get in your way. It’s a niche product for sure but if that’s what you’re waiting for, the Jabra Elite Sport warrants a serious consideration.
- Completely wireless.
- Quick and easy connection to devices.
- Superb Jabra sound.
- Feature-filled Sport Life app.
- Secure fit (after tweaking around).
- Solid build.
- Nice HearThrough feature.
- Fantastic call quality.
- Very nice bundle of tips, including foam types for even better sound. I use Comply tips for my night listening sessions on my Shure earphones, so I appreciate the fact that Jabra bundled the foam tips.
- Tricky to handle for butterfingers.
- Short battery life of 3 hours per charge (carrying the case will get you 2 more charges).
- Need to bring the case wherever you go.
- Price. The Jabra Sport Coach, which has plenty of features too, is a much more affordable option, although without the heart rate monitoring.
The Jabra Sport Elite retails for RM1,259.00 and is available at selected outlets from the following retailers and selected Jabra resellers: All IT Hypermarket, ViewNet Computer, Thundermatch Technologies, Mobile Arena, NOP Cellular, HLK Superstore, and Lazada is the exclusive online partner and reseller http://www.lazada.com.my/jabra-official-store/?spm=a2o4k.brand-212.0.0.lq4yuA
Word of caution: Regardless of the earphone designs, please be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume or over prolonged period of time.
Disclosure: The JES is a review unit kindly provided by AMT PC Distributors Sdn Bhd, the sole distributor for all Jabra products in Malaysia.