Ambition should always be applauded, especially when a brand swings for the fences. The Jabra Sport Elite headphones are packed to the gills with impressive and novel tech that allows them to work as a standalone fitness tracker that even coaches you through workouts.
It’s an enticing proposition, although naturally all those extras would be irrelevant if Jabra fluffed the earphone basics of fit and sound. Fortunately, the Jabra Elite Sport are almost perfect as a set of truly wireless earbuds for sport. The fit is as secure as Fort Knox, so they stay put during any type of training, the sound quality is good, and Jabra is so confident about the waterproofing and durability of the Elite Sport that it offers a three-year warranty against damage from sweat.
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In the box you get three different sizes of both foam and silicone tips, with the former offering an especially tight seal for better noise isolation. There are also three different wingtips. As with all headphones it’s worth spending a couple of minutes figuring out the best attachments for you. With the Jabra Elite Sport this will result in an immovable fit – the buds are light, nestle right into your ear and are hooked in. They aren’t going anywhere.
The tight fit helps to drown out the world around you if you’re in noisy environments, but Jabra’s Hear Through function means that if you want more aural awareness you can have it. At the double tap of a button the Elite Sport will use its microphone to pipe in ambient noise. It’s an excellent feature – perfect if you’re running through busy streets to a park, where you can then switch it off and fully focus on your music.
The sound quality on the Elite Sport isn’t as crystal clear as on the Bose SoundSport Free headphones, which have set a new benchmark for truly wireless buds, but it is good – the bass is rich but not overpowering and vocals sound bright without ever straying into being harsh.
While exercising you can control the headphones using the buttons on each bud, including play/pause and answering phone calls, which sound very clear on the Sport Elite. What you can’t do, however, is skip tracks – an odd omission.
Battery life is good at 4½ hours and the case doubles as a portable battery that will add another nine hours of juice. I’d have liked a bigger battery in the case so it didn’t have to be charged so regularly itself – it seems an easy win but many brands don’t go for it (Sol Republic’s Amps Air headphones, on the other hand, offer 45 hours of juice from the case). The quick charge feature on the headphones delivers one hour of playback from 15 minutes of charge time.
So the fit is superb, the sound is good and the battery is about par for the course, all of which makes the Sport Elite a great package for those seeking sports headphones, especially with the useful Hear Through feature. But Jabra didn’t stop at making a great pair of sports headphones – there’s also a load of fitness tracking tech in the Elite Sport.
It starts with a VO2 max test, which is recommended the first time you sync the headphones to the Jabra Sport Life app. Beyond that you can track your workouts, or use the guided sessions in the partner app where a voice in the headphones will coach you towards certain targets when running, such as pace or distance, or talk you through a circuit of bodyweight and weighted exercise.
You can also set up an entire training plan in the app based around your fitness target – whether that’s to maintain your fitness or improve it. If you want to improve you select how quickly you want to do it – improving gently requires four workouts a week, improving very intensely demands six. The plans are best created after you’ve used the Elite Sport buds a few times, when they have had a chance to gauge your fitness through the VO2 max measurement. Each workout is rated by a Training Effect stat, which tells you how much you’ve improved your fitness.
You can use the built-in heart rate monitor with other apps, like Strava, if you have a preferred tracking app already. This is important, because the Jabra app itself doesn’t play well with many other apps – you can sync workouts to Strava and Endomondo but that’s it, for now at least.
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All these features are impressive, especially the guided workouts, but don’t always work that well. The first time I downloaded the app it wouldn’t open. After a few days of trying I deleted and redownloaded it, and that problem went away, but it still crashed occasionally.
The extra features push up the price, currently £200 (discounted from the RRP £230) on the Jabra website. They are cheaper on Amazon – usually somewhere in the region of £150-£190 – and if you get them for around £150, I’d say they’re the match of any wireless sports headphones available with the fitness tracking features as an added bonus.
Spending £200 for those extra features, however, is a harder sell. You can get the same feature set on a more reliable wrist tracker for £100, so you’d have to really appreciate the convenience of having them in headphones, and the Jabra app isn’t as easy or fun to use as the well-developed Fitbit or Garmin apps, for example. The whole package on offer with the Jabra Elite Sport buds is unique. I’m just not sure that package is worth £200.
£200, buy on jabra.co.uk, check price on amazon.co.uk