So, first things first. Let's talk about my very old, very worn, Bose headphones. They are connected to my very old, very worn, pink iPod shuffle, which, to this date, has yet to die and I'm loyal to it. SHUFFLE FOR LIFE.
However, the days of the Shuffle might be coming to an end. I concede this. Consequently, I have been looking for a product that I can use to replace my beloved Shuffle. I'm also slowly losing the ability to defend the Shuffle, try as I may. You're my boy, Shuffle.
Enter the Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds.
With the creation of Bluetooth, it's only been a matter of time until the traditional plug-and-play, corded headphones go away entirely. Bluetooth headphones are nothing new to the market, as many companies, such as Bose, Beats, and Sony all make wireless headphone sets. The earbuds on these headphones, however, are connected together by a (sometimes) uncomfortable rear strap, that goes behind the neck of the user. Add in the unique differences between in-ear and over-the-ear setups, there are hundreds of options on the market.
Jabra's Elite Sport earbuds are one of the first sets (I won't say the only because Bose and Apple do make a pair as well) that are completely wireless. That's it, two completely independent buds. For me, that's about as revolutionary as I get. Remember: I still use an iPod shuffle.
As with any new product, these headphones aren't without their pros and cons. I used the Elite Sport earbuds (with the inclusion of many additional features) over the course of approximately a week and about 50 miles of running.
Let's start with the list of pros.
They stay put.
That's probably the question that everyone wants answered first. Do they stay in your ears? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Not only did I use them for many miles, but I did my absolute best to try to knock them out of my ears. In a typical Austin week, you're going to sweat to death (They went on 80+ degree sweaty runs!), freeze to death (39 degree long runs!), and get rained on. At no point, did I lose an earbud or even feel them wobble in my ears. The Elite Sport comes with two sets of inner earbuds, in three different sizes (S-L), and three different sizes of outer ear bud sizing (S-L).
I consider myself an outlier in terms of fitting an earbud correctly. Apple earbuds? Forget about it--those things aren't staying in for a minute on the run. I'd rather punch myself in the face than struggle with those things. But with the various sizes of earbud on Jabra's set, I was able to find something that stuck in my ear and disappeared almost seamlessly. Even better, I have different configurations on the left and right earbud, because apparently my ears are built like that.
They're also lightweight. Even though they look bulky at first glance, they didn't feel like you had rocks in your ears. With a slight twist, the outer earbud hooks into the ear securely.
NO BLUETOOTH ISSUES
Did you have any issues with connectivity? There's our second million dollar question. Zip. Zero. Nada. None. I never once lost a signal, skipped a song, lost a beat. They connected immediately to my iPhone 7. I never had to search for them again and the connection was always immediate. Perfect. Thanks Jabra.
YOU CAN RUN WITH ONLY ONE earbud + hands free
With all the recent attacks on women in and around the Austin trails, I love this part about these headphones! With my corded headphones, I almost always run with one earbud in and one out, so that I can hear the noises around me. However, with most Bluetooth headphones, the way that they wraparound with a stiff piece of plastic, makes it almost impossible to run with headphones and leave one ear free for outside noises.
With the Elite Sport, you can choose to run with only one earbud if you choose. They are also equipped with a "Hear-Through" option that makes the earbuds permeable to outside noise. Personally, the Hear-Through function to me was a little clunky, as it amplified all the environmental sounds, such as my breathing, gravel footsteps, etc. I preferred having one ear free, but again, this is something that I'm used to, so this might just be a personal preference. Definitely worth turning on the Hear-Through feature in the Jabra app and seeing which you prefer, however.
Even better, each of the earbuds is equipped with phone-free buttons. Want to pause your music? Press and hold the button of the earbud. Want to skip a song? Toggle up and down on the left earbud.
CON: This is the only con that I have for the one earbud system. The right earbud is the master, which means you lose the left bud's buttons when it's not in use.
ON THE GO CHARGING + 13.5 hour battery life
Here's another really cool feature of the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds. They come with a charging case. When not in use, the earbuds settle perfectly into a small rectangular container, regardless of which size earbuds you fitted yours with.
Now, here's the great part. The earbuds themselves contain a charge, which reportedly lasts for approximately 4.5 hours. That's a long time of listening, in my opinion. Then, when you are done with your earbuds, you can place them back in their case, which holds two full 4.5 hour charges, for a total of 13.5 hours of battery life. What does that mean? It means that, at night, I can charge the case, with the headphones in it, for full battery life. As I use them throughout the day, and place them back in their case (mostly so I don't lose them, let's be honest), they're able to recharge themselves.
Now, me personally, I don't run for longer than 4 hours at a stretch, or even use earbuds that long during the day, so I can't contest to the full battery life. However, I think for the average consumer, this is more than adequate. Charging them at night simply requires a quick plug in of the USB and you're all set.
SWEAT PROOF WARRANTY
Jabra offers a 1 year warranty on their headphones, but an extended 3 year warranty against any damage caused by sweat. The earbuds have also been tested and have been verified to withstand water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes. Meaning you can drop them in the toilet and they won't disintegrate. Thank God, my prayers have been answered.
Here's probably the best and the worst part of the Elite Sport. The Jabra Sport App is great. I really enjoyed using it in comparison with my Garmin 920XT. While I only used it for running, the Voice Coach in the App can be used to assist during weight training, as well as programmed workouts.
The best part of the entire app is the integration of a heart rate sensor. In. The. Earbud. For those of you that are data nerds like me, the inclusion of a heart rate monitor in the earbud means that you no longer have to rely on the old chest straps or the newer wrist sensors on Garmins, such as the Fenix. Jabra also states that the inner ear heart rate sensor is one of the most accurate and reliable sensors, as the thinner skin of the ear allows for a closer connection.
There are options within the app for "Just Track Me" as well as a personalized training program based on your ongoing fitness and goals. Add in your heart rate data and the app is able to calculate your Vo2Max, as well as peak fitness levels, training zones, and recovery times.
When turned on, the Voice Coach can talk directly into your ear to tell you when you are within your training zones, pace, cadence, effort, and distance.
For running, the app works much like MapMyRun or any number of running apps, by using your phone's GPS to create real-time data for distance and pace. I was happy to see that the distance would sync up very similarly to my Garmin watch, something that I have found very difficult to do in the past. MapMyRun, for instance, is notorious for pinging incorrectly when surrounded by trees, buildings, cloud cover, or really, most anything.
For me, the app was addicting. Each time I finished a run, it would use the data from that run (time, distance, training zones, etc) to calculate my ongoing fitness. As I ran more throughout the week, it showed that I was gaining fitness and it was exciting to see that data plotted over daily points.
HEARTRATE MONITOR INCONSISTENCIES
Here's the worst part of the Elite Sport. I wanted so badly to figure out exactly how to fix this. I assumed that it was my user error, but a little bit of Google research shows that this isn't the case. These earbuds take a photoplethysmogram (or PPG) by shining a small light onto your skin and measuring blood flow by how that light reflects off blood vessels. As you can imagine, the fit of the earbud in your ear will largely affect how accurate the heart rate reading is. However, considering that I'm unable to shake the headphones from my ears, I feel fairly confident that I have the best possible fit for me. Several other reviews online have complained of the same thing, as well.
A quick readout of my heart rate shows that the sensor is pinging incorrectly or losing connection all together. My original plan had been to compare the heart rate that the earbuds sensed versus another GPS watch with heart rate (such as the Fenix or Fitbit), but when I was continuously getting readouts of heart rates of 200+, I knew that the issue was more about if the heart rate was even accurate at all.
It's a disappointment for sure, as heart rate sensors are growing more and more common as a source of data for runners. Traditional chest straps and wrist sensors have their own unique problems, but as of right now, it looks like the earbud sensors have just as many.
So, if you're interested in these earbuds for the heart rate sensor, I just can't recommend them based on my experience with their accuracy.
Look. I'm pretty tone deaf. In fact, I couldn't even begin to tell you what the treble is or if the bass booms loud enough. The earbuds sound great to me. They get loud. They play music. All is good.
But, ultimately, at the end of the day, if sound quality is something that is incredibly important to you, a pair of Bose headphones might be your best bet. Because you know, Bose makes headphones. And speakers. That's their niche and they do it well. But for me, as the layperson, I think the sound quality is more than optimal.
For training, 4.5 hours of battery life is more than enough. If I was considering a marathon or ultra-distance, for some, this might be too short for battery life.
This falls under the "Neutral" category because there is simply no other option. If you want to use the app as a tracking method, you'll need your phone. There's no way to download or stream music directly into the headphones, so it still requires that you carry your phone. Unfortunately, there is no other option (except MY SHUFFLE AND MY HEADPHONES!) currently available that will give you the same amount of connectivity as your phone. So, if you're like me, having a large iPhone 7 Plus makes it cumbersome to carry. During races or harder efforts, I would probably default back to something that is a bit more out of the way. Or, I'll run without any music.
Jabra Elite Sport headphones are available for $179 here at Amazon.
I was given a complimentary pair of Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds. This review is unbiased and written as my experience as a consumer.