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I've worn Bluetooth earbuds for years, but over the past year we have seen an explosion in truly wireless earbuds where there is no cord connecting the left and right earbud. I think I finally found a pair that meets my needs for running.
Music motivates me when I run and helps push me through to the next level. Even though they were not the first, the Apple AirPods brought wireless earbuds to the attention of the masses. Unfortunately, the AirPods are not water or sweat resistant and are not designed to stay in your ears with lots of excessive movement, so they can't be used while out running.
The new 2017 Jabra Elite Sport earbuds were announced in July and are designed with the athlete as the target audience. Jabra is well-known for high quality audio and several of the world's first in audio, including the first Bluetooth headset and the first sports headphones with an integrated heart-rate monitor.
I have run several times with the Jabra Elite Sport and the headset is definitely worth considering if you want good quality audio, long battery life, and a truly wireless experience.
Sensors: In-ear heart rate monitor and tri-axis accelerometer for motion sensing
Mics: Four digital MEMS with advanced noise cancellation technology
Water resistance: IP67 rating
Battery life: Up to 4.5 hours of play with charging case providing another 9 hours
Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
The retail package includes the two wireless earbuds, a charging case with integrated battery, a microUSB cable, small/medium/large ear wings, small/medium/large silicon gel earbud tips, and small/medium/large foam ear tips. By default, the medium ear wings and medium silicon gel tips are installed on the earbuds. You can also purchase individual earbuds if one is lost, at a price of $79.99 each.
The earbuds are available in lime green/gray or black. The lime green ones are exclusive to Best Buy and is the pair that was sent along to me for testing. The green is on the ear wing and silicon gel tip while the rest of the Elite Sport earbud is gray. The case is also gray.
The earbuds rest inside the carrying case with the charging pins resting on the custom fit opening. The earbuds do not lock into the case so are held in the case by closing the lid. This also initiates charging up the earbuds.
The right Jabra Elite Sport earbud has two mic openings and two buttons on it. The top button on the right is used to launch the Jabra Sport app on your phone. Pressing and holding in on the bottom button will launch your selected voice assistant, including Bixby, Siri, or Google Assistant. While music is playing, pressing on the bottom will play/pause the music and this action will also answer or end a call. A double press of the right bottom button will toggle HearThrough.
The left top and bottom buttons are primarily for volume control. Holding each of these down will skip to the next or previous track. These buttons are all fairly well defined and easy to hit with your finger while running or working out.
The Jabra Elite Sport fit my ear well, and I was able to enjoy music for just over an hour before they started to cause a bit of soreness in my ear. The earbuds are rather large, but they are lightweight, too. They fit very well, and I never felt they were moving and about to fall out, unlike my Apple AirPods and many other Bluetooth headsets I have tried in the past.
The HearThrough technology is great for running as it allows you to listen to music while also hearing sounds of your surroundings. That is one area I worry about when I run with music in the dark or in unfamiliar areas.
Jabra Elite Sport review: in pictures
While you do not need to install and use the Jabra Sport app for your iPhone or Android device, the app adds quite a bit to the overall experience. The Jabra Elite Sport has an integrated in-ear heart rate monitor that works with popular apps such as RunKeeper, Runtastic, Strava, and more.
If you do not have a preferred workout app, the Jabra Sport app provides all you need. There are activity and workout options, including various training plans. By default, when you first launch the app a VO2max test appears and directs you to run for 15 minutes at 70 to 100 percent maximum heart rate to measure your current fitness level. These results lead to fitness level tracking and recovery guidance, which are both very interesting.
In-ear audio coaching is also available with a vast number of options for your to hear while you are using the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds with the Jabra Sport app for your workout. If you are using another app for tracking your workout, say directly from your watch, then that device audio will appear on the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds.
You can also manage advanced headphone settings in the app, including headphone readouts, incoming caller ID, HearThrough modes, a detailed custom music equalizer, SideTone toggle (lets you hear your own voice on a call), and pedometer calibration.
I used a couple of wrist-based heart rate monitors to compare to the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds. I found the Jabra Elite Sport to have more peaks and valleys in the measurements, while my wrist monitors were flatter with more gaps in the tracking. The levels were all within a few bpm though so the results seem consistent and accurate.
Price and competition
The Jabra Elite Sport earbuds have a MSRP of $249.99. However, I just saw that the lime green/gray version is on sale now at Best Buy for just $199.99. This color is a Best Buy exclusive, while the black version can be purchased from Jabra or other online retailers.
Other competing truly wireless earbuds include the Bragi Dash Pro that has 4GB of storage and automatic activity tracking. These are priced at a rather high $329.
We also have the new Samsung Gear IconX that also provides integrated storage, but has no heart rate monitor capability.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
It took me a few years to find a Bluetooth headset I loved for working out, but they still had a cord attached and a battery life that required regularly charging. I often forgot to charge them and ended up running without music. The Jabra Elite Sport earbuds have very good battery life, 4+ hours by themselves, with a convenient carrying case providing about two more full charges.
I thought music sounded loud and clear with great stereo performance. Callers said I sounded very good when using this headset, too. I don't make many calls while working out, but it is good to know when a headset can perform well in this role.
The controls are easy to access and to recall given there is just four buttons. I'm pleased to see one button action to launch my favorite voice assistant, and the four mics on the headset help get your command to the assistant, too.
In the past, I have had my chest and swinging arm block the Bluetooth signal to the earbuds and there is nothing more frustrating than constant intermittent audio. Bluetooth performance, and easy connectivity, was perfect with the Jabra Elite Sport and the range even allowed me to listen to music in another room. Opening the case initiates the connection, too, so when you pull them out they should be connected and ready to go without any touching of buttons.
If you like to listen to music when you workout and want to enjoy a cord-free setup, then it is tough to beat the Jabra Elite Sport. These are the Apple AirPods for those who sweat, and I look forward to many more long runs without any wires.