Get you some headphones that can do both: small, portable in-ears that you can carry with you everywhere and block out the world with on your commute, and secure, capable headphones that you can wear to the gym and blast out your favourite workout tunes. Jabra’s Elite Sport are wireless in-ear headphones that compete with Apple’s AirPods for size and portability, but they also track your workouts and heart rate and give you an idea of how your fitness is evolving.
What Is It?
The $329 Elite Sport are Jabra’s top headphones. You’re paying a lot because you’re paying for how small they are, and you’re paying for the fact that they’re more than just headphones: the Elite Sport includes a built-in heart rate monitor that uses the blood vessels in your ear to track your heart rate, and an accompanying app that logs all that data and translates it into information about your body’s VO2 max and other statistics.
Each Elite Sport earphone is smaller than you’d think; the headphones protrude only slightly from the wearer’s ear, and there’s no overhang or extension beyond that. The right earbud has play/pause and track skipping buttons, while the leftt has volume control. Pressing each tactile button, though, takes a little bit more force than you’d expect — sometimes it’s actually slightly uncomfortable inside your ear to skip ahead or pause a track.
You can choose from three different silicon eartips or hard-sealing foam eartips, and three ‘earwings’: a silicon cover that sits up inside the conch of your ear cartilage and holds the Elite Sport securely in place. The headphones are themselves rated IP67 for dust- and waterproofing, so they’ll stand up to your sweaty runs or an exercise in the rain. It’s good to have the peace of mind that it’s possible to throw them into the pocket of your gym shorts when you’re done with your workout, too, and not kill them by accident — something I’ve been mindful of with the AirPods I took on a couple of gym trips in the past.
You can wear a single Jabra earbud or both; unlike Apple’s AirPods, if you’re listening to a single bud you’ll only get that stereo channel piped to your ears rather than a downmixed stereo. When you’re done with your listening session, which can extend to around three hours maximum battery life, the headphones live inside a charging case (which uses two pogo-pin connectors on each earbud) that contains another 6 hours worth of charge overall.
What’s It Good At?
For completely wireless and in-ear Bluetooth headphones, Jabra’s Elite Sport actually sound pretty good. Because they seal well against the wearer’s ear canal, there’s a lot of bass that you don’t hear with other wireless earbuds like Apple’s open-to-the-world AirPods. And it’s this combo of good ambient noise cancellation plus good sound quality that makes the Elite Sport my go-to headphones for the gym or for a long bike ride. There are better-sounding in-ear headphones and wireless over-the-ear headphones out there for lower prices, but for the combo of small + wireless + good sound, it’s hard to find a better choice than the Elite Sport — although they come at a price.
You can ask Jabra’s app to guide you through workouts using voice prompts, whether it’s through rep count or VO2 max monitoring or heart rate tracking. You can just tell the app to track your workout passively, if you’re already a fan of another fitness app, so your headphones can give you another point of reference if you really want it. To be honest, I find tracking my workouts on my Apple Watch to be more satisfying — I can log my swimming, for one — but Jabra’s app is a good backup or extra monitoring to give you another point of data to work with.
Being waterproof gives you the freedom to use Jabra’s Elite Sport headphones pretty much everywhere. I wouldn’t want to use them in the pool during a swim, but it’s definitely possible. Taking them out for a run in the rain, or god forbid if you want to wear them in the shower — both of these are perfectly fine. If you register your headphones, you also get access to a three-year replacement warranty against any damage from sweat — which shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s nice to have a bit of extra peace of mind as a backup.
What’s It Not Good At?
There’s one big problem with the Elite Sport that only crops up if you want to wear a single earbud. If you do, you have to wear the right earbud — it’s the master ear, and it’s the only one that actually communicates with the phone. The left earbud only talks to the right, too — it’ll only work if the right is within around 30 centimetres distance, meaning you can’t keep the right in your pocket while you’re training. This is actually really annoying in some circumstances, and it baffled me the first time I tried it at the gym. Similarly, the training advice through the headphones doesn’t pause or duck the volume of whatever music you’re listening to.
If it’s at all possible, I’d really recommend you try and find somewhere that you can try the Elite Sport before you slap down $329 for them. The earwing plus eartip setup can be uncomfortable for some wearers, and it’s also quite hard to get right: it took me experimenting with six different combos of small/medium earwings and small/medium silicon and foam eartips to find the most comfortable setup. When I did find it, it was heavenly bliss, but it took some time and effort and everyone’s ear canals have a different shape.
Battery life, too, is mediocre. Three hours’ usage from the Elite Sport earbuds — I tested it, and it’s bang on the money — should be just enough for a long workout at the gym, but it might not be long enough for that long-distance bike trip you’re planning. You’ll get another two full recharges from the charging carry case, but it’s not a fast-charging case like Apple’s is: you can’t pop your earbuds back in there for five minutes to get another hour out of them. It just requires a bit of forward planning to use your headphones, and that’s fine, but it’s planning you don’t have to do with other competitors.
Should You Buy It?
If you want or need some truly wireless headphones, you don’t have a great many choices in the first place. Of the various options available, Jabra’s $329 Elite Sport are among the most expensive, but make up for that by being some of the best sounding and also by integrating some useful fitness features and waterproofing. If you can live with the comparatively short battery life, they’re a good wireless earbud.