Jabra Elite Sport (£168)
As their name might suggest, Jabra is aiming the Elite Sport at the gym bunnies among you, with some fancy features up their sleeve to give you a helping hand during workouts.
Their design is pretty bulky, which ensures a snug fit – not just for staying put when you’re on the treadmill, but also for reading your heart-rate. This doesn’t make them the comfiest in-ears we’ve worn, though, and after an hour or two you might need to give your ears a rest.
They work with the Jabra Sport app, which records your heart rate to create an informed workout report, but can also set you up with a training plan or talk you through one of its pre-programmed cross-training sessions. There are even some activities where the Elite Sport’s sensors can count your reps for you, and pretty accurately too.
The heart-rate monitor, on the other hand, doesn’t have the accuracy of some more accomplished fitness wearables. It’ll give a good enough idea for casual gym goers, but no more.
The Jabra Elite Sport haven’t forgotten they need to sound good either, with a crisp, clear performance and plenty of bass kick.
There’s not quite as much airy detail here as you might find elsewhere, nor are they as explicit with dynamics, but they’re well organised, with a good balance and no sharp edges in the treble. A very pleasant surprise indeed.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✭
Bragi Dash Pro (£249)
The Bragi Dash Pro buds might be the priciest in-ears in our list, but they offer much more than your average headphones.
Like the Jabras, they pack a heart-rate monitor and the ability to track a choice of activities, including running, cycling and – since they’re waterproof to 1m – swimming, with automatic lap counting.
Their lack of GPS means distances for rides and runs is often a bit out, but if you aren’t too worried about absolute accuracy, you can leave your phone at home and the Dash Pros will sync with your phone when you’re back. There’s even 4GB of onboard storage for saving playlists to the Dash Pros themselves, and an impressive five-hour battery life for longer activities.
Touch controls on the earbuds give you access to all of the Dash Pros' functionality without reaching for your phone, but they can also detect gestures, so you can control them using only head movements. You’ll look a bit daft, but it works, and allows you to go entirely hands free when you need to.
By the time you’ve discovered everything these buds can do, you’re wondering if how they sound even matters. The good thing is they don’t sound bad at all, offering a pretty even-handed balance, with a decent amount of space, plenty of clarity and just enough bass that you won’t feel short changed.
There’s a slight hardness to the treble at volume though, and we’d like the dynamics to be more expressive too.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✩
Jaybird Run (£129)
Jaybird’s first wireless buds wear their intention on their sleeve - they’re a keen training buddy for to your runs and workouts without the worry of wires.
They’ve got all the credentials for doing just that: they’re comfortable, sweatproof and have a four-hour battery life (though take a bit off that if you’re a volume junkie). You'll get eight more hours via the charging case if you need it.
At £170, they’re reasonably priced in the market, sitting somewhere in-between the budget buds and their pricier peers. Funnily enough, that’s about where their performance falls too.
They can’t top the Sony-WF1000X for balance or subtlety – the bass is a little over enthusiastic for more neutral tastes, which has a tendency to thicken up the vocals. The treble isn’t the most refined either, and can sound a little harsh at volume.
Listen with a less critical ear and they’re a lot of fun, with a rich bass rumble and crisp high end that’s energetic enough to power you through that last mile. Don’t expect them to do big classical numbers justice, but then most wireless buds won't.
The Jaybird MySound app gives you the opportunity to tweak the EQ too, with lots of community presets for you to try out, plus the ability to make your own; worth a look if the out-of-the-box balance doesn’t work for your tastes.
You’ll probably want to stick to music only with these, though - video playback is ever-so-slightly (but ever-so-annoyingly) out of sync.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✩
Jam Ultra (£50)
At £50, the Jam Ultras are considerably cheaper than the other wireless in-ears here, but nothing in their design would give that away. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have a smart fabric casing and a single button on each earbud that’ll play and pause music.
Their three-hour battery claim isn’t exactly market leading, but the included charging case can juice them up 10 times over for up to 30 hours of playback on the go. The case even has a full-sized USB port, so you can recharge your phone if it falls short too.
The sound quality here can’t compete with that from the Sony or Jabra buds, but at less than half the price, you might expect that.
Critical ears should probably look to spend a little more for that reason, as the Jam Ultras aren’t talented enough to uncover finer detail and struggle to convey much by way of dynamics. The midrange clarity is also a little clouded due to a slightly emphasised low-end, and you’ll also notice some distortion if you really push the volume.
This certainly means complicated classical music is not shown to its best through these buds, but pop and dance music does fare better. It’s not the most refined performance by any stretch, but if you’re looking for laid-back, pass-the-time buds to get you through a commute without spending a fortune, the Jam Ultras may well scratch that itch.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✩✩