Headphone cables - they were created by the devil. I swear, turn your back for one second and they’ve found a new way to tangle themselves into an indecipherable mess.
That would seemingly make truly wireless in-ears a gift from the heavens, then. Only up to now, all the ones I’ve tried have been far from angelic.
A stable connection seems to be the biggest stumbling block, but sound quality, comfort and shoehorned extra “features” have managed to mess things up too.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for Jabra’s Elite Sport wireless in-ears, though. They might be overflowing with fitness smarts, but they still manage to be the best damn set I’ve used so far.
LOOK AT ME
These are meant to be in-ears that put fitness first - which usually means you won’t want to wear them away from the gym.
Not so with the Elite Sport. OK, so the buds are big, but they won’t stick out your ears too much. Earin might still be the smallest wireless in-ears I’ve tried, but these somehow find room for a heart rate monitor and music playback controls on each bud.
The black colour scheme is subtle enough, too - no dayglo or neon, like you’d get on other sporty in-ears.
With IP67 water resistance, you could technically take a pair of these for a swim, but they aren’t really rated for that. Instead, just rest easy knowing your sweat (or a rain shower) won’t cause a short circuit.
There’s a selection of ear tips, both foam and silicone, and different sized “wings” to lock each bud firmly into your ear. Get the right fit and there’s no way one will pop out while you’re on a run. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Pick the silicone tips and you’ll get a bit of background noise; stick the foam tips on instead and you’ll block out a lot more noise. Great for forgetting about the outside world when you’re working out in a crowded gym, or are battling through the morning commute.
Like a lot of wireless in-ears, the two buds talk to each other with near-field magnetic induction tech. The primary bud pops in your right ear and can run by itself in mono, but stick the left bud in as well and you’ll get full stereo sound.
Either way, you pair the Elite Sport to your phone over Bluetooth.
This all sounds pretty familiar, but somehow Jabra has managed to get truly wireless sound almost perfect on the first try.
There are absolutely no break-ups between the two buds, and I only had one or two small dropouts between phone and earphones in the month I’ve been using them. And that was only because I moved too far from my phone.
Even more impressive? Absolutely no perceptible delay when using my phone for a Netflix box-set binge. Most other wireless in-ears end up with a half-second delay between image and sound, but that was gone (or so small I couldn’t notice it) here.
It helps that sound quality is top-notch, too. There’s real clarity and detail here, instead of the usual bass-heavy nonsense you’d normally get with a pair of sports headphones.
You get a fantastic balance between the bass and high-end, with a crisp mid-range to boot. Ok, so they won’t stand up to the same critical listening as a similarly priced pair of wired cans, but they’re easily up there with the best sounding wireless buds I’ve used.
Call quality is pretty damn good, too - but you’d expect as much, seeing how Jabra has been pumping out Bluetooth hands-free kit for years.
So they work brilliantly as headphones, but what about when it comes to sport? You’d hope, given the name, they were pretty decent here too.
Good news: they are.
Set them up with the Jabra Sport Life app, either on your iPhone or Android handset, and you’ll get options like automatic VO2 max tracking, pulse monitoring and route recording, using your phone’s GPS to track where you’re heading.
Take a 15 minute run at a specific heart rate zone and the VO2 max score you get at the end will show how much oxygen you’ve huffed into your lungs during intense exercise. It’s a great way to measure progress, and thankfully not something you’ve got to put yourself through every day.
It uses the heart rate monitors to send you on runs that target a specific pace or heart rate zone, and you can go off-piste with your own walk, hike, cycle, ski run or skating session - it’ll track ‘em all.
There are a few custom cross-training workouts built-in too, using both bodyweight and equipment-based plans. Rack up a few runs and it’ll be able to estimate your 10K, half-marathon and marathon times.
It’s great not being tied into Jabra’s app ecosystem as well. The Elite Sport plays nicely with other apps, including Strava.
Whatever you get up to, the heart rate tracking is easily on par with any wrist-based fitness tracker. It comes close to matching a full-on HRM chest strap too, for everything other than high intensity, high heart-rate training.
Basically, if you’re not actually competing for medals, it’ll do everything you could want.
CASE IN POINT
I was expecting battery life to suffer on account of the extra tech crammed inside each bud, but the Elite Sport still manages a respectable three hours between charges.
That’s about on par with the other wireless in-ears I’ve used to date - not great, but enough to get most people through their commute or lunch break.
Naturally there’s a spiffy charging case to top you up while you’re away from home, extending your listening time to nine hours (with 45 mins of charging time between each top-up).
The case plugs into the mains over microUSB, and uses inductive charging to refuel the buds. They turn themselves on and off whenever you add or remove them from the case, too. Neat.
It’s about as big as a matchbox, so you’ll easily slip it into a pocket or bag. I wouldn’t have minded a slightly bigger case if it meant more battery life, but honestly I’ve not managed to drain both buds and case in one session yet.
Jabra Elite Sport Verdict
Don’t let the Elite Sport name put you off, couch potatoes - Jabra’s wireless in-ears are some of the best around, even without the clever fitness tracking tech.
Sure, battery life could be better, but that’s true of any fully wireless earbuds. The built-in controls are a little fiddly to press too. But apart from those minor quibbles, there’s loads here to like.
With a solid connection, great sound quality for the cash, and a compact charging case, the Elite Sport gets a lot right. Add in the exercise tracking and they might get you a bit fitter, too. That’s a win win in my book.