True wireless earbuds are sprouting up more and more from different manufacturers now, though Jabra can lay claim to being among the first to give it a shot last year with the Elite Sport.
Built to withstand the rigours of regular workouts and even a dunk or two in water, the tough reputation for this pair puts it onto a different level than pedestrian efforts like the Apple AirPods. Like some other makers, including Nuheara and Bragi, Jabra is attempting to add versatility to its pair.
Mind you, this isn’t the first version. In trying to improve battery life, Jabra has reissued the Elite Sport with what it claims to be a 50 per cent longer charge and new colour variant. Having tested the first edition extensively, it was worth looking into whether these did actually last longer.
Same old design
In some respects, the Elite Sport is an offshoot of Jabra’s Sport wireless earbuds — the ones that have a cable connecting the two earbuds. In removing all cords, the Elite Sport was already intriguing, except it also came at the right time.
Jabra had learned from past mistakes relating to fit, which adversely affected music playback by reducing bass response. A bad combination if you’re into music that has plenty on the low end of the audio spectrum. The Elite Sport was a culmination of that realization, so work was done to stop the audio bleeding and make sure they stayed in place.
To that end, Jabra has apparently done nothing to physically alter the size or enhance the drivers inside. An equalizer on the Jabra Sport Life app does offer some customization, but more on that later. The way the first version fit is the same here. Even the weight is effectively unchanged. You still get the same heart rate monitor in the left earpiece to track beats-per-minute and exercise, plus onboard controls for volume, track navigation, workouts and voice assistant.
The battery inside is larger, pushing the max life per charge from three hours to 4.5 hours. Such an increase is a big deal in this sub-category, where squeezing out an extra hour of tunes can be enough for two workouts.
Then there’s the new lime green-grey colour scheme. The all-black model from before is back, but this new lighter variant is available exclusively from Jabra’s website.
Water and sweat
Embedded IP67 water-resistance allows the Elite Sport to work for 30 minutes in up to 3.3 feet of water. Technically, you can go swimming with these on, so long as you’re within range of the phone or tablet you’ve paired them with. It’s only clear water, as saltwater would almost certainly damage them beyond repair.
That waterproofing has an equal, and arguably more important, benefit. Sweat is the biggest culprit to wireless earbuds breaking down, which is partly why Jabra offers a three-year warranty on sweat-related damage or malfunction. Being able to rinse and dry them after an excessively hot and sweaty workout could help avoid that from happening.
The one catch to the warranty eligibility is that you have to register the Elite Sport through the Sport Life app.
Setup and app
Bluetooth pairing isn’t hard at all, since the Elite Sport go into pairing mode right away. As before, there are three sets each of ear gels and Comply Foam tips, plus three ear wings, in large medium or small.
Finding the right fit is a bit of trial and error, and I suspect it would take most users a few attempts with different sizes to finally settle on what provides the best fit with the best sound. It was smart to include the foam tips, which do a better job at noise isolation, but are prone to deforming upon repeated exposure to heat and sweat.
Once paired, Jabra’s Sport Life recognized I was wearing them, proceeding to measure my heart rate. Within the app are four different tests for heart rate: VO2max to track overall fitness level, Cooper to test endurance, Orthostatic to estimate training level and Resting to personalize training zones.
It also tracks exercises, be it cardio or weight training. I liked that physio exercises were included, since I’ve had to do them for sports injuries on many occasions. There are several available to choose from, with Jabra making the smart move of separating running and walking with treadmill, and cycling and spinning.
Third-party app support with the likes of Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Endomondo and MapMyFitness increases the reach and sophistication for those using any of those apps. .
Apart from battery life, this is probably the most critical part of any pair of true wireless earbuds. The Elite Sport were among the best I had tested before, despite the bar not being exceptionally high at that point for lack of competition. Many months later, it’s becoming a crowd, and so, choosing not to physically improve audio fidelity was a bold move.
Jabra’s equalizer in the Sport Life app is pretty barebones, and nowhere near as intricate as EQ apps are on iOS and Android. I suppose that is a fallback, in case it’s not enough, though it would’ve been an option with the previous iteration anyway.
All that said, I enjoyed listening to tunes wearing these. Looking for anything different, I found the EQ did allow for increasing the bass, vocals or highs to bring more out of a track. My issue was the lack of presets to use for certain playlists. It may depend on what genre you like listening to, but the Elite Sport aren’t meant for audiophiles. They’re good enough to enjoy music on the go while feeling unfettered. That would probably apply to any fan of any genre.
HearThrough is another feature that allows for ambient noise to filter through the buds. This way, I could chat with someone without having to take them off. I even had the option to automatically lower the music volume or mute it altogether whenever it was engaged by double-tapping the main button on the right earpiece.
I should also mention that phone calls sound pretty good through the Elite Sport too. Callers knew I was using a hands-free device, but wouldn’t have been able to tell I was using something like this.
Increasing battery life to a rated 4.5 hours per charge is a nice move, even if little changed elsewhere on the Elite Sport. The charging carrying case has its own battery, able to recharge the earbuds up to three times. That’s where Jabra’s claim of 13.5 hours of battery life comes from.
The overall claim is accurate if volume is around 50 per cent, which is a bit low in a louder gym setting. It knocks down as volume goes up, but suffice it to say, this version definitely outlasts Jabra’s debut effort.
With such a short span, some range anxiety does set in. On the iPhone, I was able to see what the charge level was on the top bar, whereas I would have to check the Sport Life app to see it on an Android device.
Keeping it up
Jabra’s health and fitness focus is key to the Elite Sport, keeping in line with how some manufacturers carve out a niche or two for their true wireless earbuds. Paying the $349.99 price for a pair of these is a tough dent for most budgets, but there aren’t many that offer the full breadth in features and performance the Elite Sport does.
I imagine Jabra has an Elite Sport 2 on deck for launch at some point, but I’m not aware of anything to date. For now, this is it, and in a sub-category of impressive, yet flawed, players, this is one of the best pairs money can currently buy.
"abra had learned from past mistakes relating to fit"