What It Is
The Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition Headphones are wireless bluetooth headphones with a built in heartrate monitor, inline remote control, and microphone for calls. They connect to your phone and/or computer with Bluetooth 4, are water resistant, rugged, and fit securely for active use. Thre’s a microphone on the remote for taking calls, and they recharge with micro usb. Additionally, they feature a built in heartrate monitor, which is integrated into one of the earbuds, and gets HR data from a sensor pressed against your ear while in use. It’s also worth noting that these headphones are wirelessly connected to the audio source, but wired together. Additionally, they use micro-usb for charging and updating.
“Your all-in-one training solution with a built-in heart rate monitor. Made towards US Military standards, it’s sure to withstand even the hardest workout. Get immersive sound and real-time voice coaching that helps you reach your goals. Cut the wires and enjoy true freedom of movement.”
Who It’s For
The headphones are for mobile, active athletes who love using apps to track their workouts and metrics, drive towards a goal with their workouts, and listen to both music and podcasts, and occasionally deal with taking a call while working out. They’re great for gym-goers, or fitness-minded runners who favor convenience and features over battery life. They’re also a capable pair of office headphones with the ability to pair to your computer for wireless music listening, as well as for taking calls.
I tested these over about 3 weeks of almost daily use – going to the gym, running outdoors, and traveling with them. I’ve also talked a few hours with them, and have gone through a firmware upgrade process. I use Strava on my iPhone 6S for fitness tracking, which I used with these. I listen to music with Spotify, and podcasts with the native iOS podcasts app. I also tried the Jabra Fitness Life app. I recharged the headphone with their included microUSB cable, both connected to my Macbook Air’s USB port, as well as my iPad’s charging brick.
The packaging on these headphones is slick – a nice box with a magnetic latch, and nice presentation of the headphones with the different eartips.
In addition to the sport pulse headphones, the package comes with a bunch of different eartips and fit guides, allowing you to pick and choose to get a customized fit in your ears. After playing around with a bunch of different size combinations, I finally found one that works well for me. I must say, it’s really really important to find a good fit – the headphones will sound terrible if you don’t. But as soon as you get the right fit, they sound great, and stay in well.
There’s also a nice USB cable included, as well as a so-so black storage bag. The storage bag get the job done, but I think it’s a bit stiff and cheap feeling, considering the price. In this case, I’d prefer a small “microfiber” bag, like what comes with sunglasses.
- After playing around with the different eartip and earwing sizes, I finally got a good fit to these – and it’s great. The headphone stay in well, even during intense workouts. They’re also relatively unobtrusive, except for the cable. (covered below)
- Given the design and use case, the sound from them is pretty good – certainly good enough to enjoy listening to streaming music both while working out as well as at the office. They may not sound as good as a pair of studio headphones – but for mobile headphones, they’re great. They also provide a good amount of passive noise isolation, making them ok for commuting and transit, and blocking the rest of the world out.
- Voice quality is solid as well – listening to podcasts, voices are super clear and find. On calls, the sound quality is as good as the call quality, even with VoLTE and VOIP calls. The bottleneck is the call quality – not the headphones.
- I love that there’s an inline microphone. Certainly not required for these, but it’s a nice feature. I hate talking on the phone while at the gym, but for the few times i take a call while working out, these work fine – callers can hear me fine.
- The inline remote works as it should and surprisingly it doesn’t bounce too much.
- One small addition, which is critical for real world use, is the little cable-keeper clips. They’re used to bunch up the cable connecting the headphones – which is a bit long, but with these clips, it can be adjusted. I have mine so thay lay on the bottom of my neck – not too tight, but not flopping around either.
- There’s not a lot to say about the heartrate monitor other than – it works reliably and accurately. It connects quickly and easily to Strava, and keeps reporting HR reliably when working out. Its functionality is seamless and invisible – nothing to set up, no problems at all.
- Finally, on the left ear there’s a “sports button”. This button is used to start workouts with the Jabra Sport Life app. A cool feature – but I don’t use the Jabra app – i use Strava. I was initially a little disappointed that an entire hardware button is usable only with one app. However, I spoke to Jabra a bit, and they let me know that the sports button can actually be used by any app, if the developers update their app to work with it. Currently the Endomondo app works with it too. Hopefully others will follow.
- The cable connecting the headphones is one of the biggest issues. As much as it seems like a bit of an afterthought, I think the design and build of the connecting cable is hugely important. When in use, the cable connecting the two headphones rests on the back of my neck – which is fine when I’m not moving or sweating. However, then I’m working out, I get a bit sweaty on my neck. The cable has a nice-looking matte rubber coating – which, when a little damp, gets super sticky and tacky. This causes the cable to kinda stick to my neck when turning my head, which causes constant little snags. I know it’s a small issue, and one that will probably resolve itself with a bit of adjustment and use. However, it’s bothering me a bit for now. As a solution, I’d love to see these headphones come with a more slick-surfaced plastic coated cable, rather than soft and tacky rubber. That way, the more plasticy cable coating might slide when it gets sweaty, rather than stick. OR, you could just eliminate the cable all together…
- Batterylife is perfectly adaquate for daily workout routines. However, the 4.5 hours of battery seems short for longer workouts or races, or for using at the office AND at the gym. It’s also a little short for cross-country travel, but is perfectly fine for commuting. So, if you’re up for using them for your morning commute, charging them at your office, and then using them at the gym after work, they’ll be perfect. If you’re planning on sitting at your desk all day listening to them, maybe try something else.
- The storage bag, while a small items, could be improved – switch it to a microfiber lens-cloth-type baggy.
- While I appreciate the sports button’s functionality, I wish they had either gotten more 3rd party partners to integrate its functionality into their app, or focused on other features. I don’t really think I need a dedicated button to start and stop my workouts and get voice feedback. How about making the sports button a bit more versatile? Like allowing it to be reassigned to be a PTT button, or interact with the IFTTT app?
- The eargels are great, and once they fit, they’re in. However, I noticed that the small metal mesh that covers the sound holes into the actual earphones isn’t removable or replaceable. So after a bit of working out, I’ve found that earwax and gunk has started to collect on this mesh. How do I clean it?
- Bluetooth range – not as great as it could be. When connected to my iPhone 6s, if I put the iphone under my armpit, I can block the bluetooth enough to stop the music. With my Plantronics Explorer 500 headset (which is more of a business call headset), the music keeps going in the same circumstance.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a rugged set of wireless headphones for daily gym use, and love tracking your heartrate and using sports apps, then yeah, these are really great. They work well for their purpose, look good, and seem to be durably built. It’s obvious Jabra put a lot of thought into these, and these are certainly contenders in the premium wireless sports headphones domain. The addition of a heart rate monitor make these a compelling buy.
However, if you’re looking for perfect audio quality or all-day battery life, keep looking. Also, while you could only wear one of these at a time to take a one-eared phone call, the other headphone is dangling by the cord. If you’re looking for a headset you can wear one at a time for calls (Like Apple’s forthcoming Airpods, keep looking.
This is a great product from Jabra, and as the wireless headphone competition heats up in the wake of iPhone 7, I’m expecting to see even more compelling options. These headphones are solid, and will likely stay relevant and useful for their expected lifespan.