I have weird ears. Rachelle would say they don’t work half the time, whenever she’s asking me to clean something. But just between you and me (she says she reads all my blog posts, but I don’t buy it), I can hear just fine. In fact, I’ve been reviewing high end audio products for Gaming Nexus for years. I’ve reviewed more surround sound earphones for video games than I can count. That’s why whenever I get a chance to review an audio product for sports, I’m all over it.
I learned about Jabra SPORT headphones during my trip to CES this year. Even after meeting me, the folks from Jabra were kind enough to send me out a review unit which I have been putting through its paces on all of my runs. I’ve broken my review down into a few key sections that I think are the important aspects of sport headphones:
- Fit: As I mentioned above, I have weird ears. Most earbuds will not stay properly in my left ear. The bottom rim of my Concha in my left ear is significantly larger than my right which paired with my less pronounced Tragus means that most earbuds don’t fit well unless they’re jammed in my ear pretty firmly which can get uncomfortable especially on longer runs. This means a lot of earbuds don’t work for me, because I’ll be running along and suddenly the left earphone will pop out. I found that 2 of the design features of the Jabra sport helped prevent that.
- First, they have an over-ear design. This is likely primarily due to the need to store electronics for the bluetooth functionality (which I’ll get to later), but gives the earphone additional purchase on the ear without adding much weight and no discomfort.
- Second, as with many modern high end headphones, the Jabra SPORTs come with 2 extra sets of “Ultimate Comfort Eargels” which are the rubber pads that go around the bud itself. Changing to the medium sized one in my left ear really gave it the additional staying power I needed on that side. Once I made that change. I found them to be very comfortable and they stayed in place as I ran, which as a big guy is quite a jarring experience
Left ear has size 2 eargel, while right shows size 1
- Bluetooth: In case you’ve been training for your races in a cave, bluetooth is a wireless technology designed to transmit data over short distances, using very little power. Those two components make it a good fit for wireless headphones. Now I see you raising an eyebrow and thinking “But Ben, I see wires in the bottom of the picture just above where you said wireless”. That’s true, you do. While bluetooth is relatively low power, having to send data to two receivers, and therefore two batteries is a far more challenging proposition from a cost and battery life perspective. Most bluetooth headphone makers (Jabra included) get around this by connecting the 2 earpieces together, allowing the system to run off one receiver and one battery.
- Pairing: With Bluetooth, you have to “pair” your receiver to whatever device is transmitting (in this case my HTC G2 smartphone), and with the Jabras it’s pretty simple. The instructions vary based on which device you’re using to transmit but from the earphones it’s just powering them on and holding down a button until your device recognizes it. There are audio cues from the headset to let you know when it’s connected.
- Data transfer: When they say Bluetooth is designed for short distances they mean it. With the receiver in the right earpiece, you’ll want to keep the transmitting device on the right side of your body and at minimum above your waist. I found putting it in my shorts pocket led to a lot of interrupted songs. When I used my H2OAudio Amphibx Fit armband, or when I put the phone in the breast pocket of my cool weather workout shirt, I had no problems.
- Battery life: So far this has been the only shortcoming I’ve experienced, if you can call it that. Right now, I’m getting about 2 1/2 hours of battery life out of what I think is a full charge, which is just slightly less than the package advertises. The Jabra SPORT uses a flashing vs. solid LED to indicate full charge, but it would be nice if it utilized they audio cue system to tell you relative charge other than at “low battery” which it will tell you. Most of my runs are plenty short as to not be effected for now, but as I up my distance as I get closer to my 140.6, the battery life issues may become more pressing.
- Sound Quality: Here’s an area which is generally pretty subjective to most folks, but I think can be quantified pretty simply. The maximum volume is more than loud enough to keep your focus on the music while still allowing outside sounds in like the honk of a car horn. The bass is strong enough that you get a good thump from the upbeat tempo tracks without being overpowered. And I didn’t notice any tin-ny sound from the high end with volume maxed, which is generally an easy indicator of inexpensive drivers. That should me a decent lifespan for the audio portion of the electronics.
Overall, I have to say I’ve been pretty happy with the Jabra SPORT headphones. Not having to worry about the hassle of the cord from my phone to my earbuds or having it disconnect when I stop to tie a shoe I think more than compensates for the limits placed on listening time due to the battery life of the receiver. Especially when you consider what portion of your workouts in a given season are 3 hours or less, it certainly diminishes the battery life as a serious design defect. In closing, I give the Jabra SPORT Bluetooth pretty high marks (3.75 out of 4 trees) and that most users will be very happy with the Jabras as their primary training headphones.
Which is why I’m happy to be giving away a pair! Jabra is providing me with a pair to give away, as well as a pair to include in the raffle. You have several ways to enter below. This is my first go at using Rafflecopter, so I’m hoping it works! You have until Monday 2/6/12 at midnight to enter!