Most wearable products today are heavily focused on fitness and activity tracking. From counting calories to monitoring heart rate, these specialised fitness bands can do quite a lot. Even smartwatches today try to do at least some of these things. Jabra, a brand that prides itself in making quality wireless audio products, has now introduced a pair of fitness-oriented Bluetooth in-ear earphones in its Sport range, which has an integrated heart rate monitor. It is called the Jabra Sport Pulse.
Another pair of earphones in the same Sport range, minus the heart rate monitor, is the Sport Rox. Jabra has also added Dolby audio enhancement to both these models. We tested them and we even went running with them, admittedly after eons.
Looks, fit and specifications
Both the Jabra Sport Pulse and Sport Rox in-ear earphones sport the same design. The earbuds are attached to the two ends of a long flat rubber strap which goes behind your neck. Jabra claims that the cable is 'built towards US military rain, shock, sand and dust standards' on the Sport Pulse, which is IP54 certified. The Sport Rox has IP55 certification.
There is an inline remote close to the right earbud on both, the Pulse and Rox. This remote has the play/pause/call button right in the centre, flanked by volume up and down buttons. The rear of the left earbud on the Jabra Sport Rox can be popped open to reveal the Micro-USB port for charging. The same port on the Sport Pulse is intelligently hidden under the earwings on the right earbud. There are magnets on the rear plates of the Sport Rox, which let you clamp the two earbuds together when not in use. The heart rate monitor of the Sport Pulse is in the left earbud.
Talking about earwings, these are attachments designed and trademarked by Jabra, and are present on both pairs of earphones. These provide added stability ensuring that the earpieces stay secure even during intense workouts; which in fact they do. We found the fit to be extremely comfortable and in case the default tips don't fit you well, Jabra provides three different sizes. There are also extra silicon eartips in four sizes. It is essential that you find the correct fit because this will determine the sound performance. Apart from additional tips and wings, Jabra provides an armband with Sport Rox and a protective pouch with the more expensive Sport Pulse.
Both pairs of earphones connect to sources over Bluetooth 4.0 and have support for NFC pairing as well. They use 6mm dynamic drivers which have an impedance of 16 Ohms. The earphones can operate in a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz, which is more than enough for human ears.
Pairing over Bluetooth is a straightforward process on both the Pulse and the Rox. Some devices may ask for a passkey when you are connecting for the first time, which by default is 0000. After that, both models can reconnect automatically. What's even better is that the Jabra Sport can be connected to two devices at once. Jabra has programmed human voice prompts to guide you through the connection process to make it easier. However for reasons unknown, the Bluetooth connection on the Sport Pulse kept dropping when the smartphone we paired it with was in our pocket, which was rather annoying.
Before we get down to the sound quality of the earphones, we want to discuss the Sport Pulse's heart rate monitor and its accuracy. While Jabra does have its own app for most platforms, the Sport Pulse also supports popular third-party fitness applications such as Endomondo, Runkeeper, Strava and MapMyFitness. In the feature-rich default Jabra Sport app, you can choose from activities including running, cycling and walking, and also set the app to either just track you continuously or help you reach a target. Additionally, you can pick and choose between the Jabra Sound app or your phone's native app for music.
The app shows your current heart rate and duration of an active workout on the first page by default, but you can configure it as you like. The second page has more detailed information and the final page has an interactive map showing your movements using GPS.
The heart rate monitor senses your pulse in the inner ear and Jabra claims that it achieves clinical grade accuracy as a result. In our testing our heart rate was around 80-85bpm at rest and around 160-180bpm when running. This is a great tool for athletes who want a continuous report on the intensity of their activity so that they don't burn out.
The monitor obviously only works when you're wearing the earphones, which you might not always want to do. Most common activity trackers, which come in the form of wrist bands, give users much more flexibility regarding where and how they can be used.
Coming to the actual sound quality of the Sport Pulse, it is not meant for those who expect a neutral sound signature. The excited sound of the Pulse veers towards slightly shrill treble, especially at maximum volume. The bass is adequately tight and and has the right amount of thump without overpowering the other frequencies. The mids are not very prominent and some vocals can drown them out. The soundstaging is decent at best. The Sport Pulse doesn't get too loud, which affects its ability to block out ambient noise. If you are going to run in a loud locality, don't expect to hear much music over the din of the environment.
The Sport Rox has a similar sound signature but we found that sound levels were even lower when compared to the Sport Pulse. Thankfully, there was no distortion - even with the treble - on the Rox, although neither the mid-range nor the bass response were really great.
These earphones are not suited for watching movies thanks to the underpowered mids. Unfortunately, the Dolby sound enhancement can only be activated via the Jabra Sound app and it only changes the atmosphere to make every song sound like it is playing in a stadium. We are not fans of such altered sound. Overall, we prefer the cleaner sound quality of the Sport Pulse more, without the Dolby enhancement of course.
The battery on the Jabra Sport Pulse is rated for 4.5 hours of music but we managed only 4 hours which is not too great. Thankfully, the Jabra Sport Rox lasts longer; close to 6 hours in our tests. Call quality with both models was not too great, and people on the other end consistently complained about muffled sound.
The Sport Pulse is available for Rs. 15,990 and the Sport Rox is available for Rs. 6,990. Quite evidently, Jabra is charging a lot more for the heart rate monitor on the Sport Pulse. However, the sound quality is not necessarily as good as other options you can get for the same price - wireless or not. For example, the wireless Bose Soundlink on-ear headphones with active noise cancellation can be purchased for around Rs. 21,000 while the JBL Synchros E40BT and Plantronics Backbeat Pro are much less expensive and have superior sound. That said none of these have as snug a fit as the Sport Pulse, which will attract fitness freaks.
We also find it difficult to recommend the Jabra Sport Rox over the Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 because we think that the latter pair has a superior sound signature.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Jabra Sport Rox
Price: Rs. 6,990
Ratings (Out of 5)