I teamed up with JABRA at The Wearable Technology Show at Excel and I’ve recently been sent over the SPORT ROX WIRELESS to have a look at.
They are high quality, high fidelity, Bluetooth Sport Earbuds that are suitable for sports’ environments.
Techie stuff you need to know first is that: they are BTLE/Bluetooth 4 compatible; the battery life is about 5 hours; and they have Dolby Digital plus audio. [This version is NOT the heart-rate monitoring earbuds…I will hopefully look at that interesting development soon].
Having sworn never to use music when running I compromised and use them for indoor gym work, rowing and when on my turbo trainer – handy as it’s very noisy and I can’t always hear what’s being said when I watch a movie on the PC whilst cycling.
Other techie stuff you might want to know is that: they have a great degree of sweat-proofing and they have power saving features when hung around your neck. Because they don’t connect to your device with a wire, instead you fasten together the two buds to create a ring around your neck so that they won’t fall off when not in use. The buds are held together with magnets and those magnets operate the power saving functionality although the 5 hours is more than enough for my needs.
They retail at about £70 and for that you get: the ear buds; a USB cable for charging; an arm case; and 12 combinations of (4x) Eargel buds and (3x) ‘Earwings’ that will surely customise the fit to most ears. The wire that joins together the two buds also has a control device (multi-function button and up/down volume).
In the image below you can see the clear, curled ‘wings’ and the clear and yellow buds,
How good do they sound
I used to be into my music and also into sound quality. I have a high-end hi-fi feeding off digital files on a PC, so I thought about the chance of comparing sound quality to the ROX.
You may see various gadget-blog reviews saying how good or not various speakers or headphones are. One of the biggest determinants of sound quality is the quality of the source. If you have a rubbish source then even the best hi-fi equipment will NOT make it sound like a top-end system. Simple as that.
SOUND QUALITY 101: So if all your digital music is compressed to 192kbps then it won’t sound anywhere as near as good as it could. An mp3 at 192kbps is ‘lossy’ compression – what ‘lossy’ means is that some data is literally lost in the compression. Lossless compression, on the other hand, is where the song is made smaller but absolutely no data is lost, it’s just mathematically compressed – so simplistically you might think of it as storing the chorus once and then referring to that same physically stored chosrus 5 times when as the chorus is repeated 5 times in the song. Clearly it saves storing 4 lots of the chorus. (That’s sort-of how it works). A lossless compression should sound as good as the original – .flac files are an example of lossless compression but even ipads couldn’t play that format when I last looked.
So to fully appreciate the sound you need your best and largest/least lossy tracks.
Anyway, I digress…
I always find that head/ear phones sound better than they should, for the money. For me I think this is because much of the background noise is eliminated – giving the ear ‘focus’. As we entered the digital age then it was also possible to reduce much of the annoying hiss that used to be there. The ‘speaker’ in the earbud is physically VERY close to the ear drum and so very little amplification (and sound quality loss) is required.
SOUND QUALITY COMPARISON
My comparison is to my ancient pair of Beyer Dynamic DT-100 studio headphone and a friend’s BEATS by Dr Dre (headphones). The former are about £100 and have been on the music scene for over 30 years – you still see them in music studios now on TV clips; and the latter are quite a bit more expensive than the JABRA and apparently rather trendy, having made a small fortune for Mr Dre.
The Jaybird alternative is about twice the price for a very similar level of sound quality. The fit to the ear with the JABRA is better in my opinion.(I didn’t have these for an audio comparison).
The sound quality is VERY good. It didn’t match the (overpriced) Dr Dre’s but for home audio it stood up surprisingly well to the Beyer Dynamic studio headphones. I would say that from your mobile phone you will need to use the JABRA APP with DIGITAL DOLBY turned on – DOLBY DIGITAL makes the audio sound a LOT better than with DOLBY off IMHO.
We’ve probably all used earbuds that are a bit rubbish. The JABRA outperforms ALL OF THE PRODUCTS I’ve ever used in that category by a fair way. I vaguely remember being impressed by a CREATIVE pair of earbuds a couple of years back but these (the JABRA) almost certainly sound better.
Now, obviously I’m not comparing them to a high-end, home audio and saying they are that good – as that will never be the case. The digital analog conversion (DAC) won’t be as good for a start, it just can’t be at this price point.
If I had to be negative and super-critical I would say that some people might prefer a little more oomph in the base region. But they are great for me.
AUDIO QUALITY 1-02: A DAC is the bit that converts digital sound (which you can never hear) into analog/sound waves that you can hear via a speaker of some sorts. The better the DAC, the better the sound. (So: Good DAC+lossless compression+excellent speakers = a great sound)
Anyway, I’m waffling on again but take the point that they are great sound quality for what they are. In my experience you need the DIGITAL DOLBY to achieve that quality.
FIT AND USAGE
It took about 5-10 minutes to set up the app and put my phone in the supplied arm band. Probably another 5-10 minutes to get and test the best/right combination of the supplied ‘BUDS’ and ‘WINGS’. Once I got the right combination they stayed in pretty well most of the time for rowing, general gym use and treadmill running use. I didn’t try playing squash in them or anything like that nor running outdoors as,in my opinion for the routes I do, that’s dangerous.
A friend of mine (adult) has unusually small ears (5cm from top to bottom). Whilst the overall ear size is not important (it’s the inner size) then s/he could not get the plugs to stay in. My ears are 6.5cm from top to bottom and they stayed in fine with the medium sized buds and wings. PLEASE don’t go and measure your ear! but be careful on the purchase of you have exceptionally small ears. (ie less than 1% of the population type sized ears)
There is a sound control and pairing ‘bar’ on the wire.This controls the tracks and sound and, well, pairing to the smartphone. You can also speak into the bar and, effectively, take and make calls. I didn’t test that. The ‘bar’ is shown on the image below.
The buds appear like and feel like very high quality units.They have a metal finish as shown on the previous image. They feel a little ‘heavy’, mine stayed in just fine but others reported that they came out like other pairs they had from different brands.
I reviewed the SPORT model. The SPORT model has a high WATER and DUST proof rating.The non-SPORT version does not have that rating so buy carefully for what you need.
These are ‘proper’ Bluetooth/NFC sport headphones that do the job in sweaty and dusty environments. They sound great with the JABRA app and have a high build quality. I think they look good.
JABRA are a company to watch. They are doing and planning exciting things with super-accurate, in-ear heart rate monitoring as well as feedback for in-ear sports audio-coaching. These current/future directions are good in themselves but also mesh nicely with where the whole sport-wearable market is heading.
Here is the manual for the Jabra Sport Rox Wireless if that’s what you are looking for.
And here is a video review from the manufacturer
Here are well priced links to this and other JABRA products.Note that the SPORT model is super sweat proof and the PULSE model takes accurate HR readings.I will review that separately.
|June 2015||Amazon Price|
|JABRA SPORT ROX Wireless/Bluetooth||£86.30||Link|
|JABRA ROX Wireless/Bluetooth||£59.48||Link|
|JABRA Sport Pulse Wireless||£181.99||Link|
|Jaybird Bluebuds X Bluetooth||£92.32||Link|