Jabra Elite Sport Review – Earbuds & Firstbeat-friendly app

I produced this Jabra Elite Sport Review after using them whilst writing the detailed guide to the best running watch with music.

Jabra Elite Sport Review

Jabra Elite Sport Review

They are great earbuds which also come with a functionally rich workout app (Jabra SPORT) which contains LOTS of Firstbeat training goodies to make a real difference to your training regime.

The Jabra smartphone app has been around for a few years and is stable & proven; the earbuds are a relatively recent model with an interesting sport-related feature-set; and the general level of HR and audio performance is actually pretty good, even in a gym environment.

My areas of potential interest that I will cover in this Jabra Elite Sport Review are:

  • The Jabra SPORT app, with a bias towards coverage of the Firstbeat-related training features eg the currently en-vogue ‘Adaptive Training’
  • Running Usage & accuracy

Some Options For Your Music & Heart Rate

Running tech has grown a little too much in some respects. If you’ve ever trained with music and like your gadgets then, at some point, you’ve probably realised that you’ve morphed into a1980’s sci-fi robot, bedazzled with tech paraphernalia. To make matters worse some of your essential tech paraphernalia tended to have a flat battery when you needed it most. There are just too many bits to: organise; keep charged; and keep up-to-date. And that’s before you even wear them.

Is this you a picture of your running gear?

Polar running with music

What was item 10 on the checklist?

Maybe you aspire to this, somewhat simpler, collection of running with music tech shown below ! 🙂 The Jabra Earbuds and Polar M600 do EXACTLY the same thing as the gadgets in the previous image – heart rate, proper sports watch and music-in-ear from a true wireless earbud. OK maybe I should have shown an Apple 3 Cellular then you could take mobile calls too. But the option shown offers potentially more accurate HR through the Jabra earbuds than through the Polar 6-LED HR optical sensor (onboard the M600), especially when used in a gym environment.

Polar running with music

Much simpler

 

Hopefully you get the point: there is much scope for the running with music lover to rationalise their kit.

Jabra Elite Sport – What it is and what you get

These are classed as TRUE wireless sports earbuds. ‘TRUE wireless’ means that as well as supporting BLE they are NOT connected to each other by a wire. So a different/normal bluetooth earbud may well have a wire/cord that permanently joins together the left and right earbud.

To my mind, classifying them as a SPORTS EARBUD is justified as Jabra offer a 3 year warranty against failure due to sweat.

The Elite Sport comes, well-presented, in quality packaging with: 3 sizes of EarWings; 3 sizes of Silicon EarGels; and 3 sizes of Foam-Tip EarGels. You also get the well-features JABRA APP and a charging case with 9 hours of backup power storage.

Jabra Elite Sport

 

Going For A Run

Once you’ve paired the device and ensured a snug fit, you are good to go.

Pairing for Sound and for Heart Rate

Pairing up the Jabra Elite Sport with my Android smrtphone was easy enough. As well as the Jabra app, other apps like WAHOO FITNESS also paired up.

However quite a few devices that, in theory, support a BLE heart rate monitor would not pair with the JABRA ELITE SPORT earbuds.

  • Specifically the Garmin Forerunner 935, Amazfit STRATOS, Suunto Trainer, Polar V650 and Wahoo ELEMNT would *NOT* pair as a Bluetooth HRM-only. The STRATOS did pair as only a headphone (99% sure) as did the TomTom Runner 3 Music.
  • Polar’s Wear OS device, the M600, specifically DID pair as both headphones and a HRM dispalying an indicator that the HRM was working AND turning off the inbuilt oHRM on the M600.

Whilst the theory that you can buy a device like the Jabra Sport ELite and use it both for music and for a means of saving the battery on your smartwatch by turning off the smartwatch’s HRM is good, the practice may well vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

The official pairing instructions are not so helpful when it comes to paring with sports watches (link to: jabra.com)

Thinking it though why would you want to pair a watch that can’t play music to headphones? Hence that might explain the 935’s unwillingness to pair up. But, then again, you might want to hear audio queues on devices that support coaching feedback, so the distinction as to what SHOULD be supported is not clear (to me).

Ensuring a Snug Fit

Everyone’s ears are different and even your left and right ear are probably at least slightly different. I’d say my ears are either average or slightly on the small size of average and I get a nice snug fit relatively easily.

Note that in this right ear the wing needs to ‘flick’ underneath the antehelix, if possible.

 

Running Around

I played the B-52’s song ‘Running Around’ and did as the song instructed.

  • Sound quality: Pretty good. Remember the price includes an element for the heartrate-based functionality
  • Did it fall out? No
  • I found pressing the left side’s volume button also temporarily pressed the left bud into my ear
  • For indications of your pace and for the pretty post run map your connected smartphone needs GPS enabled.
  • When performing a guided VO2max test the instructions were clear and concise. I was never quite sure if a HR connection was lost when I was told to get a better fit.
  • Initial VO2max was WAY off. But the Firstbeat tests can take a couple of weeks to arrive at a level it thinks is right. Subsequent tests showed increases.

Jabra Elite SPORT – Heart Rate Accuracy, Audio Dropouts & Quality

Heart Rate

I’ve had the Jabra Elite Sport earbuds for close to 2 months now.

My usage-to-date has only been limited by my desire to get the HR data in Jabra’s app as up to date as possible. This was so that I could look at the Firstbeat metrics that use the HR data AND also to look at the adaptive training program, also from Firstbeat. Once I got the data into the abra app it was easy enough to share to Endomondo and STRAVA. For some reason I decided to take an alternative route and export the data as CSV file and then convert it to a FIT file using fitfilerepairtool (link to: fitfilerepairtool.info, that converts and fixes pretty much any sports data file). This then easily let me compare multiple sources of HR data for the same workout which you can see in the follwoing charts to determin how accurate the Jabras are

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These were all tracks from VO2max tests and so the Jabra HR track stops when the test did.  They are not perfect but once they ‘find’ the HR signal they tend to be relatively good until, in my case, I fiddled with it. To me they look to be sufficiently accurate to allow the Firstbeat algorithms to work but if you want a perfect HR track then you may well get something like I show above.

The Jabra earbuds WILL also send heart rate to an appropriately compatible sports watch (eg the Polar M600, shown above with #Endomondo) but some watches will not pair with the earbuds as a simple BLE heart rate monitor. Others, like the Garmin Forerunner 935, WILL pair with it but won’t work with it (yet?)

My guess would be that all the WearOS devices might be OK to support music and HR but even some devices like the Amazfit STRATOS (which supports headphones and HR) will not send a HR signal and it will only pair as headphones. I do not think it is possible to pair the Jabra as earbuds to your smartphone and as a HRM to another sports watch – although I seem to remember reading that is technically possible in principle with the latest Bluetooth versions.

I digress; as a general guide: if you are trying to conjure a smart solution to your music woes..it won’t work!

Edit: Having upgraded my M600 to a later version of WearOS I no longer seem to be able to get Endomondo to work and recognise the Jabra as a HRM

Audio Dropouts & Quality

In addition to the app-based workouts, I’ve used the Jabra Earbuds just as a simple audio device

For the audio-only experience I never encountered dropouts. Well, if I wore the music source on the right wrist or right arm all was good. On the left (opposite) wrist there were audio dropouts.

The audio quality is pretty good. You could get better audio quality for earbuds at the same price but I doubt you could do that and get all the heart rate sensing and training functionality.

Firstbeat Features

Firstbeat are the leading provider of clever physiological algorithms for consumer sporting devices. There is genuine deep science behind what they do and I generally ‘get’ most of it. It is pretty amazing what personal insights a few details like height and weight can deliver when combined with your heart rate from the Jabra earbuds.

Firstbeat helpfully list their compatibility with Jabra as shown here:

 

Jabra-Firstbeat-Features

 

Let’s look at what all these features mean to you and your training

VO2max Fitness Level In this Jabra Elite Sport Review

A higher VO2max makes sport AND THE PHYSICAL RIGOURS OF LIFE easier. Sometimes us sporty people forget that.

It’s a relatively definitive metric of fitness. Improving it should indicate you are potentially faster but it does not take into account the economy of your technique. We could both have a VO2max of 60 but if your running gait is more efficient than mine then it’s likely you’ll beat me in a 5k.

Maintaining your VO2max can also reduce the physiological impact of stress, makes it easier to recover, and can help stave off the effects of aging.

You can’t generally do anything with VO2max. It’s a marker of your progression.

  • Firstbeat Factette: The first Garmin Device with VO2max detection was the Forerunner 620 (2013)

Training Effect on the Jabra Elite Sport

 

Jabra SPORT App eliteFirstbeat produce metrics for both ANAEROBIC and AEROBIC training effects. The Jabra Elite Sport supports the AEROBIC training effect (TE). Usually there will be in-workout feedback telling you to speed up or slow down according to your progress towards a target based on DURATION and Training Effect (TE).

Firstbeat’s Training Effect metrics are important and, in my experience, they seem to reflect well the session I’ve just completed. The further away from race day you are and the longer your race is to be then the more important AEROBIC training effect is. If you are a less well-trained athlete, then the AEROBIC training effect is the most important one to work on for most people.

To progress and improve, you need to challenge yourself in the right way and at the right level. Aerobic Training Effect analyzes your performance to reveal the impact of your activity on the development of your cardio-respiratory system. The fitter and more active you are, the harder you need to work to improve. Behind the scenes Jabra take this information into account to ensure that the Aerobic Training Effect feedback you get always reflects your own personal situation. Note: prior to the introduction of Anaerobic Training effect in 2017, Aerobic Training Effect was simply called Training Effect.

Jabra Elite Sport and Recovery Time Advisor

Jabra SPORT App eliteFor the sports techies, Recovery Time is an EPOC-based metric and looks at the degree of homeostasis disturbance resulting from your most recent effort combined with the amount of time remaining on your recovery clock to predict when your body will have completed the work or restoration and adaptation.

One popular misconception regarding Recovery Time feedback is that it should hit zero before your next session. What it’s really telling you is how long it will be before your body is ready to benefit from a tougher, fitness improving, workout. What’s a fitness improving workout? Essentially we’re talking about sessions with an Aerobic Training Effect of 2.5 and above. Lighter efforts are a good way to promote recovery, as long as you don’t over do it.

I don’t treat this measure of Recovery Time as the ‘truth’ but I certainly take it into account when training frequently.

You can see your current Recovery Status in the MY BODY section of the app. A neat nuance for the Jabra app, compared to other devices that use the Firstbeat metrics, is that you are also guided towards what level of intensity run you are ready for if you want to go for a run now. #Neat.

Jabra Elite Sport Race Predictor

There are various race predictors online which attempt to extrapolate your performance at one distance to a different distance.

Just because you got a 5k PB with lots of anaerobic training does NOT mean that you will be able to anywhere near achieve a race predictor’s time for a marathon. But rather the Race Predictor shows what you ought to be able to achieve with appropriate training.

Hey! Use the adaptive and personalised training plan for that – it’s already on the app!

If you are undertaking lots of sub-1 hour workouts and aiming for a 5k, then the Jabra should be pretty good at predicting your time for that distance.

Personalised Training Plan

Jabra’s implementation of Firstbeat’s Training Plans is impressive.

The basis for the plan is broadly/simplistically that the time you spend at certain heart rate levels will have a TRAINING EFFECT (TE) on your body (see above). Firstbeat algorithms also know how long it will take for you to recover from whatever TE you achieved in your previous session. So your next workout can be dynamically adjusted to what you are able to achieve, based on your recovery status and overall race goals.

This is the essence of ‘adaptive training’ and is one the emerging popular themes in 2017/2018 sports technology from other vendors.

As these screenshots below show, Jabra let you select the intensity of your overall plan and then allows you to schedule the days of the week that you are available to train. You can see below that the plan has TE3.0 sessions planned for Wed, Fri and Sunday. But if, for example, you overachieved on Saturday with TE4.0, the plan may well adjust Sunday’s session to TE1.0 for advanced runners or even to a rest day for less advanced runners with lower improvement rate targets.

Even better: the plan enables you to do a non-running workout and your TE score will still count towards the plan and the plan will react to what you achieved. You won’t find that on a Garmin. Any Garmin.

In itself, JUST the training plan is pretty cool functionality backed up by a real sports science engine. You can get apparently similar products elsewhere but, to me, a lot of them seem to be ‘smoke and mirrors’ rather than what is on offer here.

 

The detail of the ‘next recommended workout’ is shown on the app, it will say something like 40 minutes at TE3.0 (not shown on the image above).

Real-Time Coaching

In essence, this is audio feedback during your exercise that could be either an instruction or some progress information.

On one level it tells you to ‘speed up’ or ‘slow down’ in order to ensure you hit the TE target for your workout. A different aspect is that you can get several other audio queues such as: sensor status of the earbuds; or a customisable progress message of your stats at a specified time or duration into the workout.

As you can see in this slideshow, there are lots of audio queues on offer and these can be heard at key times or distance points in your workout.

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General Training Settings

If you don’t want to follow an adaptive plan and just go and ‘do your thing’, then there are options available across several sport types. You can set yourself various target based on: cadence; target pace; HR Zone; desired training effect; calories burnt; distance; or duration. Or it can just track whatever you choose to do.

You can choose what workout metrics appear on the screen (there’s a good choice) and you can also see a map of your route.

 

Advanced Headphone Settings

There are several changes that can be made to the headphone settings to fine-tune: audio playback settings; call settings; and the interaction with the external environment.

  • Enabling HearThrough better enables you to hear environmental noise through music, for example if someone is talking to you. I didn’t find it made too much difference although it did perhaps seem a little over-sensitive to wind noise.
  • The music Equalizer allows you to boost or tone-down certain music frequencies. The defaults seemed OK to me but you can use a basic slide equalizer or one which specifically lets you make changes at 5 audio frequencies
  • With SIDE TONE you can hear your own voice when taking a phone call…not nice in my case! Nice if y ou like to hear the sound of your own voice 😉
  • I ended up not calibrating the app for walking or running speeds. Essentially a motion sensor is used to estimate your stride length at certain speeds. Correctly calibrating over a known distance eg 400m, should improve accuracy of how the app records both distance and speed/pace. I often switched between wearing on my upper arm and on a belt and assumed the same motion calibration value would not work on both.

 

Tidbits, Resources & Specifications

  • User Manual: link to jabra.com
  • The headphones automatically reconnect to each other if they are within 25cm of each other
  • The right-side earbud can be used on its own.
  • Noddy’s guide to putting earbuds in – it can be harder than it looks and needs to be done properly

  • Noddy’s further guide to the buttons on the device. As long as you know your left from yoru right all will be cool.

  • Secure cord-free fit with one or both earbuds
  • Advanced personalised fitness analysis using in-ear heart rate monitor
  • 4.5 hours music/talk time per charge
  • 2 recharges on-the-go from the portable carry case
  • Waterproof earbuds (IP67 rated), splash-proof charging case (IP54 rated)
  • Compatible with Apple iOS and Android smartphones
  • Dimensions Earbuds L 27 x W 30 x H 22.5 mm,
  • Charging case L 72 x W 51 x H 26.5 mm
  • Weight Earbuds 6.5g x2 , Charging case 67g
  • Certifications; Bluetooth 4.2, CE, FCC, IC, RoHS, REACH
  • Paired devices; Up to 8 – connected to one at a time
  • Speaker sensitivity 103dBSPL at 1kHz/1mW
  • Speaker frequency range 16Hz-20kHz
  • Microphone type 4 x MEMS
  • Microphone sensitivity -38 dBV/Pa
  • Microphone frequency range 100Hz to 10kHz
  • Supported Bluetooth profiles Headset profile v1.2 , hands free profile v1.6, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, PBAP v1.1

Price, Availability & Discounts

Be mindful that not all Bluetooth headphones will be compatible with the precise device you have. With Amazon you can always send it back. Amazon also sell, below, replacements parts should you ever need them.

Jabra Elite Sport

Best Amazon price is linked to. $190/Eu/£160 and might fall in 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site




Summary

There is a premium for the Jabra Elite Sport headphones and, in my opinion, that is justified by the comprehensive sports functionality in the app. The included Firstbeat adaptive training plan is unusual in itself but even more so the plan adapts all the way up to fairly high levels of training – we’re talking 17 minute 5k people….that’s fast.

Another key message to take out is that these earbuds give you a fairly reliable source of heart rate data. You might send that to an app or you might send it to your smartwatch. If you are in a gym setting where there is lots of wrist movement, then competing technologies that have optical heart rate taken from the wrist will VERY LIKELY be inaccurate. So in the gym scenario, if you want accuracy then these Jabra earbuds will be one of your better choices, especially if you don’t like wearing a chest strap.

Both running-use and gym-use provide challenges for any optical HR device. Whislt running I found that the audio was great and that, provided the earbuds were correctly inserted, the HR was pretty good too.

Not all watches will support the Jabra as a source of bluetooth heart rate data but most watches that support music playback should support playback to the Jabra headphones. As I said in the main body of the review the Polar M600 (a WearOS device) does support both music playback and heart rate.

Jabra Elite Sport

Best Amazon price is linked to. $190/Eu/£160 and might fall in 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site

 

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Rui Pereira
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Rui Pereira

I’m guessing you need to have the phones to use the app or is there a workaround?

Chris Hague
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Chris Hague

I just bought a pair this weekend and love them. The 4.5 hour battery life though is a tad too short for my longer workouts on the bike and run though.

Webvan
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Webvan

Great write-up as usual 😉
Was actually looking into these mostly for audio as they also seem to be the best in that area, well maybe the Jabra Elite 65t are better but more expensive. The Jaybird Run have frequent L/R disconnects apparently and big delay (problem for videi). The Bose are huge and the Chinese knockouts have terrible sound and fit.
The FBeat stuff is the icing on the cake and no one else had reviewed it AFAIK. The fact you can’t use HR with the FR935 is a minor inconvenience as a result (BT can’t work over several devices at the same time unless that’s changed?).
Does HR work with only one ear for when you run with other people?

Webvan
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Webvan

Oh and not that it really matters but I was under the impression that the calibration referred to a motion sensor inside the earbuds ?

Webvan
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Webvan

Good news, with the latest v9.60 FW for the FR935 the Jabra are now recognized as an HR monitor and the best part is that they can stay connected to the Android app.

Having said that I just got mine yesterday and my first run was a failure in terms of HR as it rarely found it and when it did it made no sense. I’m now using the large “wing” and will see if that helps.