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Jabra Elite Sport review: Worthy AirPod rivals are like a Fitbit for your ears

Jabra's Sport Elite is a totally wireless waterproof headphone that features two separate cord-free earbuds and an in-ear heart-rate monitor.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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Editors' note (July 31, 2017): Jabra has upgraded its Elite Sport earbuds with a new version that delivers 50 percent more battery life -- 4.5 hours instead of 3 hours -- between in-case charges. Like the original version, the new edition features a built-in heart-rate monitor and costs $250 (£230; $AU 329). It now comes in a lime green gray edition as well as black.

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7.7

Jabra Elite Sport

The Good

The Jabra Elite Sport is a set of totally fully waterproof wireless sports earphones with a built-in heart-rate monitor that sounds quite good if you can get a tight seal. Works very well as a headset as single or stereo buds. Compatible with leading third-party fitness apps as well as Jabra's companion fitness app. Charging case delivers two full charges.

The Bad

May be a tad bulky for some people's ears; pricey; battery life between case charges is only three hours.

The Bottom Line

Despite some small drawbacks, the Jabra Sport Elite is one of the stronger early entries in the totally wireless headphone arena.

The original Jabra Elite Sport review, published in December 2016, follows.

No, the Apple AirPods aren't the only "true wireless" headphones you can buy. Several other competitors have trickled into the market for standalone left and right earbuds in recent months, including the Motorola VerveOnes, Samsung Galaxy Gear IconX, Erato Apollo 7, Earin and the upcoming Here One. And now Jabra has entered the zero-wire fray with its Elite Sport wireless sports earbuds. They're available in the US ($250), UK (£230) and the EU (250 euros), with an Australian launch slated for later in the year (pricing not yet announced, but US price converts to approximately AU$330).

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The Jabra Elite sports comes with a variety of eartips and fins to help you get the right fit.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What makes the Elite Sport so elite? For starters, the 'buds are fully sweat- and waterproof. There's also an integrated heart-rate monitor that provides "in-ear fitness analysis" and, as you'd suspect from a Jabra headphone, they work quite well as a headset for making calls, with built-in noise reduction technology. According to Jabra, the earbuds analyze external sounds and automatically switch to the earbud with least background noise. I had no problem making calls from the noisy streets of New York, which is a feat.

What also impressed me about these guys was their ability to maintain a steady, hiccup-free connection and stay in my ears while running. They also sound quite decent, though with in-ear noise-isolating headphones such as these, it's crucial that you get a tight seal to get the best sound quality, and you'll have to try out a few of the various tips and fins that Jabra provides before you settle into a fit you're satisfied with.

Once again, none of the included eartips allowed me to get a tight seal. But I dug up an extra large silicone tip from the myriad tips I have lying around the office and -- voilà -- the sound improved by 25 percent, particularly the bass. The only problem was that with those larger tips, the earbuds didn't quite fit in their charging case (I couldn't snap the lid completely shut).

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The earphones are fully waterproof.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, there's a good chance one of the tips will fit you perfectly and you won't have this problem (my ears are admittedly tough to fit, but there are plenty of people out there with ears that are tough to fit with in-ear sports headphones).

Another downside is the earphones are somewhat beefy. And while they should fit most people's ears pretty well -- and fairly comfortably -- due to their size and the shape of my ear, I didn't find them supercomfortable, though I felt better about them once I found the right tip.

Like competing products, battery life isn't great -- they're rated at just three hours of music listening -- but it's easy to get extra juice by slipping them into their charging case, which has an integrated battery that gives you two additional charges.

You can use the headphones with your favorite iOS and Android running and fitness apps, including Endomondo, RunKeeper, MapMy Fitness, Runtastic, and Strava, but Jabra has its own training-management app called Jabra Sport Life that's good, too, and gives you in-ear coaching and feedback.

The heart-rate sensor picks up your heart rate through your ear and there's an initial delay of about 5 to 10 seconds before it picks up what appears to be an accurate measurement -- or pretty accurate, anyway.

I'm not going to do a deep dive into all the fitness aspects of the headphone, but I will say this is one of the stronger early entries in the totally wireless headphone arena.

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The charging case delivers two full charges.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's not without its small flaws. I thought the buds could fit in their case a little better (even with the buds wearing a set of the supplied tips and stabilizers the case had a little trouble closing all the way). I also encountered the occasional issue where the two buds wouldn't link together into a stereo pair. I had to fiddle around with my Bluetooth settings and put the disconnected bud back in the charging case, then bring it out again so it would wake up.

It also takes some trial and error to figure out what the little buttons on the earpieces exactly control (there are volume controls and a pause/play button) and it certainly helps to read the manual because the headphones and the app have a lot of technology and features to wade through. For instance, there's a HearThrough feature that allows more ambient noise to enter your ears, a good safety feature for runners who want to hear traffic noise (or if you simply want to talk to someone without removing the headphones). However, if you're playing your music loud, you won't be able to hear traffic noise, even with the HearThrough feature switched on.

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The built-in heart-rate sensor records your heart rate through your ear.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As I said, the battery life could be better, and the price could be lower. But aside from those caveats, they do work surprisingly well and should improve with time as Jabra continues to tweak their software (you can update the firmware).

It's also worth mentioning that hard-core athletes will appreciate that they have a three-year warranty against failure due to sweat. Oh, and if you lose one bud, Jabra will give you a good deal on a replacement bud. Or so the folks there told me.

Here are the Sport Elite's key specs:

  • Superior sound with up to three hours of music and calls (plus up to six hours additional charge from the portable charging case)
  • Flexible wearing options with single or stereo earbud use
  • Advanced heart rate analysis with automatic fitness level testing of VO2 Max, recovery advisor and race predictor
  • Two integrated microphones in each earbud
  • Background noise reduction
  • Audio pass-through allows you to tune in to your surroundings at the touch of a button
  • In-ear audio coaching with real-time feedback
  • Integrated training management with Jabra Sport Life app
  • Three-year warranty against sweat and waterproof to IP67 rating
  • Tested to work for at least 30 minutes while submerged in up to 3 feet of water
  • Supports all major smartphone operating systems, including Android and iOS
  • Support for all leading third-party fitness apps
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7.7

Jabra Elite Sport

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Sound 8Value 7
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