Special editions of the Sport Coach and Sport Pulse include some small but potentially important improvements.
Jabra's original Sport Coach and Sport Pulse in-ear wireless sports headphones were close to being excellent but fell a little short in a couple of areas, most notably their fit and sound quality.
Now Jabra's announced the next generation of those models, labeling them "special editions," with ship dates sometime in September.
On the outside, they look essentially the same as the originals, but Jabra's made a few changes on the inside and now bundles in added ear tip options. The company says both models are more durable and the Pulse, which is equipped with an integrated heart rate monitor -- it gets a pulse reading through your ear -- has added a new feature: it can calculate your Vo2 Max level and automatically measure your fitness level.
The Sport Pulse Special Edition lists for $160 while the Coach Special Edition lists for $120 (Best Buy has the original Sport Coach on sale for $100). No word yet on UK or Australian pricing, but the current Sport Pulse lists for £200 and the Sport Coach for £120, though both sell for less significantly less online.
Also new: Jabra is offering an extended three-year warranty against sweat (you do have to register the headphones), which is unusual. Most headphones offer one- or two-year warranties.
I did notice that the protective carrying pouch that's included with the special-edition models isn't as protective, but it does the job.
Jabra has sought to differentiate its headphones with its integrated fitness app, Jabra Sport Life.
With the Sport Pulse, you can do timed runs, and the app will track your current heart rate as well as your average heart rate over the the course of a workout. It saves your history, updates your distance and pace (GPS must be activated on your phone) with intermittent voice prompts, and includes some built-in tests and a music player that taps into your music library.
Alternatively you can use a music service such as Spotify while the Jabra app is running (the voice "coach" prompts will lower the volume of your music but not pause it). You can also use the headphones with other fitness apps like Endomondo and RunKeeper. The heart rate monitor works with a lot of fitness apps but not necessarily all of them. As I said, the VO2 Max data generation is new and Jabra bills the Sport Pulse Special Edition as the "The world's first sports headphone without automatic fitness testing."
The Sport Coach Special Edition doesn't have the integrated heart rate monitor but it has a TrackFit Motion Sensor that now automatically counts your reps. You can follow a set of simple workouts integrated into the app that you can do in your home that mixes exercises such as high-knee running (in place), push-ups, squats, planks and stomach crunches.
Important note for owners of the original Sport Coach and Sport Pulse Wireless: Jabra says automatic fitness testing (for the Pulse) and automatic rep counting (for the Coach) will be available as free upgrade features via a software upgrade.
Jabra talks about the headphones having "enhanced sound," but I'm not sure it's done anything to enhance the sound except to try to create a better fit by including a set of Comply foam tips along with the usual set of ear gels and ear wings, which do a good job locking the bud in your ear.
With in-ear headphones, getting a tight seal is crucial to getting better sound and the foam tips do help. I still wouldn't call these fantastic-sounding headphones, but for in-ear Bluetooth headphones they sound quite decent, and if you can achieve a tight seal, bass response improves dramatically. I also thought the headphones worked quite well as a headset for making cell phone calls. That's not surprising considering Jabra's background in headsets.
It's worth mentioning that these earphones are designed to seal out the ambient noise (they're noise-isolating), so you won't be able to hear traffic if you're biking or running outside and are playing your music at modest to high volumes. That may be a safety issue, which is why a lot of runners prefer open headphones like Bose's SoundSport Wireless (Bose also has a SoundSport Pulse coming out in September that has an integrated heart monitor).
While it's good that Jabra has included the Comply foam tips, those can get dirty and break down over time. I'd personally would like to see Jabra redesign its gel ear tips, particularly the larger size, which is too flat and rounded (it should be more conical).
Anyway, I'm going to take a few weeks to test the review samples I received before I render a final verdict, but my initial impression is that Sport Coach and Sport Pulse have indeed been improved and when you factor in the three-year warranties, they're compelling wireless sports headphones that give Jaybird and other competitors a run for the money.
Here's a look at their specs, courtesy of Jabra.
Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition -- $160, €160 (EU):
Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition ($120, €160 (EU):