Music isn’t enough anymore; the pursuit for a better-quantified self has facilitated the rise of fitness apps, wearables and in this case, earbuds. We’re comparing three big players to see which runs at the front of the pack.
Jabra Sport Coach – £119.99
Yes, Jabra’s made the list twice, but it has two offerings that champion distinctly different features. The Sport Coach, as its name suggests, goes above and beyond basic fitness tracking and actively coaches you through workout sessions by way of the companion Sport Life app and the inbuilt TrackFit motion sensor.
Its design is lightweight and durable, concealing a microUSB port in the right ear for charging and a button to interact with Sport Coach on the left ear. The cable connecting the two contains an inline remote and microphone with media playback controls too.
As it comes complete with a number of interchangeable earbuds and ear wings you can expect a comfortable, secure fit, making it ideal for workout sessions. Having said that, extended use does cause a little discomfort on your lugholes. The other by-product of a solid fit is passive noise cancellation and these buds do a respectable job of ensuring you’re left to enjoy your tunes and your coaching instructions in peace.
When it comes to fitness and activity, Jabra’s Sport Life app does a good job of consolidating a range of fitness metrics and includes a number of pre-designed workouts as well as the ability to curate your own. Naturally music and working out go hand-in-hand and thankfully the app also lets you pull audio in from your native music player or Jabra’s own audio service (which requires a separate app), not to mention Dolby’s audio wizards have leant a hand in sculpting the sound these buds output.
As you progress through a workout, you signal the completion of a set of reps or your designated task by pressing a button on the sensor-laden bud, however in practice the responsiveness of the button can be a little hit a miss, which becomes disruptive during a trip to the gym.
The buds’ biggest downfall is its battery, which to be clear is far from abysmal, especially for anything of this size, but at a quoted 5.5 hours and an actual 4.5 to 5 hours, you’re seldom going to make your way through a full day’s usage unless you’re particularly careful.
SMS Audio BioSport – £129.95
Thankfully the biggest shortcoming of the Sport Coach is non-existant with SMS Audio’s fitness-centric offering. The BioSport earbuds come out of a partnership with Intel and while you won’t encounter a virtual coach chewing your ear off natively, you also don’t have to worry about battery life, as the BioSports adopt a wired design that accommodates a heart rate sensor too.
In the pursuit of comfort, the BioSports also come bundled with a myriad of silicone earbud covers and ear gels of varying sizes for a better fit. They don’t lock in quite as securely as Jabra’s design, but you still get solid seal for audio playback even if audio quality feels distinctly average.
The inclusion of flat ribbon cables for anti-tangle goodness is a smart move and we’re always going to welcome an inline microphone for taking calls. Awkwardly, the microphone housing also features a switch letting you toggle between the heart rate sensor and use of the mic – why the headphones can’t intelligently switch between the two functions on the fly, we’re not entirely sure.
Speaking of the heart rate sensor, it’s actually a great performer, pushing out consistent results and playing nice with RunKeeper (for which you get a free month of RunKeeper Elite out the box). Interestingly, despite SMS Audio citing the BioSport’s heart rate compatibility with ‘applications,’ aside from RunKeeper there’s nothing else out there right now that obviously states that it’ll play nice with these buds.
On the whole the BioSports solve one issue, but suffer from a few others that, considering the price might not suit everybody.
Jabra Sport Pulse – £149.99
The third and final offering in our lineup comes in the form of the Jabra Sport Pulse. The Sport Pulse earbuds combine the wireless freedom of the Sport Coach, with the heart-rate-sensing capabilities of the SMS Audio BioSport. It doesn’t come cheap however and these buds will set you back £150 (direct from Jabra).
For your money you get the same secure, comfortable fit as the Sport Coach buds, multiple bud covers and ear wings, impressive audio quality, passive noise cancellation and an inline microphone-cum-remote with media controls. As with the other competitors in this lineup, the Sport Pulses are also IPX4 rated, ensuring they can handle sweat without getting damaged.
The left bud integrates a heart rate sensor, which can be activated and deactivated by long-pressing a button on the outside. It works with Jabra’s own Sport Life app for activity tracking purposes and plays nice with other popular running apps like Endomondo, RunKeeper, Strava and more.
So long as you’re happy with the black and yellow colour option on offer, the only other point of contention is again battery life. Depending on your usage of the heart rate sensing functionality and volume levels, you can push these buds to the quoted five hour lifespan, but more often than not they’ll fall a little short of the mark.
Jabra’s Sport Pulse buds might not be perfect, but they’re our pick of the bunch for their versatility, comfort, audio quality, app experience and enhanced tracking capabilities.
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