For a while now, I’ve been shopping for a good pair of Bluetooth earphones that I can use during my workouts, be it at the gym, for a run, or just doing some bodyweight calisthenics. While many have nice specs, there’s always a part of me that can’t help thinking that with technology as it is today, there’ll be something better the moment I get it, and I’ll kick myself for it. So when the Jabra’s latest sport headphones got sent our way – Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition and Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition, I just had to give it a go. Since then, they’ve joined the rest of my workout gear to see if they’re worth the purchase.
One of the biggest issues I (and many others) have with in-ear headphones is the fit. This is especially true when I’m doing intensive workouts and I’m drenched in perspiration. It’s extremely annoying to be constantly stuffing the buds back in your ears when you are getting in a timed set of push-ups and burpees. The Jabras didn’t give me any cause for concern though, as both the Sport Pulse and the Sport Coach came with a set of 4 different sizes of ear wings and ear gels which really helped to customize the fit of the ear buds. The ear wings especially provided a truly secure fit.
Charging the headphones was also extremely convenient as they both use Micro USB charging ports, which I have tons of, instead of a special charging cable that other headsets use.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of your workout
The Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition features a built-in in-ear biometric heart rate monitor, removing the need to don a separate heart strap to exercise “in the zone”. It is also the world’s first headphone that automatically tests your fitness levels by measuring the VO2 Max (a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen you can use while training) and relaying it back to you as you exercise.
I felt as if the Jabra sport app was selecting songs based on my running speed, and kept pace. The sound quality was great and I even had the opportunity to test an incoming call just as I was finishing my run, which was very clear on both ends of the line.
Unfortunately, because of the reliance of a phone to manage all the functions, I felt that the headphones aren’t very conducive for long runs, especially since I’m not a big fan of bringing my phone when I go out for long solo runs. A quick poll among all my long distance runner friends garnered the same result – no phones when doing long distance.
However, the app does offer various workout options, of which I selected the “Fat Burn” mode. I expected the app to constantly aim to keep me within the 70% heart rate. Unfortunately, the app only told me once that I need to slow down, and after I slowed a little, I received no more feedback through the headphones if that new speed was good enough.
The coach that’s always in your ear
The Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition on the other hand contains a TrackFit motion sensor that works together with the Jabra Sport app to count and log your repetitions. The idea behind it is to let you focus on your technique and posture as you complete your workouts without the hassle of keeping track of the number of reps and counts.
I tested this out with one of my favourite CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD), the Loredo – 6 sets of 24 squats, push-ups, and lunges each; followed by a 400m run. The Jabra sport app had many pre-determined popular circuits, but also provided the ability to create your own, with an extensive list of individual exercises.
Each exercise even came with a picture explanation, plus a link to a video to explain how to do the exercise. Not all the exercise could be tracked with the motion sensor, so the Loredo was one of the best bodyweight workouts to try it with. My biggest challenge with the Loredo WOD was that I always lose count of how many reps I was doing, especially by the 4th or 5th set because I was getting tired and concentration starts to shift to your body rather than the count.
The Jabra Sport Coach really helped because I did not have to constantly maintain the count in my mind, and ensured that I never mis-counted any of the reps. It was unable to track distance of the run, but as I had already expected, the situation was mitigated by my doing the workout at the stadium where I could easily track a 400m run.
Overall it was a good experience overall with the headphones – with my personal preference actually leaning towards the Sport Pulse due to the heart rate monitoring function. While I also like the automatic rep counting function of the Sport Coach, the use of it is still limited as there are currently aren’t as many exercises that you’re able to count as I’d like. But for the workouts it does have though, it performs extremely well.
The Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition and Jabra Sport Coach Special Edition do help add that extra bit to your workout. Prices at S$258 (Jabra Sport Pulse) and S$198 (Jabra Sport Coach) they provide good bang for the buck. Which one should you get? Well that totally depends on your training of choice.