Jabra isn't new to the Bluetooth earphones game, but it's a company leading the way. The Jabra Pulse is a fine example: more than just a pair of wireless sports earphones, it's also an advanced personal trainer that tracks your heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
For super-accurate training and music on the go, the Jabra Pulse does it all when synched to your smartphone. We've been using the Pulse to see whether it's changed our approach to training.
The Jabra Pulse is small; a similar size to standard sports earphones, comprising two earbuds connected by a cable featuring an inline remote - and that's it. As it's wireless there's no 3.5mm jack to plug into your device, it's all handled via Bluetooth.
The yellow rubberised styling offers IP55 certified water-resistance for training in all weather, and to keep the sweat out for when you hit the training extra hard. That certification also means throwing the Pulse in the bottom of our bag - complete with plenty of sand and grit from the bottom of boots - hasn't been a worry or caused them any damage.
Most exciting of all is the biometric heart-rate monitor built into the earpiece. This uses light to detect your pulse from within the ear, a place used by doctors because of its accuracy. Jabra says this is clinical-grade tracking which is currently being third-party tested so it can claim that officially. Whether it gets that accolade or not, it's impressive - the best heart-rate monitor solution we've used.
The earbuds are charged via micro-USB and last five hours - delivering music, tracking heart rate and even using an accelerometer to measure distance when training indoors. However, as the Pulse is a wireless device there's no way to use them as passive earphones, so when the battery life is depleted that's it - you'll need to charge them again.
Software and synching
The Jabra Pulse comes with NFC so a simple tap to your compatible Apple or Android smartphone, with Bluetooth active, will connect the two. Where available the Pulse will use GPS from the paired device for greater accuracy than the accelerometer provides.
The Jabra Sport software suite is as innovative as the hardware. It's clearly been made to work specifically with the device and every detail has been perfected. We’ve tried plenty of software on sports gadgets that feel taped-on as an extra, whereas the Pulse's software experience feels integral.
The Pulse can also work with other applications so you're not forced to use Jabra Sport, although we would happily stick with it, but if RunKeeper, Strava and so on is your preferred weapon of choice then that's no problem.
The Jabra Sport app not only measures heart rate but also features the Rockport test to carry out a VO2 max measure to assess your fitness, which shows the efficiency of your body at assimilating and using oxygen.
During training the app can be set to display anything you need at a glance like heart rate, pace, distance, time, and plenty more. It can also be set to read out what you want to know when you want, so no need to glance - just listen to what the software tells you directly to your ear. So if you want to know your heart rate every minute it can tell you that, or if you want your pace every mile you get to hear that too.
During training the app is able to more accurately judge the levels you should be able to maintain in order to reach your goals. To burn fat, for example, you need to stay at 60 per cent of your heart rate maximum, so as you're training the app will tell you to speed up or slow down to achieve this. There's also the Orthostatic Heart Rate test used to assess if you're over-training or not so you know whether to slow down - something that professional athletes use.
Fitness tests can also be carried out which give you an idea of how your training is affecting your body over time. Resting heart rate shows how fit your body is - presented as a reading on the app to show you where you should be based on your height, age, weight and so on.
The Jabra Pulse lasts five hours per charge according to the company. In our real-world use, with volume high and heart rate being recorded, we'd say that was a fair measure - between four to five hours was our experience, which is plenty for a long training session or trips to and from work.
Between uses the Pulse will remain idle for 10 days which will be more than enough for active people. Just don't charge them and expect them to have power two weeks down the line. Plug in the microUSB cable and the Pulse will be at full power in two and a half hours. It can, of course, be juiced up from a mobile charger block if you already have one for your mobile.
The only real gripe is checking battery life. You need to turn on the headset, turn on Bluetooth on your phone, open the app and then you can see how many hours of use you have left. That could get old and fast. Some on-device indication might have been useful instead, if it was subtly incorporated.
The earbuds fit the ear well to offer passive noise cancellation, but it's not a totally mute experience: you can still hear the outside world to some degree, so cars and the like won't suddenly surprise you when you're out and about. The small EarWings mean the buds, which are available in multiple sizes in the box for a snug fit, are held in place like nothing we've tried before. Quite simply the Pulse has the best fitting sports earbuds we've ever worn. We defy you to shake them out.
Importantly the audio experience is also spot on, helped along by that snug fit for warm bass and plenty of volume. Just because you're paying for the heart-rate monitor experience doesn't mean there's a half-hearted approach to sound quality.
The app works in conjunction with any music setup you have on your phone, so you can choose your playlist on streaming apps like Spotify or your phone's local storage and it will work just fine.
Controlling volume and pausing or playing tracks - as well as answering calls from your phone if you want - is easy thanks to the in-line controls with built-in mic. Call quality was good with the mic working well even in windy situations.
The Jabra Pulse is the most innovative heart-rate monitor solution we've tried. It's an excellent set of wireless earphones too.
Although the battery life could be better still and you will need a smartphone with Bluetooth connection, the overall software experience is excellent, including spoken audio feedback so you don't have to glance at a screen. At £200 it's a considered purchase - and a similar price to a number of non-audio wrist-based solutions, such as the TomTom Runner Cardio - but one we think is worth every penny.
From the snug fit, to the easy connectivity and well considered software, the Jabra Pulse is the ideal all-in-one sports tracker and in-ear headphones solution. It's redefined the way we train.