(Pocket-lint) - We've had Bluetooth headphones for what seems like an age now, but completely wireless earphones with no adjoining wire are a relatively new technology.
While brands like Motorola and Bragi released versions much earlier this year, it's fair to say that Apple's AirPods brought some much needed attention to the product category.
Jabra, a company known primarily for Bluetooth accessories, has arguably perfected this technology with its Elite Sport headphones, plus added a few nifty features of its own.
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Are these the best wireless earphones going?
Jabra Elite Sport review: Design
Unlike their Apple-branded competition, the Elite Sport by Jabra are not a one-size-fits-all solution. As well as offering different eartip inserts in various sizes and two different material finishes (foam and silicon), you also get three different sized fins for holding the units in your ear.
The tips are very easy to switch, as are the fins. However, the silicone material which wraps around the earphones to fix the fins in place is so slim that it's easy to see it being split if pulled or wrestled a little too firmly. Indeed, one of ours did develop a tiny split the first time we tried to attach it. Thankfully, it didn't tear all the way across the band, or render itself useless.
Being sports focused products having a good fit is absolutely vital - especially when you're wearing earphones that aren't tethered to each other by any kind of cable or neck strap. If one falls, there's nothing to stop it from hitting the ground. Or going down the drain.
Impressively, during all of our exercise sessions, the Jabra Elite Sport have stayed in both our ears. Not once have they threatened to come loose. Choosing the right sized eartip and fins certainly helps, but when sized correctly even a vigorous head shake won't see these earphones become even slightly loose.
The only downside is that being so snug means they can get a little uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. They're good for an album or two, but more than that starts to test ear endurance.
As well as being snug, the Jabra Elite are also IP67 rated, so should survive even the sweatiest of reps. Important for sports earphones.
The units themselves are a chunky teardrop shape, with golden contact points on their undersides for charging while they're in the dedicated rectangle carry case, which also doubles as a portable battery pack.
While inside this pocketable case, the earphones charge until the built-in battery is depleted. LED lights on the front and on the side of the case inform you if the earphones are charged and whether the case itself needs plugging into the wall via micro USB to fill it up again.
On the outside of each earphone there are two buttons. On the right earbud these are used for playing and pausing music, answering calls or activating your phone's digital assistant. On the left earbud they're used for adjusting the playback volume and skipping tracks. However, despite the protruding buttons being easy to find, their tiny size means they're incredibly fiddly to press.
Jabra Elite Sport review: Bassy McBassface
If you like a lot of bass, you'll be pleased with the Elite Sport. That's something hard to find in sports earphones.
They offer thumping, droning low tones by the bucket load - but in a way that doesn't drown out or overly muddy the rest of the frequencies. The mids and high-end still come through well, they just lack the exceptional clarity you might get from more expensive ear/headphones.
Despite that, there's still a lot of detail in the playback. You can easily hear subtleties in the music, whether it be palm-muting guitar strings or brushes stroking the skin of a snare drum. Even though not balanced like an audiophile-grade earphone (and who wants that when running like crazy?) they're still an enjoyable listen.
If you need, you can choose to have exterior ambient noise pass-through to hear things like cars approaching if you happen to be running along a roadside. Like so many earphones with this technology, the pass-through sound is a little muffled and muted, but comes through loud enough that you can't miss your audible surroundings. Safety before sound, right?
When looking at earphones designed for sport, audio quality is rarely the most important element. It's more important that they stay in your ears, never needing any mid-run adjustment. In that term the Jabra Elite fit that bill perfectly. Plus they sound good.
Jabra Elite Sport review: Fitness tracking app
Like so many other modern wireless earphones, there's a dedicated app you can download to control various aspects of the Elite Sport. It's not quite as fully-fledged as a dedicated fitness app, but it can give valuable insights to your body's health and fitness.
Because the earphones have a built-in heart-rate monitor, you can set the app to track a run, walk, bike ride or circuit session. It will keep you updated on your distance, speed, cadence and heart rate.
Based on your heart rate the app can tell you - literally, in spoken voice - how intense a particular workout is for you, and can then advise you on how long you should rest before you go for another one.
At various intervals, whether time-based or distance-based, the app gave us a rundown of our pace, distance and heart-rate as well as a score for how intense the run was. If, for instance, our heart rate strayed towards our maximum for most of a long-ish run, it scores between 4.0 and 4.9.
Once an exercise is finished, the app calculates the distance, pace and intensity score and uses the information to figure out how fit you are compared to the average. It then advises you to leave it a certain number of hours before trying your next workout.
Because the app can use your phone's GPS location, its distance detection is relatively accurate. If you want to, you can choose to use the built-in pedometer to estimate distance, and even calibrate it to be more accurate, but it'll never be as precise as using location tracking.
One disappointment is a familiar one, as found in many other fitness apps: more versatile workouts aren't supported. So although you can build your own circuits using a variety of exercises, there's very little for anyone who wants to measure a kettlebell session, for example. The list of available reps you can use to build a circuit or cross-training session is so limited that it's frustrating. Jabra could and should work on building out the track-able exercises if it wants it to be taken seriously as a sports and fitness app.
Bizarrely, there is no place in the app to manual adjust the headphone equaliser (EQ). You're stuck with the audio profile given to you by Jabra. Thankfully, some music streaming apps allow you adjust the audio balance.
In short, the Elite Sport app isn't the perfect fitness tracking app, but there's a good framework to build on. Apart from monitoring our heart rate, there's no real benefit to the app except, maybe, for downloading firmware updates to improve the hardware. Stick to Strava and Spotify in our view and you'll be just fine.
Jabra Elite Sport review: Superior connection
One element we've seen fail on some other completely wireless earphones we've tried is the wireless connection. With the Jabra, that wasn't once an issue. They stay connected consistently and, in our testing, have never dropped our or lagged once. That's thanks mostly to its 10-metre range and wide compatibility.
Impressively, the Elite Sport can be paired to eight different devices too - although only connected to one at a time. When removed from their case, the Elite Sport connect automatically to a paired device, then disconnect when placed in the case to charge. That's not a bad start to try and take on Apple's all device auto-connect AirPods concept.
Disappointingly, however, if the case battery is depleted and the earphones don't detect any charge, they don't know they're inside the case and so remain connected to the phone even when stowed away.
As for battery life, the Elite Sport seem to live up to Jabra's claim of three hours listening in the earbuds, with up to nine hours provided in total if you include the backup battery in the carry case. Our unit made it through more than a week of testing before needing charge, with at least an hour of music playing over five days in that time and a couple of runs to track.
The unit takes a couple of hours to recharge the earbuds from zero, and around three hours if you're charging both earbuds and backup battery.
Jabra has shown once again why it has long been regarded as one of the best Bluetooth accessory companies around. The Elite Sport earphones didn't once drop connection with our iPhone during testing, nor did they drop connection between the two earphones.
What's more, thanks to the interchangeable tips and fins, the earbuds stay fixed in the ears. In our testing they didn't once feel like they might fall out, even when rigorously shaken. Take that, Apple.
Sound quality may not be up to audiophile standards, but then these are exercise headphones. So a little blast of bass is no surprise. Besides, we think they sound pretty good. And there's certainly more punch than you'll get from Apple's AirPods.
If you're longing for truly wireless earphones then, despite their £229 price point, Jabra is ahead in this emerging market. They offer a truly reliable and truly wireless experience.
Jabra Elite Sport: Alternatives to consider
The AirPods are £70 cheaper and super simple to pair with an iPhone. However, they're not the most snug-fitting earphones around, but they do stay in your ears. The Jabra take it when it comes to audio quality though.
Samsung has developed its own earphones called the Gear IconX which - and just like the Jabra Elite Sport - can measure your fitness, track workouts and sync back to the S Health app on most current Android phones.