Usually, a refreshed device that simply tacks on a little battery life and nothing else wouldn’t be all that exciting, but it’s just that little tweak that has taken the Jabra Elite Sport true wireless earbuds from a great product to a potential must-have for runners.
I reviewed the first generation Jabra Elite Sport buds earlier this year, and didn’t have many complaints — they had solid audio performance for a pair of buds with necessarily small drivers, and they almost completely lacked the connectivity issues that mar so many other true wireless earbuds on the market.
While no changes have been made to audio or connectivity, there is some good news if you prefer heavier bass — Jabra has updated the companion app with an equalizer you can use to boost bass or treble. That’s a software tweak, so owners of the first gen model will be able to take advantage of that new feature, too.
Like I pointed out in my review of the first gen buds, the Jabra Elite Sport aren’t ideal for everyday use — to be fair, I’m not convinced any true wireless earbuds are at this juncture. Battery life tends to be too short, and the microphones are so far from the face that wind or background noise can make them really difficult to use for calls.
That makes a lot of true wireless earbuds tough sells, but the Jabra Elite Sport have a terrific argument for being a dependable companion for runners. The buds can track steps and heart rate, and the app can calculate more advanced stats like VO2. They’re also waterproof, so they can handle sweat from a long run or a workout. And, as a key safety feature, it’s still possible to use the mics to pipe in background noise by using the controls on the right bud.
The buds fit securely, as long as you’ve got the right size tips and jackets. Like last time, the Jabra Elite Sport comes with three sizes of silicone tips, three sizes of foam tips, and three jackets — two with different sizes of flexible inner ear hooks for stability, and one without the hook.
It’s still kind of a bummer that Strava is the only running app that can be synced with the Elite Sport app, but the Elite Sport app itself is a decent alternative (and the buds can be paired with many other fitness apps). The app can still be used to log workouts and runs over time, perform VO2 tests, keep track of your body’s recovery and fitness level, and set up training schedules. I’m still a bit wary of putting too much stock into the app’s take on recovery and fitness levels, but it’s proven to be useful as a log and to organize training regimens.
The big change in this model is battery life. Anyone can benefit from the bump in battery life, but the second gen proves particularly attractive for runners. The original model had three hours of battery life, with a charging case that could charge the buds twice over.
The second gen buds have an advertised battery life of 4.5 hours, with the case once again charging the buds twice over. One of the reasons Jabra probably pushed this second gen model out so soon after the first is because a 4.5-hour battery life makes these suitable for marathoners. That’s not an insignificant market, and it’s one that was frozen out — three hours isn’t enough for marathons or the longer training runs that precede them, unless you’re a world-class athlete.
So, I put the new Elite Sport buds to the test. I used them during the San Francisco Marathon to see if they’d last to the end, and they did. I listened to music and used the full complement of fitness features — heart rate detection, step tracking, distance tracking, and readouts after every mile and every 10 minutes — for the first 23 miles. I ended up hobbling out the rest with a friend of mine on the course, so the buds spent the last 3.2 miles in my pocket — no music, but the fitness tracking was still rolling. They were still alive when I finished, and with the amount of juice left at that point, it seems like the 4.5-hour battery life estimate is accurate. It might even be conservative, because I had the volume up near max until I took them out.
It’s worth mentioning that along the course, the official marathon distance and the distance recorded by the Jabra Elite Sport drifted further and further apart. By the end, the buds had added about a half mile too much. I can’t say for sure if that inaccuracy is due to the buds, the GPS on my phone, or the compounding effects of little bits of lateral movement (i.e. veering off towards the water tables), but it’s a worthy reminder that fitness tracking gadgets in general should be valued for their consistency, not necessarily their accuracy. And, as I’ve found in both the first and second gen models, the Jabra Elite Sport have proven consistent across training runs.
There’s another little thing runners will want to watch out for. The buds will turn on automatically and look to pair with your phone immediately when you take them out of the charging case. You’ll have to remember to turn them off until the race is about to start, or you’ll probably end up with dead buds at some point on the course.