In August, Jabra unveiled their next-gen wireless sports headphones, premiering the world’s first sports headphones to feature automatic (and continuous) VO2 max fitness testing. I got to spend a few days testing the headphones, and was more than excited to see the new features in action.
The headphones come in sleek packaging, geared towards the fitness inspired. Boxed with six sets of silicone or foam buds, 4 pairs of EarWings that help secure the headphones for a better fit, there are options for almost anyone’s ears. I have small ears, so typically a whole day of wearing earbud headphones can make my ears sore, but after finding the right EarWing they were comfortable to wear for extended periods. The right fit also made the Jabras feel a lot more secure and I haven’t had them slide out of place whether I’ve been running, walking, or lifting weights.
Overall, the housing of the headphones feels durable and light, both good signs. The microphone controls are simple to use, and the Bluetooth connects with the touch of one button. With so much technology packed into the headphones, the overall footprint was surprisingly small. Jabra managed to fit the opto-mechanical heart rate sensor into a small nub on the left earbud, and the charging port on the right.
Heart Rate Sensor
Developed by Valencell, a company out of Raleigh, North Carolina, the sensor utilizes a method called photoplethysmorgraphy(PPG) to measure the heart rate. The nub on the headphones house an accelerometer as well as an optical emitter and detector which refract light through the thin skin of the ear to calculate variable blood flow. The cool thing about this optical sensor is that its position next to the thin skin of the ear allows it to take better readings than common wrist-based optical sensors. Using the data collected by the sensor, the Jabra Sports Pulse Special Edition headphones, in conjunction with the Jabra Sports Life App, can calculate your VO2 max. VO2 max is a measure of one’s maximal oxygen uptake, or in other words your body’s maximal level of oxygen consumption, an established test of aerobic fitness.
Jabra Sports Life App
The Jabra Sports Life App is where all the biometric data comes to life. The app offers several fitness tests: VO2 max test, Cooper test, Orthostatic Heart Rate Test, and Resting Heart Rate Test to help you determine your fitness level. Once you’re ready to work out, the Sports Life App has a pretty long list of activities you can select, including running, cycling, walking, hiking, skating, skiing, spinning, and cross-training. The workout can also be initiated or stopped using the dedicated button on the side of the left headphone.
Under cross-training there are different preprogrammed workouts called Jabra Circuits like LegDay and FatBurner. Prior to beginning your workout, you can set targets for your distance, duration, caloric consumption, pace, cadence, heart rate zone, and Training Effect. Training Effect is one of my favorite features of the Jabra Sports Life App. Giving you a score out of 5, Training Effect tells you how effective your workout is at improving your fitness during your workout.
The app also allows you to create an interval training plan. I created intervals based on the heart rate zones: light, fat burn, cardio, intense, and maximum. I was pleased at how accurate and responsive the optical heart rate sensors were to changes in the intensity of my workouts. At the end of a workout, the app plots a wide range of metrics including average and peak heart rate, intensity zones, distance covered, pace, route, calories burnt, and training effect. The app houses a wealth of data, but during your workout the intelligent in-ear coach will give you real-time feedback on your heart rate and fitness level.
With all the new technology packed into these headphones, I was surprised to find that the audio quality was crisp, and with the enhanced base, the lows were pleasantly full bodied. The different ear bud options that Jabra provides definitely help increase the passive noise cancelling ability of the headphones. Though not my main headphones for listening to music, they definitely get the job done. The improved audio quality also carries over to phone calls. Calls are transmitted over Bluetooth with the clarity expected of high-end wireless headphones.
At $159.99, with a standard one-year warranty and a three-year warranty against sweat, the Jabra Sports Pulse Headphones Special Edition are well worth the price. In the midst of new advances in biometric quantification for fitness, health, and behavioral modification, Jabra is pushing the envelope of smart wear and how we interact with it.
Product page: Jabra Sports Pulse Headphones Special Edition…