Jabra Sport Coach - Integrated Fitness Solution

October 01, 2015

Copenhagen-based audio manufacturer, Jabra announced the launch of their latest sports in-ears called the Sport Coach Wireless in July 2015. At SGD 248, these are on the higher end of the pricing range of sports earphones. Let's take a look at how these fare.

Design
First things first - we check out the unboxing.

Out of the 3 colors available, we were handed the yellow unit. The earphones are also stocked in red and blue.
The box is relatively compact with a magnetic latch on the right side. 
Flipping over the cover unveils the earphones beneath a layer of transparent plastic. 
Peeling open the layer of plastic and opening the yellow box at the bottom will give you the protective pouch which in turn contains the whole set of accompanying accessories. After removing the cable ties that are linked to the in-ears, we took out the product proper.

At 16g, the Sport Coach Wireless is undeniably light, much like others in its range like the Jaybird X2 Wireless (13g) and Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 (14g). They are worn only in the traditional under the ears method with the in-line remote set on the right side. 
There are two fit clips provided - they serve to bunch the cord together behind your neck to minimize the cable tangle (and rustle). Jabra recommends three ways to knot 'em up nicely.

Features
What makes these in-ears unique is that Jabra designed an accompanying mobile app called Jabra Sport Life that works with iOS 7.0+ and Android 4.0.3+. While originally supported for the Sport Pulse Wireless earphones, they are extended to the Sport Coach. The app allows you to 'plan, track and analyze your cross training workouts'. We go more into this in the Performance section.
The Sport Coach is built to military standards (IP55) meaning that these buds are sweat proof + weather proof + shock proof. Aye to the first two but we didn't go to the extent of throwing the Jabras on the floor to test how shock proof these were 'cos we needed to return the unit :)

Jabra includes what they market as the TrackFit Motion Sensor. During jogging, tapping the Sports button on the left earbud triggers a voice that gives information such as distance run, speed and cadence. This is an incredibly useful feature that shows off the potential of hardware and software integration. Double tapping will disable the voice updates.

You can connect the Sport Coach via Bluetooth for up to two devices. To pair, just hold the multi-function button until the right earbud's LED flashes blue. Follow the voice prompts to complete the pairing.  
Multi-function button flanked by the volume buttons
The connection by near field communication (NFC) is equally easy. Just ensure your source device has activated NFC, turn on the earphones and press the in-line remote onto the player's NFC point. On that note, the button actuation of the remote is firm though the niggling point is the inability to deactivate the confirmation sounds when a button is pressed.
The in-line remote doubles as the NFC point of contact
You have a range of 3 ear wings, 4 ear gels and 2 fit clips to play around for customization. I found the small ear wings the most ideal for commuting while the medium made the most sense for jogging. For the ear gel, medium was ideal.


Performance
On to the test run!

While the haze season in Singapore is back with a vengence, I somehow managed to find some clear skies earlier in September to squeeze in a jog. Off I went for a 2km run around the Alexandra Canal. 
'1' and '2' mark the hitting of the respective kilometer marks
During the run, I stopped every now and then to test the different ear wing modes. The constants were the ear gel size (M) and the fitclip style (optimal) where the two clips bind the cords as tightly together to reduce both the cord brushing against the neck and the microphonics.  
A separate session to highlight the battery life displayed
1. Ear wings (S), Ear gel (M) 
This was the easiest mode to insert into the ears. However, the fit wasn't there as I constantly had to readjust the earbuds to balance out the sound on the left and right sides.

2. Ear wings (M), Ear gel (M)
At roughly 600m into the jog, I swapped the small ear wings for the medium version. They provided probably the best balance of comfort and ear fit though the audio wobble was still audible with each heel strike.

3. Ear wings (L), Ear gel (M)
T'was one tight experience - When wearing the large sized ear wings, the tip pressed into my ears but the flipside is that the audio wobble reduced considerably.
Throughout all three modes, the noise isolation was never ideal as I could make out ambient noise even while the beats from Armin van Buuren's Take Me Where I Wanna Go were pounding my ear drums during the run. I tried to tie the cable as tight as possible to reduce the microphonics but somehow, there's only so much that can be done when earphones are natively worn under the ears.
Not exactly the fastest of runs but hey, I had to swap ear wings, yea?
There are different workout functions in the Sports Life app such as Calorie Burn goal and Time goal. I chose the Cross-Training which led to a few rounds of crunches and lifting of knees. This app gives the idea that Jabra is no slouch in providing a fitness solution providing visual feedback on your performance.  
Cross training!
For commuting usage, the Jabra's sound output is admirable. A listen of Brandon Flowers' Crossfire gave the impression that it is a well tuned earphone that neither emphasizes the bass nor the treble. Bass heads may be a little disappointed but on my side, the overall delivery of the music clicked for me. For added comfort, go for the small ear wings.

To charge, just pull back the ear wing and plug the cable to the micro-USB slot. After 2 hours to get a full charge, you get 5.5 hours of music playback, a fair number compared with the Jaybird X2 Wireless that gets 8 hours and Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless which gives 6.

Jabra even includes a Jabra Sound app that you can use as a substitute for your default music player. The app can only be used once you enter the unlock code provided in the box. I didn't the app too useful though the redeeming feature is the ability to activate Dolby Sound Enhancement, though I found the sound rather spaced out for my liking.
Jabra Sound app - You can turn on / off Dolby
Overall
The Jabra Sport Coach Wireless is great sports wireless unit that considers the overall jogging / workout experience. While the hardware itself could do with some upgrades, it is the integration with the software that makes for a more compelling package. 

Audio Sources
Take Me Where I Wanna Go - Armin van Buuren feat. VanVelzen (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on Samsung Galaxy S4
Crossfire - Brandon Flowers (320kbps MP3) on Samsung Galaxy S4

Credit to Jabra and PRecious Communications for a review unit.


You may be interested in:
Jaybird X2 Wireless - Full Review
IFA 2015 - Onkyo's Truly Wireless Earphones 

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