While activity trackers are becoming readily available, heart rate monitors remain relatively rare, and seeing a solid monitor built into a $199.99 pair of wireless earphones is impressive. Jabra managed to pull this off with the Sport Pulse Wireless, a pair of Bluetooth earphones that lets you craft your ideal workouts and make sure you reach the heart rate you want for the best results. Unfortunately, the Sport Pulse Wireless forgets the most important part of any earphones: how they sound. They aren’t terrible by any means, but they don’t sound remotely close to what a $200 set of earphones should. Unless an integrated heart rate monitor is so important that you can overlook mediocre audio performance, you would likely be better off with a less expensive, better-sounding pair like the Plantronics BackBeat Fit ( at Amazon) or BackBeat Go 2 ( at Amazon) and a standalone heart rate monitor like the MIO Link.
The Sport Pulse Wireless ($94.20 at Amazon) is a simple, clean set of Bluetooth earphones. They have a very standard design of two earpieces joined by a cable long enough to lay comfortably behind the neck. A button located on the left earpiece brings up the Jabra Sport app on your connected device, if both it and Jabra Service (a separate app that works in the background to let non-audio data transfer between the earphones and your smartphone or tablet of Bluetooth) have been installed. A micro USB port sits behind a small rubber door on the right earpiece, just below the eartip. A three-button remote and inline microphone sits a few inches down the cable from the right earpiece. The central button on the remote serves as a multi-purpose Play/Pause/Call Answer/End control. The other two buttons adjust volume independently of the connected device with a tap, and jump back and forth between tracks with an extended press.
Finding the appropriate fit is important for all earphones, but it’s even more important for the Sport Pulse Wireless. The heartbeat sensor sits on the left earpiece, in the same location as the micro USB port on the right earpiece, and it requires a consistent pressure to register your heart rate. To ensure this, Jabra includes four sets of eartips in different sizes (which Jabra calls “eargels”) and stabilizing fins (which Jabra calls “earwings”). The fins are completely optional for listening to music, but without them the headset couldn’t get a reliable heart rate. Besides the tools to get a proper fit, the Sport Pulse Wireless comes with four small plastic clips for keeping excess wire in check, a micro USB cable for charging, and a zip-up carrying case with a mesh pocket for keeping the cable and eargels/earwings with you along with the earphones.
Jabra Sport Life App
The Sport Pulse Wireless work as standard Bluetooth earphones out of the box, and you can pair them and use them to listen to music and place calls without any additional steps. If you want to use the heart rate monitoring features, though, you’ll need to install the free Jabra Sport Life app for iOS and Android. The app displays your heart rate and the remaining battery life of the Sport Pulse Wireless, and can track your workouts with a variety of informative views. A helpful British voice lets you know if the earphones are connected, and if they detect your heart rate. This is useful if you want to enjoy a workout and track your numbers without constantly looking at your smartphone.
Jabra Sport Life is full of handy workout-tracking features. First, the app recommends you take a resting heart rate test to get a baseline score for your pulse before you start a workout. It’s a simple two-minute wait where you relax while the app records your average heart rate. You can also take an orthostatic heart rate test (lie down for 15 minutes, then stand up and stay still for 15 minutes) and a Rockport test (walk one mile). These tests are more useful for general and informal evaluation, and aren’t actually part of your workout.
To use Jabra Sport Life to follow your workout, just select the activity you’re doing (walking, running, cycling, hiking, skiing, skating, walking on a treadmill, or running on a treadmill), select the sort of workout you want to do (hit a target distance, time, or number of calories burned), select your music from nearly any audio app installed on your device, and press Start. You can always select “Just track me” for your workout if you simply want to watch your heart rate without crafting what you want to do, or you can adjust your workout to focus on a specific pace or heart rate, or if you want to set intervals of different paces and heart rates.
During your workout, the app will automatically play audio from whatever app you selected and display your progress in one of three different views. A simple two-pane view displays duration and heart rate. A more detailed seven-pane view displays heart rate, duration, pace, distance, and calories burned. A GPS view displays a map of where you are and your route through the workout, with distance and heart rate overlaid on the screen. You can customize any of these displays just by tapping a number and choosing what you want it to show; it’s extremely easy to work with. The app will track all of your relevant stats regardless of whether they’re displayed, and you can look up detailed information about your past workouts for averages, totals, and even detailed graphs of your heart rate and cadence over each workout.
Once I found a comfortable fit for the earphones, they reliably tracked my heart rate at the gym with numbers very similar to the ones measured by the gym’s machines. The wealth of information offered for my workout was handy, though I had to disable the announcing voice because she kept interrupting my podcasts every ten minutes and every mile to let me know my progress and pace.
Battery life is the Sport Pulse Wireless’ weakest point; Jabra claims a battery life of only five hours of talk/listening time. The Jabra Sport Life app seldom said I had more than four hours of use, even after a fresh charge. These are earphones you’ll have to be diligent in keeping charged if you want to rely on them for your workouts, and not ones you can count on to keep your music going throughout the day.
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Performance and Conclusions
Fitness earphones need to balance gym-friendly design with performance, and can’t be expected to offer the same performance of less rugged, completely music-focused earphones. When you’re adding Bluetooth and a heart rate sensor, that becomes even more of a performance compromise. The Sport Pulse Wireless won’t wow you with its sound, but it doesn’t outright botch anything, either.
Our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” came through the Sport Pulse Wireless at maximum volume without a hint of distortion in the bass synth notes or kick drum hits. However, neither instrument got much presence or power, either. The kick drum was a dull, steady thud that didn’t come close to rattling my head like it should, but it also didn’t warp or try to push past what the earphones are capable of.
This lack of depth extends to other songs, which almost leads to a sense of tinniness when combined with the prominent mid-highs. Aerosmith’s cover of “Helter Skelter” demonstrates this aptly, with the shrill opening riffs and Steve Tyler’s vocals standing out and never sharing the stage with the rest of the mix when the song completely kicks in. The bass and drums float in the background, giving the song a sound that’s clear and fairly crisp, but lacking any sense of warmth.
“Roundabout” by Yes fared better, and the acoustic strings of the intro were full and textured. When the bass comes in, however, it settles into the background instead of commanding the mix, which affords the acoustic guitar strums and cymbal hits too much presence.
Jabra makes a laudable effort in combining a thoroughly gym-friendly, snug-fitting design with a built-in heart rate monitor to make what should be the ideal workout earphones. Unfortunately, audio performance just isn’t up to snuff, lacking balance and warmth that should be expected from a $200 pair of earphones, regardless of their purpose. They simply try to do too much without enough focus on the most important aspect of a pair of earphones. If you really want a gym-friendly pair of wireless earphones, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit and BackBeat Go 2 offer better performance for a much lower price, at the expense of the heart rate monitor. The Sport Pulse Wireless offers a unique and helpful feature for your workout regimen, but its sound quality leaves something to be desired.
Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
The Bottom Line
Jabra can’t make up for mediocre sound performance, even with the unique, handy heart rate monitor built into its gym-friendly Sports Pulse Wireless Bluetooth earphones.