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GadgeTell Review: Jabra Sport Wireless+ On-Ear Headphones

Sections: Accessories, Audio, Communications, Headphones, Mobile, Reviews, Smartphones

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Each week, I can be found either working the back yard or taking my daughter out for a walk at the park. In times like these, music makes the work bearable or the walk more tranquil, so I always have it. The biggest nuisance with movement and headphones are the cables. They get in the way. Always.

It’s bad enough to have a cable bouncing around, creating line noise while you’re walking, but one small snag can and will pop an earbud out. Tired of it? Me too. So I sought after a set of wireless headphones that were easy to carry and convenient to use.

Design

Jabra Sport Wireless controls

Simple effective controls

The Jabra Sport Wireless+ is an on-ear headphone that also goes behind the ear. It’s wireless, which is why you get to wear a little additional hardware.

Both pieces are attached by a cable that can be adjusted to fit snug behind your head. If you’ve never ditched wires before, it’s definitely something to try out. Almost makes one wish all headsets were wireless!

The controls are minimal. You can adjust the volume, play/pause, and also catch FM radio waves. I was surprised at how well the FM radio picked up local signals. I didn’t expect it to work so well. It’s just too bad that terrestrial radio isn’t equally as impressive.

The Micro USB cover to charge the Jabra Sport Wireless+ wasn’t easy to open up. It lies flush to the point where a fingernail can’t pop it open easy. It might be a good thing, since the cover is also thinly attached to the headphone. One wrong tug and it could rip right off.

Comfort

The fit of a set of headphones is a big deal. Most often it’s more important than the actual sound quality itself, since if you hate having to wear it then the music doesn’t really matter.

Jabra Sport Wireless gels

Eargels. which are labeled if you look close

Jabra Sport Wireless+ comes with an array of ear gels so you can pick the one that’s best. I went with the smaller, basic egg-shaped form, since I know I can use them for at least a couple of hours without feeling discomfort. A couple of the gels focus sound toward the ear canal, but for the most part these are going to be on-ear headphones.

The fit of the earpiece over and behind my ear is good. It’s relaxed and flexible enough to stay comfortable (relatively speaking) for most ear sizes and shapes. It doesn’t hug the ear as much as it sort of just hangs back behind the ear, out of the way.

One concern I had was how it would interfere with my prescription glasses. Thankfully, the Jabra Sport Wireless+ did not bug me out, but it might have been due to the fact that my glasses have thin arms, like those found in aviator glasses. My prescription sunglasses, however, have that thicker arm that you would find in Ray-Bans and similar styles. I did feel that awkward crowded sensation behind my ears with both the Jabra headset and my sunglasses on. At least for a bit.

Since I don’t sweat much from my head or ears, I couldn’t do an ultimate sweat test on the Jabra Sport Wireless+. I did perform four hours (the battery lasts only four hours anyway) of yard work while listening to music and wearing my sunglasses. I never felt that I had to constantly adjust the fit, like with some in-ear earbuds I’ve used. The Jabra Sport Wireless+ holds on very well, and at no point did I feel like they’d slip out, even with frequent bending over to pick stuff up. But they’ll tug out.

All it takes is the right amount of sweat on the skin of your neck to grab the cable. With the turn of your head, an earbud pulls off or at least dislodges enough to distract you from what you’re doing. I think it’s an oversight. While the rubberized cable is great for preventing tangles, it should at least have been covered with cloth or something to prevent such sweat-related snags.

Overall, the Jabra Sport Wireless+ is neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. At no point did it ever feel like I was not wearing earbuds; I always knew that they were there. When I take them off, after listening to music for an hour or two, my ears feel relieved, but they don’t feel pained in any way. I could still put them in again and be fine.

Sound Quality (non-sport)

Consumers are likely to get tripped up on the sound quality of the Jabra Sport Wireless+. Jabra offers a number of different headsets for listening to audio, but I’d like to emphasize the ‘Sport’ nature of this one in particular. If you are not engaged in some form of activity, these headphones are going to sound pretty terrible.

Jabra Sport Wireless flex

Good flex to the arch, comfortable

The Jabra Sport Wireless+ is able to achieve pretty good volume levels, to the point where I couldn’t max out the volume on both my smartphone and the headphones without blowing my ears out. It makes sense, since the on-ear design doesn’t create a seal to channel sound into your ear canal. It is meant to allow one to be able to hear outside sounds around you.

The volume level can and will affect the amount of distortion you hear. The lows are hit more than the other ranges. Low drums distort very quickly as the volume increases and can sound somewhat muffled. Drums that are closer to the lower register of the mids sound much better, but can end up being a little flat.

The mids are good, and they get the biggest volume boost of all. Strong, forward vocals will stay rich and true, especially as volume increases. Subtle inflections and depth of vocals tend to get lost frequently, especially if the vocal layer warms together with guitars in the mids.

The highs are consistent and pretty clear. Again, high volumes thrust the high vocals into the realm of sharp and shrill. Like bad. So be careful when playing with volumes, especially since the Jabra Sport Wireless+ volumes are uneven across the registers. It feels like it has the shape of a bell curve, with the mid-mids receiving the most boost and the lows and highs the least.

The soundstage is small and crowded. The finer details of music tracks get lost, especially if there are more instruments with overlapping notes.

Sound Quality (sport)

Everything changes with the Jabra Sport Wireless+ once you’re engaged in some activity. And I’m not talking about indoor paper crafts or cooking. You need to be outdoors and/or performing some heart-rate increasing or sweat-inducing activity.

It’s as if noisy environments make everything right again, and the music sounds a lot better. Maybe it’s because the outside noise ends up drowning out the small details anyway. Or maybe it’s because being mentally engaged in some other activity prevents one from being overly-critical of the sound quality.

Jabra Sport Wireless ear

Snug and unoppressive

It’s probably a combination of that and more. All I know is that when I was doing anything other than sitting in a quiet room listening to music with the Jabra Sport Wireless+, the music was thoroughly enjoyable.

On multiple days, I had spent four hours doing yard work (each day, yes): mowing, hedge trimming, raking, etc. The volume was able to stay above the drone of machines as I laid some law down on my backyard jungle. But you can go less than that.

While walking at the neighborhood park, the sounds of road traffic or playgrounds teeming with active children were enough to ‘sharpen’ the audio quality for me. Even the sound of my footsteps pounding pavement while jogging is noisy enough to make the Jabra Sport Wireless+ worth it.

Verdict

Overall, I find the Jabra Sport Wireless+ to be a specialized kind of headphone. The strength lies with activity, since the on-ear design is meant to let outside noise in. Exercising at the gym, running on a track, or wandering around a busy mall all make for great opportunities to let the headphones excel, since the music should be taking the back seat. You get to listen to audio tracks while keeping focused on your primary task, yet you’re still able to hear the outside sounds you need to.

Audiophiles should steer clear of the Jabra Sport Wireless+. The headphones respond to equalizer controls, but are not as sensitive to the changes in frequencies as others. Overall sound quality is somewhere in the middle of the pack when you consider all audio products on the market. The value just isn’t there for pure audio enjoyment.

The battery only lasts for four hours, but it recharges quickly. The Bluetooth signal is strong and at no time did the connection skip or flutter. All music streams flawlessly up until the last drop of power.

I’d say the biggest gripes are uneven volume and the way the cable catches on the back of a sweaty neck. Otherwise, the Jabra Sport Wireless+ is truly meant for those engaged in sports or active lifestyles, where it’s easier to appreciate the wireless capability, on-ear design, and volume that can compete with a lawnmower. That’s when it transforms into a convenient companion that provides a soundtrack for everything you love to do.

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