After hearing of his issues with the AirPods and replacing them with the Jabra Elite Sport, I reached out to Jeremy for his honest comparison of the two of them. Enjoy!
Many companies have tried but none have been able to reproduce the power, portability, freedom, and sleekness of Apples AirPods. For a product that has been on the market for almost a year and a half now, AirPods continue to dominate the world of truly wireless earphones, but have they finally met their match?
I recently lost my AirPods and after about a week of untangling wired earbuds I needed a return to wireless. I had been having some issues with one of my AirPods being softer than the other (I had gotten them both replaced at separate times because of this) so I thought I’d go with something new. I’ve had as many headphones from as many manufacturers as Donnie has had battery cases for iPhones so I knew what I was getting into. After doing some online research, reading every review I could find, and doing some in person window shopping I finally settled on these:
The Jabra Elite Sport Earphones.
But are they enough to take down the mighty AirPods? Let’s take a look.
AirPods can be picked up in any Apple Store off the shelf for $159. A steep price to pay for having your favorite tunes or tv show in your ear. The Elite Sports come in at an even higher price point of $219 MSRP. Neither are affordable but at a $50 jump in price I have to give Apple the win here.
In my opinion the biggest flaw most competitors have made with the attempts at truly wireless earphones lies in their design. They tend to be bulky and look like you are wearing a Bluetooth headset circa 2007. As with everything they turn out Apple figured out a way to make the AirPods small, modern, and sexy. The biggest complaint that I’ve heard about their design centers around the slim drop down cylinder on the bottom of them. I don’t see Apple rushing to change or strike it and people have seemed to be more accepting of it as more time passes since their release. Whatever your opinion may be, the all white chrome trimmed AirPod design is iconic and near perfect. With all of that said this isn’t a knock out punch for them. The Jabras come in an all black satin finish that’s pretty sexy in its own right. They have a small footprint in your ear and no protrusion jutting down to your ear lobe. They do extend about an eighth of an inch out from your ear but don’t make you look like you have a speaker hanging out of your ear. Jabra also offers color accessories to swap out the fit wings for those of you who want a pop of color or are a serious fashionista and need everything to match your latest outfit. Now, that’s a lot of pluses in Jabras column, but at the end of the day Apple’s design team hit a home run in the looks department and I don’t think there’s a pair of earbuds that looks better then them.
This is an area where I think basically anyone could outdo Apple. While AirPods do feel better in your ear than their wired cousin, Apple failed at the simple form follows function rule. They’re built with a hard plastic shell that; while it doesn’t fall out, certainly doesn’t stay where it should. At least not for me. Can you use them for running or going to the gym? Sure. I commute to work on a bike when it’s nice and never lost one, but they always seemed to be sliding out of my ear from where they needed to sit for the best audio quality. Apple also went with a one size fits most approach, which if you’ve ever gotten a free t-shirt at any kind of event you know isn’t the best method. Depending on the size and shape of your ears they may end up feeling too big, too small, or just uncomfortable to wear. Several companies are out there making add ons for the AirPods to give them a more secure fit but they come at a cost, and while I don’t know anyone who uses an accessory with theirs I would assume that any add on would have to be removed and stored separately while charging.
My Sport Elites on the other hand fit and feel great in my ear. They have a more traditional tip that inserts into your ear canal that can be swapped between foam and silicon as well as a silicone wing that tucks up under a fold in your ear to keep them in place. This isn’t new technology but as someone who’s dealt with this style before these are different. Out of the box you get 3 pairs of varying sizes each of the foam tips, silicone tips, and silicone wings. All are interchangeable and are designed to fit in the carrying case while charging. That’s nearly 75,000 different configurations to choose from so you are sure to find a fit and feel that you like. Mine have also seemed to form a kind of memory which has made them more comfortable over time.
This is a win in a big category for Jabra, especially if you are someone who wears your earbuds for several hours of the day like me. Commuting, working out, at work, mine are in constantly in my ears are in love with the fit of my Jabras.
Probably the most important feature in a headphone of any configuration is having great sound and the Sport Elites deliver. They provide deep bass and great high end pitches and in addition to a great frequency range Jabra offers an app for both Apple and Android users that allows you to customize the sound you get in your ear. And not to backtrack, but the fit of these earbuds helps a lot with the sound quality you get. Having a pair of earbuds that fill your ear canal and don’t move not only helps trap and direct sound into your ear but also helps block out the outside noise. The only earbud I’ve owned that provide a better sound than these are the Powerbeats and those come with a bigger footprint, an over ear clip, and that awkward tether connecting them.
Now I don’t want to leave the AirPods out of the debate completely but they are simply inferior in this category. While both claim frequency ranges from 20-20kHz (basically the entirety of the human ear range) the AirPods do not deliver on the low end. I mean don’t get me wrong, for being truly wireless earphones they sound good but there’s a lot out there that sound better. And as someone who likes to bump to guilty pleasure music on his commute, the number of times I was able to clearly hear the song playing in someone else’s AirPods was scary. They just give up too much sound to the outside.
Both of these come with a carrying case that doubles as a battery charger, but which one lasts longer? Honestly both of these are going to carry enough life in a single charge to get you through most of what you ask of them. I’ve never been using them so long that they die before I put them back into their case for a charge. My AirPods did die on a trip back but they had been in constant use for around 5 hours before doing so and I know my Jabras would do the same so if you are someone that needs headphones for long distance travel (several hours) consistently than I recommend going a different route. Pick up a pair of over the ear headphones that have an option to be wired or pack a pair of back up wired earbuds because nothing in the truly wireless earphone family is going to get the job done for you. Now on paper Apples number for battery life dwarf Jabras but it doesn’t really translate to everyday use. I found myself charging my AirPod case about once a week with an occasional bonus day on weeks that I wasn’t using them as much and the exact same with my Jabras. There’s no clear winner but if that extra
cable in your life is going to bug you; you need a micro usb cable (provided) to charge them, then go with AirPods.
Both of these are packed with features but some are definitely more useful for everyday life. Both options offer an auto connect after the initial pairing which is a big win in my book as well as options to summon Siri, skip tracks, take phone calls and single ear use, but let’s get into better things.
The AirPods are simply more user friendly and honestly I miss the ease of use of them. The auto pause, while flawed (I always seemed to hold mine covering the sensor) is a great feature. And the ability to just tap and not have to press something that’s in your ear, is fantastic. These seem so simple but help so much and helped me initially fall in love with my AirPods. One big thing I missed while using my AirPods was a volume control of some kind. Siri could do it for you but was more time consuming than pulling out my phone or doing it on my watch. The advertised seamless transitioning between devices is also a lie, but for a small package there’s a lot of good stuff you get with the AirPods.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way for the Sport Elites. They use a traditional button press for any response. It’s hard to do, hurts your ear, and honestly they have so many buttons that I forget which one to press sometimes. They also don’t have any auto pause. If I take out my right one my left one stops playing but there’s still music pumping through the right one while its in my hand which is just dumb. So what do they have to offer up? Being a “sport” earphone a lot of their features are centered around activity. They come with a built in heart rate sensor as well as an app that allows you to track your workouts, and even provides coaching directly in your ear over your music. I don’t use it because it isn’t for me but I’ve checked out some of the workouts and there are some really good ones for everyone. All of this is free. So if you are looking to get into shape but don’t know where to start, these will tell you. They also have a new hear-through feature that uses the microphones to give you a soft reminder of what is going on around you as you jam out. I use it a lot when biking to hear pedestrians and cars around me and is great for when I’m walking in a big city at night. I guess technically with the poor fit the AirPods have this built in. (Sorry for the burn Apple, I still love you.) In addition to all of this the Elite Sports come with an IP rating of 67. This means that they are dust tight and can be submerged in shallow water for up to 30 min. So no nasty dirty is getting in and you can really clean them after a hard workout or long day. Something AirPods users everywhere are missing out on.
So where does this leave us? There’s a lot to be said for both of these products and this tech in general but who comes out on top? For me it’s Jabra Elite Sports. They are just superior to the AirPods in fit and sound which are the two most important things to me. They are packed with features and are a near perfect fit for my lifestyle. Apple did a great job innovating this technology but Jabra has molded it into a better all around package.
Now do I think they can steal to crown from the AirPods? Absolutely not. They cost too much and there are too many options out there for non-Apple options. I will say that I have seen a few pair being used around NYC which is a far cry from the 1000’s of AirPods I see daily. Apple is an iconic brand grounded in innovation and design with an enormous fan/user base, so no one is going to dethrone the AirPods in a popularity contest, any time soon. Hopefully a new version of the AirPods is released with a better fit and feel, but until then, I’ll stick with my Jabras.
If you’re in the market for some new earbuds give, Jabra a look. They have several models with various price points to fit most budgets.
Thanks for reading. Deuces.
Jeremy can be found on Instagram at j_sauce0789.
All images courtesy of Jabra.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you decide to purchase after clicking the link.