DennisO (denniso) wrote,

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Jabra Sport Pace: I want one, but where is the case, dammit!

If you are too lazy to read - then move on. But if you do, you’ll miss out on what could be a great partner in your fitness routine. Yes, Jabra did it’s homework. Not 100% ideal - but hey, who is? Fun stuff under the cut.

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Low profile (i can actually use my buff with it!), clean look, great colors. Reflective cord - mai mai mai.

Let me put it his way - the look and fit in person just as good as they look in the ads! Finally!


Jabra Sport Pace sits around your ears better than Powerbeats Wireless by Dre. Perfect combination of near-ear and in-ear canal positioning. With the right tips, Pace is very comfortable and you’ll be able to wear these for hours without noticing them.

Initial setup

When you pair Sport Pace with your device for the first time, it auto-suggests apps for your on Google Play (not tested) and App Store (tested). You’ll see a prompts to install apps.

There is one problem - no apps for iPad (tablets) or wearables (Apple Watch), but I’ll cover that in the Apps section.


I was a bit sceptical on the cord positioning at first. After all, excess sweat during workout will follow the wire directly into the control toggle. And with IPX54 rating and mic positioning, this could potentially be a problem.

So far, after two heavy indoor sessions (I can barely move as I write this review) and one outdoor 12 mile run, my worries don’t have any ground.

And let me tell you - in the gym, after one hour mid-pace run and another 30 minutes of leg work and weights - I’m sweating like a pig. No - worse than a pig. If you see skinny guy doing planks with sweat constantly dripping from his forehead to the towel on the mat - that’s me. Rain of sweat, after high-impact workout.

Plank world record holder George Hood. 5h15min15sec

If not for technical fabrics and moisture-wicking shirts and shorts - you’d be seeing me swimming in the gym without the pool.

Micro-USB charging port and Rapid Charge

Jabra listened! Too much ) Micro-USB port, unlike in Sport Pulse model, is sealed with a solid and profiled rubber plug. It takes some time to open it up - that’s how tightly sealed the port is. If it helps with sweat protection - I’ll learn to live with it. Just a minor annoyance to open the port every time.


Rapid Charge is awesome

It literally takes very little time to top these earbuds with power for your next workout. Very smart and useful!

Weight and cord management

Balanced weight distribution and very light! Bravo! Cord management is perfect - it won’t get into the way even with if you work Smith machine or a hard-core powerlifter.

Ear tips

Three standard sizes silicone tips are provided. No surprise there. It's a dual-color silicone of a spherical shape. Why is this important? Each person’s ear canal is slightly different. What may work for one person won’t for another. As for me - I find Jabra tips fine, but a little on a firmer side. So, usually I opt out for my custom sets I have, which are tailored to my ears. It gives me additional sound isolation and more comfortable fit, where I can use earphones at a lower volume for a prolonged period of time.


It may seem as a small detail, but when you have treadmill machine that emulates road or gravel surface - you’ll need every extra decibel of isolation possible - these machines are noisy. But I’ll get to that part.

Sound  - All that bass! Wow - that’s interesting.

When I assess sound (any sound), usually my first impression is the correct one. I rarely change my opinion about the sound quality or fidelity. No second chances.

So, I always take time to prepare my ears before hand, if I want really good results. How come? I test ear buds in the first half of the day, with enough time for me to wake up. I’m usually in a quiet environment for at least 30-60 minutes, and occasionally I ‘warm-up’ to a familiar soundtracks using very familiar reference headphones.

That morning, it was my travel Bose QC20. Not that I’m a huge fan of skewed Bose sound profile.

After Bose, at low volume level, Jabra Sport Pace blew me away with its lows and mid-lows.

Anything between 80 and 400 Hz has at least 3-4 dB gain compared to the rest of the spectrum. Wow, it literally blew me away for the first few minutes. And that’s after Bose, which in itself has elevated mid-lows and highs. Jabra Sport Pace lows are not muddy by any means - bass is there.

It almost made my ears pop for a second.

So, I set the volume to a lower level and let the music play for the next few hours. I also adjusted headset to emulate position while running. Why? There are not in-ear earbuds, even though, they sit deeper in ear canal than others.

When you’ll run or exercise - these will slightly come out and will be sitting at the opening of your ear canal. That’s the intended placement.

A-ha, now I get what sound engineers were up to. With proper placement, lows are just slightly elevated, 1-2 dB, which is fine.

The rest of the spectrum is fine. These are not multi-driver earbuds (no one on the market today has ones in bluetooth class), but the sound is balanced, mids are crisp and highs are not overwhelming.

Sound is definitely not tiny, like it used to be the case with with Sport Pulse, as I recall. Good, lesson learned.

Next stop - equal loudness contour.

For those far from sound engineering - it's a measure of volume vs frequency response. E.g. at lower volumes you need compensate low end of spectrum in order for your eardrums hear it. Our hearing is non-linear with volume, and that is the art of sound producing - making sure records we buy sound the same (or close) at low, mid and high volumes.

Part of that is done at mastering and post-mastering stages in the sound studious or transmitting equipment (radio stations using dedicated exciters, compressors, amps etc). But part of it is baked into the speakers and earphones.

With modern sound controllers, you can assign several sound profiles to different listening scenarios or types of connected equipment or even apps.

I won’t go there - you’ll be bored, if not already.

Bottom line - at high volume with different apps (sound profiles) you’ll get different lows and sound compression effect. Let’s dive into most popular apps.

iTunes Music App - native profile, without Jabra software witchcraft .

That’s as basic as it gets. Very balanced, yet not super loud performance. You’ll be fine in the comfort of your workdesk or in-doors. At the gym - you might want a tiny bit more volume, if your gym is noisy or your workload is high (blood pressure affect your eardrums sensitivity. The more pressure - less sensitive your eardrums are).

Spotify - wow! did I hear bass clipping? No, but close.

Wow, that’s what I’m talking about! Spotify - is my to-go music streaming service on the go. No matter what country I’m in - Spotify is always with me.

Because it offers separate EQ (my EQ is always flat) and volume profiles, Spotify app can make any earbuds sound different from the native profile. And it did. In a good way.

The balance is still there, but the volume - boy, that’s the volume I want from any sport earbuds!

Its also the reason, I don’t buy into Jabra’s sound virtualization approach with their own Sport and Sound apps. First, those apps are absent for tablets and wearables (my two biggest use cases), second - apps will always be in a catch-up mode with 3rds party app development cycle. Sorry Jabra - you can’t predict the future of app development!

As for health benefits - it’s a separate discussion, which I’ll have another post for - Health and Fitness Platforms.

But I get it, Jabra does it’s apps for mainstream - virtual trainer thing, phone-runners. Fine. I don’t run with my phone - I have better use for $1K I spend on the phone which is my work tool, and my workout is - ‘me’ time. No work.

So, I expect good performance regardless of weather I use Jabra Dolby Labs virtual app or not.

I like the way Jabra Sport Pace sound with Spotify. For most of the tracks - no clipping, no volume overload noted.

YouTube - max volume. I need more!

One may argue - it's a YouTube thing. But I’ll object.

YouTube app, on both phone and tablet uses default system audio profile of the device. So, it defaults to the sound level of your earbuds. There is no sound magic there. You get what you get from the video source.

If the volume is borderline - you are crewed. And music videos often come in variety of mastering\compression audio ratios. It’s a wild wild west out there!

Wild West with Caleb Kuhl

I also noted that at max volume you have distinct compression effect each time bass notes are over-pronounced. I can literally tell when earbuds amp limits overall volume when it thinks bass overwhelms sound drivers. Or is it the limitation of the drivers itself? No, it can’t be!

It’s a protection mechanism, I get that too. But it's being set for native audio profile far too low. Why in Spotify and Apple Watch I don’t get that, but in iTunes and YouTube - I do?

The only thing you can do - use better isolating eartips. Get it now? That’s why I mentioned custom eartips above! I don’t see any other way of fixing it - Jabra Sport Pace can’t be programmed via USB easily , and I don’t expect them to rollout different ELC anytime soon.

It's the reason they have their own app - to mask those nuances, but again - it only runs on the phone, and, frankly - you should not need it! What about tablets, what about my Apple Watch in iPod mode?!

Outdoors and Apple Watch

Apple Watch - performance on par with Spotify. But, again, Apple Watch default sound profile is surprisingly different from Apple’s iPhones and iPads (Apple, when you read this - don’t fix it! Don’t mess up one thing you did right with Apple Watch!). Basically - Apple Watch player sounds louder and with better fidelity and slightly overcompressed, than iTunes app on iPhone or iPad.

I don’t know why - but don’t change that, Apple Watch team!

Voice and prompts

Cool voice prompts, actually nicely done this time. Similar with Sport Pulse, but now I hope to never hear ‘Device is out of range’ message ever again! )

Range - as advertise. Very good. On par with the best manufacturers on the market today.

Thoughts and conclusions

Jabra Sport Pace is a great pair of earbuds for active sport! Try it for yourself! Finally, we have a rival to Apple’s Powerbeats Wireless by Dre, at half the price! And knowing Jabra sales model - you can expect some price drop in the next 3-6 months too.

But don’t wait - these earbuds at $99 - is a bargain. It will make a great holiday gift to anyone you know is into active sports.

I’m glad Jabra did their homework after launching Sport Pulse lineup. We may not agree on product strategy for their apps and Fitness (I know my teams could do a much better job), but at the end - Sport Pace is much much better sounding and much more practical set of earbuds for a gym dweller or outdoorsy fanatic.

You can have them as a spare or as your primary set - they will perform well.

Yes, it would be good to have a case with these! Dammit!

Yes, it would be good to have extra 2-3 dB of volume for native sound profiles on iOS (I can’t comment about Android, as I dumped all of my Android tablets to the kids)

Yes, some will switch to Comply or other ear tips for better sound isolation, like I did.

Yes, low end is a little too much for my personal liking at times. But with right positioning in real life and quality tracks - that should not concern you.

And yes, durability is yet to be determined - but by the first look at the build quality - I hope there will be no issues with sweat shorting these out anytime soon. 12 months for sport gadgets is adequate time, then you really should plan on replacing any kind of actively used gear.

I won't cover phone integrations - Siri is there, it works. What else? When I workout I put my phone down and I work. This is my ‘me time’, if I’m needed I’ll get paged to my watch. Shut up and workout!


I’m very pleased that Jabra came out with the first model that is targeted at runners and active athletes! They gave us back around the ear, solid design that works!

Not for marathoners, no (battery life will depend based on conditions, volume and how long it takes you to complete the course), but half-marathoners and truly active individuals who sweat and push themselves frequently beyond comfort limits - absolutely!

Well done, Jabra, well done!

Good night! Stay active!

P.S. Did I get a pair? You bet I did. I got two.

Tags: earbuds, fitness, jabra, jabra sport pace, running
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