You are probably familiar with the name Jabra and BNA was asked to look at their Jabra Elite Active 75t which are bluetooth ear buds, waterproof and pitched towards sports. The Jabra website shows a lot of gym people wearing these buds, but we are a bicycle site and the question we need to ask is do they suit cycling?
There are some people who are totally against wearing anything that prevents hearing your surroundings while riding, especially on the roads. There are some who are all for head phones and similar devices because music helps them get into their zone. And the majority of people, I would argue, sit somewhere in-between. I want to find out whether they are as loud as a car stereo or are they more like a headset that motorcyclists wear.
Though there remains the question on suitability while bike riding, and even whether they are allowed to be worn while cycling. However for the purpose of this review, yes… it is important, but we will leave that debate for another day. With this topic now skilfully moved aside, I can say that for people who choose to wear ear buds whist riding, the Jabra’s appear to be a good choice.
The Technical Details
There are already dozens of unboxing and reviews on the Elite Active 75t and address bluetooth, startup times, connectability and all manner of technical details. One of my favourites is from Sound Guys – Jabra Elite 74t Review and I recommend this as starting point.
Some of the basic details is that they are sweatproof and waterproof with an IP57 rating. There are 3 sizes of silicon ear-gels for a good fit. By default they block ambient sound well but have a ‘HearThrough’ feature to control how much outside noise can be heard.
As you probably imagine, you can listen to music and take calls. On a single charge the battery has a specified 28 hour runtime and there is an option of a wireless charging version. It retails for $329 and comes in five colours or $349.99 for the wireless charging model in a single colour.
Are they relevant for cycling?
The Jabra Elite active 75t ear buds are aimed at active users and the ear-gel fit options that ensure the buds stay seated and sweatproof and waterproof, all traits that work in favour for use while bike riding. Cycling counts as a sport so that is the connection and it would still be fair to say that these are really pitched at gym-going folk.
Jabra App – Sound+
Jabra have an accompanying app called Jabra Sound+. This offers a range of adjustments and customisation, from equaliser profiles, to HearThrough settings. There is also the custom MySound setting in the app that allows you to create a profile based on your hearing. I went through the testing configuration which plays tones of various pitch to determine your hearing profile and creates a sound mode based on the results. If I was an audiophile, I am sure there would be some perceptible difference in using this rather than one of the presets, but I’m afraid my ears aren’t that advanced.
The range of 10m is what you expect from a Bluetooth connection. I could leave my phone in my backpack or the back of my cycling jersey and the connection never flinched. The sound quality is very good, if a little heavy in the bottom on occasion and this can be tuned by the equaliser settings to your liking.
Sound quality and HearThrough
The most relevant feature is that Jabra have kitted these out with their ‘HearThrough’ feature and is the detail that most interested me for cycling use. This will let in differing levels of the outside sounds, adjustable through the app. Turning HearThrough off or tuning the buds off without any music or speech playing will stop much of the environmental sounds getting through. The ear buds actively transmit outside sounds via the microphones when this mode is active.
The buds certainly pick up noises when HearThrough is on, including wind noise. If you use these while riding then wind noise almost becomes deafening with HearThrough on. This feature might work well for some activities, but I don’t think it fits all activities. Modern day helmets, for example, are becoming better a preventing wind-noise as this can be distracting. The ability to hear your surroundings in most situations while riding is almost imperative, so by transmitting most dominant sound that the Elite Active 75t are picking up as wind rushes past the microphones is not ideal for cycling at speed or when windy.
While I tested these while cycling on a closed road loop, it became clear early on in testing that the external sound was either greatly diminished while wearing them, or almost drowned out by amplified wind noise with HearThrough on. As I want to hear the surrounding sound while riding, it is fair to say that with these earbuds I felt limited.
The Jabra Elite active 75t ear buds are rated IP57, which means dust protection and immersible for up to 30 minutes at 1 metre depth. I think many riders are like me in that monsoons and tropical storms are avoided, but it is still nice to know you won’t destroy your investment because you got hot on a local climb or got caught up in bad weather.
The fit certainly feels solid enough to be active while wearing the ear buds. They have three different size ‘ear gels’, as Jabra call them, to select a size suited to your ear canal. I used the medium size and they felt fine. The large gave a more solid feel for strenuous activity, but were too large for everyday use like calls or listening to podcasts while walking or working. The mediums never felt like they were slipping out on my test ride. I wasn’t doing sprints, but still like to have a good pace on the bike so you don’t want bits falling off. I also went for a brief run and they didn’t move at all.
Keeping in mind that these ear buds are for active sports where there may be more head movement, for many types of cycling there isn’t a lot of head movement so I feel that the fit will remain sturdy.
The overall size of the buds is fairly small. The Jabra website compares them to Apple Airpods, Bose SoundSport and Beats PowerBeats Pro. The Jabra’s appear to be the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Buds although I don’t own those so didn’t do a direct comparison.
The buttons are quite sensitive to the touch and were the only issue I experienced operating the Jabra ear buds. It doesn’t take much weight on a fingertip to press them, and inadvertently pausing or skipping occurred when just reaching up to scratch an ear or adjusting the position of the buds in an ear for everyday use.
In practice while riding, I didn’t trigger any accidental pauses or skips front the buttons being pressed by a wayward helmet strap. But if you have a tendency to reach up to adjust the buds or do an obsessive compulsive check that they are not falling out you may find the music stopping or pausing.
These are small ear buds that work very well for everyday and for sports where ambient noise can be blocked out. While not cheap, capable ear buds usually have a price tag and Jabra also have a reputation sound quality which they maintain with the Elite Active 75t ear buds.
For cycling these run into a few issues, we said however that we won’t further discuss the suitability or legality of audio devices that block out external sound. The HearThrough feature is a solution that captures this audio but in my experience, the wind-noise simply made these unsuitable for my commuting or road cycling. On the flip side, they are excellent for indoor training or closed circuits.
Recommended Retail Price: $329
Further information on the Jabra Elite Active 75t and online purchasing from: Jabra.com.au
These are also available from many other retailers of electronics and audio products across Australia.