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Heart Rate Tracking Headphones: Review of Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition

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In August, Jabra unveiled their next-gen wireless sports headphones, premiering the world’s first sports headphones to feature automatic (and continuous) VO2 max fitness testing. I got to spend a few days testing the headphones, and was more than excited to see the new features in action.

First Impressions

The headphones come in sleek packaging, geared towards the fitness inspired. Boxed with six sets of silicone or foam buds, 4 pairs of EarWings that help secure the headphones for a better fit, there are options for almost anyone’s ears. I have small ears, so typically a whole day of wearing earbud headphones can make my ears sore, but after finding the right EarWing they were comfortable to wear for extended periods. The right fit also made the Jabras feel a lot more secure and I haven’t had them slide out of place whether I’ve been running, walking, or lifting weights.

Overall, the housing of the headphones feels durable and light, both good signs. The microphone controls are simple to use, and the Bluetooth connects with the touch of one button. With so much technology packed into the headphones, the overall footprint was surprisingly small. Jabra managed to fit the opto-mechanical heart rate sensor into a small nub on the left earbud, and the charging port on the right.

Heart Rate Sensor

Developed by Valencell, a company out of Raleigh, North Carolina, the sensor utilizes a method called photoplethysmorgraphy(PPG) to measure the heart rate. The nub on the headphones house an accelerometer as well as an optical emitter and detector which refract light through the thin skin of the ear to calculate variable blood flow. The cool thing about this optical sensor is that its position next to the thin skin of the ear allows it to take better readings than common wrist-based optical sensors. Using the data collected by the sensor, the Jabra Sports Pulse Special Edition…

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