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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: More than a word in your ear

The new flagship wireless earbuds from Jabra compete fiercely with the competing units from major brands, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

What is it?

Wireless earbuds keep getting better, as continual advances in miniaturisation make it possible to cram more magic into a tiny format.

Samsung has made much of the fact that its recent Galaxy Buds – the Live, Pro and Buds 2 editions – all have three microphones. This allows for sound to be focused and for a semblance of active noise cancellation. The Buds Live are a personal favourite due to enhanced comfort and unobtrusive design.

However, there is a new bud on the block. Not a new brand, mind you, considering that Jabra has been producing in-ear audio products over several decades. Despite aggressive competition from smartphone brands like Apple, Samsung and Huawei, it has maintained a fierce response in both design and research and development.

The result is its latest flagship device, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, which again pushes the boundaries of sound experience. It calls its proprietary audio technology Jabra MultiSensor Voice, and combines no less than four microphones with an advanced Voice Pick Up (VPU) sensor in each bud.

The VPU sensors activate when it’s windy, cancelling wind noise and using bone conduction technology to transmit voice. Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is also taken a step further, with five adjustable levels to decide how much noise one wants to cancel. As Jabra puts it, you can “give your music the silence it deserves”.

Less unusual is adjustable HearThrough technology, which uses the built-in microphones to pick up the sounds around users, and plays them in the ears, allowing one to tune into sounds selectively by tapping the earbud button on the Sound+ app. Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. One would do well to get some training to go with this set, but that is testimony to how advanced it is.

Ultimately, this means the Elite 7 Pro allows for extensive personalisation, promising to adjust sound automatically according to one’s unique hearing profile, while a customisable equaliser allows for manual fine-tuning.

Less customisable is the fitment of the tips, although they use a new EarGel design with a rounded, tapered tip “for an anatomically-optimised fit”. The problem is that not all ears are themselves equally anatomically optimised. That said, the 7 Pro buds are 16% smaller than Jabra’s previous smallest buds, and weigh just 5.4g each. That makes it more comfortable to take advantage of up to 9 hours of active listening, with up to 35 hours charge while in the case. A quick 5-minute fast charge provides more than an hour of power.

One of my most used features is a mono mode, allowing either earbud to be used independently – ideal when listening out for comments from colleagues or instructions from a flight attendant on an airplane. On a long flight, one can take turns with the earbuds, doubling the active listening life.

What does it cost?

The Elite 7 Pro costs R3899 including VAT, while the next model down, the Elite 7 Active, comes in at R3499. The more affordable sibling in the new range, the Elite Active 4, costs R2199.

Why should you care?

The Elite 7 Pro is the latest in six generations of ground-breaking miniaturised technology in Jabra’s consumer earpieces, but further benefits from over 150 years of audio expertise. This has given the company not only deep experience of what works and does not, but has also provided a vast data set of ear and hearing profiles.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Despite extensive personalisation of the sound experience, the buds’ fitment tends to be comfortable for a specific shape of ear. Three pairs of silicon EarGels in S, M, and L help make up for this.
  • The upper end of the range comes at significant price, although still lower than that of the Apple AirPods Pro.
  • Jabra Sound+ app requires registration for full use.
  • Expect a steep learning curve.

What are the biggest positives?

  • It supports both Alexa Built-in and Google Assistant (Android only), creating a smart assistant in one’s ear
  • It’s tough, offers IP57-rated waterproof protection, and comes with a 2-year warranty.
  • Bluetooth Multipoint connection allows one to be connected to two devices at once (early models need a firmware upgrade to support it).
  • Double listening time by using one bud at a time in mono mode.
  • Adjustable active noise cancellation provides greater control over level of noise cancellation.
  • Compatible with Qi-enabled wireless charging pads.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee.

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