Review: Jabra Rox Bluetooth in-earphones
4.0Overall Score
Price (RRP): $149 Manufacturer: Jabra

With a name like “Rox,” you better hope that an audio product does what the name at least sounds like, so does Jabra’s magnetic set of Bluetooth and NFC equipped in-earphones rock?

Features

A new set of earphones for Jabra, the Rox are a small pocketable pair of Bluetooth in-earphones for those who like to go walkabout, travelling and listening to music from their phone without the need for those pesky cables.

The earphone casing for the Rox are made from steel, with plastic covers over the back, and silicone tips, while the cable connecting the two earpieces is made from Kevlar.

Technology wise, there’s Bluetooth 4.0 and Near-Field Communication built into this headset, with a microphone also included on a button-based remote on the right side of the earphone cable, the part that connects the two earpieces.

Jabra’s remote supports volume up, volume down, and a pause and playback option, which can also be used to answer phone calls.

A variety of ear gels are included in the pack, with two small, two medium, two large, and two regular bi-flange tips provided, all of which are made from silicone.

Ear wings are also included, detachable hooks that can, in some instances, help the earphones to be more stable in the ear.

The Jabra Rox in-earphones support a battery capable of providing up to 5.5 hours of life, with the charge working through a microUSB port found on the left earphone, just behind the plastic cover.

A code for an application is found in the box, “Jabra Sound,” which makes the Rox in-earphones capable of listening to audio in Dolby Digital Plus.

Performance

If mobile phones are to get slimmer in the next few years, the headphone jack is going to have to go. That’s just one of the things that has to go, as the 3.5mm headphone port is holding up the thickness, an inclusion that one day will disappear as we all migrate to wireless earphones.

You can do this already, though, getting used to wireless audio ahead of the day we’re all forced to give it up, and Jabra’s latest set of wireless earphones tries to encourage this change not just because of the cord cutting, but because there’s some intelligent engineering at play here, thanks to some magnificent magnets.

Called the Rox, this pair of earphones takes advantage of a steel shell linked together by rubber and Kevlar, and a pair of magnets at each end, acting as both a power switch and a hook to make the earphones harder to lose.

Setting up the Rox has been made easy not just because Bluetooth is an easy wireless system to get working — go to Bluetooth under settings and search for the headset — but also because Jabra has included Near-Field Communication, meaning phones with NFC thrown in (sorry iPhone owners) merely need to rub the phone against the remote on the Rox for the two to start the wireless handshake and link up.

Once it’s done, you’re ready to start rocking out with the Rox. Sorry, we had to say it.

Stick them in your ears and you’re pretty much ready to go, the earphones switching on when they’re in your ears, basically connecting a second or two after you unclip the heads from the magnetic switch. We’ll get to how that works shortly, and why it’s such a good idea, but for now, let’s tackle the sound, since it’s such an important part of the package.

We started in the world of electronic, and on the Rox the bass is clear and very noticeable, with the minor impacts of the “Mirror’s Edge” soundtrack visible as reasonably heavy punches while the mids and highs stayed relevant, and the same was mostly true on Mooro’s “M66R6” which pumped the bass loud, though on this track the less bassy bits took a backseat to the impact here.

Switching to hip-hop and pop, the bass once again was a touch overpowering, with Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” featuring a heavier beat and drum line than the vocals running in the mids, showing us that the headphones may have been developed with bass heavy music in mind.

But another bass heavy track didn’t quite have the impact we expected, with Muse’s “Supremacy” lacking the same pow we saw on the electronic side of things, as the heavy guitar, bass, and drum lines all felt a touch shallow for this track in comparison to the electronic we had previously tested.

Tracks with less bass can feel a touch shallow and muddled, with Pharrell’s “Happy” and Sia’s “Chandelier” sounding less distinct than their electronic and hip-hop cousins.

Some of the jazz we tested with, much of it with less pronounced or highly engineered bass, managed to feel stronger and less muddled than the pop, with balanced bass on the Kermit Ruffins track “Treme Second Line” and the Coltrane classic “Blue Train.”

It’s an interesting pair indeed, and one that seems better suited to music that has obvious bass lines, such as electronic, r&b, and hip-hop, as well as the acoustic bass found in jazz.

Back to the design, and we feel it’s important to mention something that really deserves a credit, and that’s the inclusion of the magnet in the earphone casing design. Indeed, this makes the Rox earphones more intriguing than your regular old wireless in-earphones, especially for anyone who’s ever had their earphones go AWOL while they’re walking around.

You see, the Jabra Rox uses a magnet in each earphone section as both a power switch and, well, a magnet.

As a power switch, you’ll find that when you clip the two earpieces together, the Jabra Rox switches off, going into standby mode because they’re not needed.

But this comes with an added bonus, because if you’re wearing them and you switch them off, the Jabra Rox also become like a little audio necklace that’s harder to lose than your regular set of wireless buds, clinging to each other around your neck and saving you power in the interim.

Using a magnet as both a clip and power switch is such an intelligent solution that we’re surprised no one has thought of it prior to this, and credit has to be given to Jabra accordingly.

Outside of the neat magnet, the battery manages to hold its own, with around five to six (5-6) hours of life possible, while microUSB is the charge port of choice, hidden just behind a plastic flap on the left earphone piece.

But the earphone design is a little too bulbous for us, protruding out so far to make the left and right ears not interchangeable at all.

Audio purists won’t be bothered by this at all, because in stereo the left earpiece should be on the left and the right earpiece should be on the right, but anyone who wants to move that remote from the other side of their head to the side they prefer will be a little annoyed, because while other headphones can accommodate this, the Jabra Rox cannot.

That’s one of the unfortunate aspects of the earphone design, as these pieces can only fit in the ears they’ve been set to. The left piece will only sit comfortably in the left aural cavity because of the size and angle of the piece, and it’s the same story for the right.

That remote will always be on the right. That's just all there is to it.

When the piece does sit there, you might also find that the comfort levels will vary. Jabra is relying on pretty much the same style of silicone tips as everyone else, and the comfort of these can be hit and miss. There is a bi-flange tip also included, but you’ll likely have one ear that regardless of the tip chosen, refuses to keep the massive pieces in, with a slight tightening on the earphone required every few minutes.

For us, that was the left ear, which even with the biggest tip available really refused to take the form-factor for too long.

Next time, it might be useful for Jabra to include some foam based tips to keep the comfort up, though we’ll leave it to Jabra to decide.

One other thing scores a big miss for us, and that’s Jabra’s included app, Jabra Sound, which comes with a code in the box to let you to grab the app for free and listen to your music with Dolby Digital Plus support.

Unfortunately, the app is the only way to make the Jabra Rox play your tracks with Dolby Digital Plus, and your tracks have to be included on the handset in a file format that Jabra can recognise, meaning you can’t play Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, or any other service through the app.

If you have your tracks on an iPhone or Android using the stock music player, that’s great, though the Jabra player doesn’t appear as well designed as it probably could, so we’d be surprised to see if people use this over their regular players.

Perhaps next time, Jabra should engineer the Jabra Sound as more of a driver, so that anyone — no matter what app or playback service they’re using — can get Dolby Digital sound out of their earphones.

Charging the Jabra Rox is easy enough: just plug in the microUSB port on the left earphone behind the flap with the name "Jabra" printed on it.

Conclusion

Jabra’s entry into the wireless in-earphones category is certainly an intriguing one, bundling a very creative use of magnets with some decent sound. There’s obviously a preference for bass here, and that should make some people smile, though not all.

That said, if you can get around the remote being on the right side and large earphones, there’s plenty to admire about the Rox.

Review: Jabra Rox Bluetooth in-earphones
Price (RRP): $149 Manufacturer: Jabra
Magnetic heads makes the earphones harder to lose and easier to wear; Magnet serves as the on-off switch, which is really quite intelligent; Near-Field Communication on-board makes it very easy to pair for supporting handsets;
Ear fit isn't terribly stable; Can't be switched around to a different ear (remote on left side with right ear on left side) due to bulbous earphone design; Jabra app is pretty inflexible;
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4.0Overall Score
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