For the past few weeks I’ve been wallowing in high-tech, expensive audio equipment. But today I’m taking a break from that grind to check out a new sport earphone. The JBL Under Armour Pivot won’t break your bank, despite offering a wireless earphone with a weatherproofed exterior. But at $129, how does it sound? And is it the right earphone for you?
JBL Under Armour Pivot Review
The Under Armour Pivot comes with a silicon, zippered carrying pouch. Inside the box, you will also find three different pairs of eartips and three different sizes of in-ear hooks, as well as a micro USB charging cable, and safety and product manuals.
A partnership between both JBL and Under Armour, the Pivot takes obvious design cues from both brands. Form factor and internals retain the essence of JBL, but the exterior sports an updated facade that clearly stems from Under Armour. A rugged, heavy-duty textured aluminum housing holds the earphone drivers, while the cable uses a nylon sheath for better weather resistance.
And weather resistance is a huge selling point of the Under Armour Pivot. This earphone isn’t just waterproof – it’s storm proof. Even the most heavy-duty earphones will short out in a downpour, but the Pivot can clearly take on a monsoon with ease. From the nylon cabling to the rubberized, gasket-sealed remote, the Pivot is positioned to persevere in the poorest conditions.
Fit seems comfortable enough. My giant, cavernous ears manage to accommodate the medium-sized tips and hooks with ease, allowing for a secure, isolating fit. The fins are removable, and it’s possible to use the Pivot without them if they aren’t your cup of tea. The natural isolation of the Pivot can also be bypassed by a button on the remote, lowering the volume of the speakers and raising the volume of the built-in microphone to amplify ambient sounds.
This last feature isn’t just cool, but could actually save lives, allowing you to hear the honk of a car horn, the barking of dog, or your boss telling you to hurry up with that headphone review.
Battery life measures an impressive 9 hours – unarguably one of the best battery life ratings for an earphone in the current market. Pairing is simple, too, as the earphones enter pairing mode the minute they are powered on. Once paired to a device, they will automatically connect when powered off and back on again. Pressing and holding the power button will reset this memory feature.
Frequency Range: 20-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 14 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 96 dB
On paper, the JBL Under Armour Pivot won’t wow you with a bunch of fancy numbers. Instead, the Pivot offers a fairly standard frequency range that mimics the natural limits of human hearing. Impedance is actually kind of low for an earphone, making the Pivot a bit more power-efficient while also seeming louder. In line with this, the Sound Pressure Level is a comfortable 96 dB. Considering the level of isolation offered by this earphone, achieving the perfect level of volume shouldn’t be an issue.
For an earphone with great battery life, a storm-proof exterior, and great isolation, I wasn’t expecting the Pivot to sound so good. Yet, the low end offers good detail and plenty of bass – not too much, but just enough for you to feel it. This results in a thick, full sound that works wonders when it comes to hip-hop, electronica, rock, and pop.
The midrange on the JBL Under Armour Pivot will strike you as pretty impressive. Most wireless earphones made for exercise seem to skimp on the mids, so it’s nice to see this earphone taking a different approach. Where other models sound thin and recessed, the Pivot delivers substantial detail and clarity, while still not stealing the spotlight from that mesmerizing low end. This leads to a emotive sound with buttery-smooth vocals resting on top of a driving, precise rhythm.
Lows? Check. Mids? Check. But how does the Pivot handle the highs? I was expecting to hear a peaky, screechy mess in the high end. Or even a tinny or thin sound. However, complimenting the lows and the mids, the high end of the Under Armour Pivot displays good extension and surprisingly good fidelity, for the price. Is it the best thing I have ever heard? No. But it does handle strings and high-pitched female vocals in a manner consistent with any other high-end earphone at this price range (including professional models from Audio Technica and Shure).
Some headphones have a ton of space and depth to them. Put them on, close your eyes, and you’ll swear you were five feet away from your favorite band or artist. The Pivot isn’t quite there, but it gets surprisingly close for a sub-$200 earphone. There is a real sense of depth and some good placement lurking inside this small exercise ‘phone. This gives it a fairly realistic sound, but one that immerses you in whatever you’re listening to, too.
The TalkThru feature allows you to lower volume in the earphones while simultaneously amplifying the microphone, allowing you to hear your surroundings with better clarity. And, while this feature offers a extra safety-minded bonus, it’s also great when people want to talk to you while you’re wearing earphones. I could see this being a great feature for commuters who need to hear announcements on trains or buses, but it’s a godsend for office work, as well. No longer do I have to continually pry earphones from my head every time someone near me has a question. Instead, with the press of a button, I can hear them in fine detail.
Likewise, the mic quality carries over for phone calls. It’s a clear, un-garbled experience when calling my friends to meet up for a drink, and the ladies love hearing my clean, precise diction as I whisper sweet nothings over the phone.
If you’re in the market for a pair of earphones for exercise – and that won’t go to pieces on you under tough conditions – you really need to own the JBL Under Armour Pivot. Before this, my go to recommendations for exercise earphones were the JBL Reflect Contour 2 ($99) or the Sennheiser CX Sport Wireless ($129). However, the Pivot blows them both out of the water.
If you’re after something with a little less bass or treble, you might get away with one of the Audio Technica sport models, though many folks I’ve talked to don’t enjoy the fit.
As to other brands, like Jaybird or Bose, the battery life and build alone remains better with the JBL Under Armour Pivot. But when it comes to sound quality, these models get even worse, with thin highs and compressed mids that suck the life out of vocals.
At $129, the JBL Under Armour Pivot may not be the cheapest sport earphone you’ve ever seen. However, taking into account its rugged design, excellent battery life, and impressive sound, it still offers more value than any other model on the market right now.
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