An Open Letter to JayBird
Now you are just being rude! With all the improvements you’ve made in the Blue Bud X, you are not leaving anything for the other little headphone companies. Didn’t your mama teach you to share. What are your little friends going to do if you grab up all the good ideas and horde them? In elementary school, didn’t they teach you to take turns? I think it’s about time you let another child have a turn on the swing. Sure those other kids don’t have your 8 hour battery life or your X-Fit design. Sure their audio quality is sub-standard and they definitely aren’t sweatproof. I know they are on the chubby side and often fall out of the ear. But don’t they deserve love, too?
So, please JayBird have a heart. Leave some innovations to the other little children so they can feel good about themselves.
The Real 411: JayBird has really gotten a little ridiculous with their latest creation, the BlueBuds X ($169.00) — or more affectionately know as BBX. On paper, these headphones are near perfect. But after over a month of use, I love them…but they aren’t the end-all-be-all I was hoping for. Here’s the skinny:
Wireless and SignalPlus: If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know for working out I love me some Bluetooth Headphones (and hate wires). However, Bluetooth has its drawbacks. First, there is a built-in delay, so you can’t really watch video with them unless you really like the Kung Fu Theater out-of-lip-sync effect. This isn’t a JayBird thing…this is an issue with all Bluetooth headphones I’ve ever tried. Second, the sound cuts out occasionally because the signal doesn’t make it from your device’s transmitter (my iPhone) to the receiver’s (headphone) antenna. This is where SignalPlus comes in. SignalPlus is JayBirds’ new trademarked term for less “cutting out” of the Bluetooth signal. I’m not sure what they did technically (maybe bigger/better antenna), but it’s definitely an improvement. I still get an occasional music skip when I do certain dynamic stretches (like supine scorpion for some reason), but it’s definitely better. The old JayBird Freedom Sprint worked best when used in an armband on the right arm. The user guide for the BBX says you can wear your player/phone anywhere, but that’s not my experience. When wearing an armband, as I do, I noticed I get much better performance if it’s on the same side as the volume control (which can be the left or right, depending on if you use the over-the-ear or under-the-ear configuration).
Secure Fit and X-Fit: Just like the JayBird Freedom Sprints which I reviewed last year, these BBX sport the same “Secure Fit” ear cushion that keeps the buds tightly in your ear. These truly work great. The new X-Fit feature is kind of two-fold. First, it means you can wear your BBX headphones in under-the-ear configuration or for better sports performance in the over-the-ear configuration. Moreover, there are two plastic tabs included that let you tighten the wire so it hugs the back of your head, instead of flopping on your neck. This may not sound like a big deal, but it really is. Props to JayBird! Of course, you could always just tape the wires together so they are shorter (which I did with my Freedom Sprints), but it’s clunky and you can’t easily adjust them…and still is on your neck, just a bit higher. The new X-Fit tabs are definitely superior when in the over-the-ear configuration and quit possible the best new feature.
Battery Life: Awesome! JayBird claims 8 hours and it’s true (if not more)!
Voice Prompts: The Jabra Sport headphones I reviewed a while back had voice prompts, like “Battery Low”, “Power On”… When I got my JayBird Freedom Sprint, I thought I’d be fine without it (honestly, the Battery Low prompt gets annoying…damn nag). But after a while, I found I missed the beautiful voice. Well, JayBird got the message. Introducing Jenna. Similar voice prompts as the Jabra’s, but more detailed and better. Now I can’t see how I lived without Jenna!
Micro-sized and controls: The BBX definitely look sweet with their new micro-sizing…which means they now just looks like regular buds–but cooler with some chrome rims. This micro-sizing immediately made me think they would be lighter. However, this isn’t in fact true. I was surprised to discover they are actually heavier than the Freedom Sprint, but lighter than the earlier generation JayBird Freedom. Not a big deal really…just noted. As for the controls, they are now placed along the cord, which for some reason makes its functionality more intuitive — minor, I know, but it’s really nice. The controls now handle a few more features, like redial and reject call…but honestly I’ll never use those. Just the basics for me.
Fit and Comfort: The BBX’s use the same SecureFit ear cushion, which I really like. However, the ear pads themselves are slightly different. This is to accommodate the larger stem. Unfortunately, to my ear, this means the perfect sized ear pad is between the medium and large size…whereas with the Freedom’s it was the large size. This really sucks for me…but your mileage will vary. The perfect fit is really import with the BBX, because sound and blackout quality varies substantially based on fit. Also, getting used to the SecureFit ear cushion takes some time. You really need to adjust (rotate) them until the stem points directly into your ear canal. When you find that sweet spot, comfort and sound quality improve dramatically…this is very important! [DD Update 8/29: I have found my sweet spot — or at least a much better one than when I wrote this review — for me, I need to rotate the buds about twenty degrees forward for them to hold in my ears perfectly. Unfortunately, at that angle, the wires don’t want to go over my ear…but that’s cool, they feel fine just wrapping the wire straight back].
Sound Quality: I’m not an audiophile, so my opinion is not that valid. The marketing documentation says they greatly improved the sound quality, but I can’t attest to that. I can absolutely attest to the fact that if the SecureFit isn’t adjust precisely, then the base drops substantially and the audio sounds tinny…so make sure to focus on this.
Price: $169…ouch. But you get what you pay for. These are the highest in tech! Even on Amazon, they are still $169. The Freedom Sprints are $94 on Amazon, which is a hefty discount…and they are still awesome. If the BBX fit “me” as well as the Freedom Sprint, I would gladly recommend the extra $75. As it is, you’ll have to try them on for yourself (I know the Apple Store carries them and I’ve seen them at Best Buy).
Summary: Well, I was hoping for perfection and they were close. But the fit issue (with my ear…I’m assuming everyone going to be different here) is frustrating. If not for the X-Fit over-the-ear configuration, I might keep wearing my Freedom Sprints, but as it is I’ll default to the BBX and not be too upset when I have to wear my Freedom Sprint. If the BBX fit my ear like my Freedom Sprint…then I’d give them a perfect 10! As it is, I’m going with an 8…still damn sexy, but not Kate Upton.