The JabyBird Bluebuds X are Bluetooth earphones with a dual-fit, sweat-resistant design that makes them ideal for runners and gym goers looking for some audio motivation minus the flailing cables. At £120, these running headphones don’t come cheap and while they are some of the best sounding wireless earphones we’ve had the pleasure of using, the unreliable fit makes them very difficult to recommend.
JayBird Bluebuds X – Design and Comfort
The first thing you’ll notice about the Bluebuds is that they don’t look like your regular pair of earphones. Like the Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth earphones, the earbuds are connected by a single cord that rests behind the neck. There’s a built-in remote control close up to the left side of the earphones with three raised buttons giving you a variety of control over music playback and handling those calls interrupting your workout. One button push controls volume, a longer one second push skips tracks and a four second push turns it off. Unsurprisingly, mid run it’s far too fiddly to quickly distinguish between the different lengths of presses despite the buttons being easily accessible.
The microUSB charging port is cleverly concealed behind one of the earphones inside the plastic casing and helps maintain a relatively slender profile. JayBird also uses Liquipel nano coating to make them sweat and water resistant so they are primed for a run in the rain.
In the box, you’ll find a small hard case box, a microUSB charging cable, three sets of honeycomb-style ear tips and ear cushions in small, medium and large sizes to try and find the perfect fit. One of the more interesting and unique aspects is the ability to wear them with the cable hanging low or above the ear to keep the cord from tangling or irritating. It’s definitely the first pair of earphones we’ve had to refer to the instructions to put in place and realise that they also come with 2 fit management clips to tighten the cord.
Getting the right combination of buds and tips can be a process of trial and error. Wearing them with the cable underneath the ears on our first run and the earbuds fell out within minutes. On the second attempt in more windy and rainy conditions they fared much better and remained in place securely with the lying cable causing little nuisance when tucked inside of a jacket.
Taking them into the gym and onto the treadmill and it was another frustrating experience as it didn’t take long for the sweat to take effect and have us constantly rejigging the earbuds to keep them put. The cord is definitely more secure above the ear but it’s still to get in place. It’s clear you have to persevere to get the best fit and there is definitely a good chance of misplacing the two small clips. For those who just want to get out and run, it’s not the most enjoyable experience.
JayBird Bluebuds X – Sound Quality
Most sports headphones tend to be at one of two ends of the sound spectrum. They are either bass-heavy to accommodate more up tempo music or lack the power or clarity to make them any different from a cheap pair of earphones.
The Bluebuds X are definitely near the bassier end of the scale, but it doesn’t overpower what is essentially a pair of fantastic sounding earphones. Overall bass response really impresses, there’s crisp, clean treble with warm mids to produce the rich audio where distortion is barely noticeable.
If you prefer listening to an audiobook than a thumping playlist, there’s plenty of detail as well and in terms of noise isolation they keep leaking din to a minimum, ensuring the excellent sound stays in place.
They are some of the best earphones (not just sports headphones) we’ve tested in terms of sound quality, and even if you don’t take them to the gym they are great to use as an everyday pair of earphones.
JayBird Bluebuds X – Bluetooth performance
JayBird uses Bluetooth 2.1 HDR so it’s not quite Bluetooth 4.0 which offers better battery efficiency. It also uses something it calls ‘Shift Premium Bluetooth Audio’. This is essentially a proprietary SBC Bluetooth codec which compresses audio to maintain the high quality. ‘PureSound’ technology apparently also filters out and eliminates white noise to increase the clarity, although we aren’t convinced that this is something that’s really noticeable.
Setting up is straightforward. Hit the central button on the control and Jenna, the voice prompt, will tell you when the power is on. Holding down the button will let you know when you are connected. Jenna won’t motivate you to work harder, but will tell you 20 minutes before the battery is going to die. When used with an iPhone, there’s a battery status to let you know how much juice you have left so you can keep a closer eye on it.
Trying them out with the iPhone 5 and HTC One Mini we experienced no drop outs in our use outside and indoors in the gym. Even in blustery, rainy conditions the Bluetooth held up excellently with little cause of concern or interruption. Even the Signal Plus technology which extends the range you can be away from the music source works well. Leaving our phone two rooms away, the connection still kept true and clean.
JayBird Bluebuds X – Battery life
JayBird claims an 8 hour battery life which is far more impressive than the 4.5 hours the Plantronics Back Beat Go manage. In real world testing they made it through the week with the Bluetooth headphones switched on and using them an hour a day. If you are more sensible and actually turn them off you’ll get even longer. The damage to smartphone battery life is minimal too. Running for an hour synced up to the iPhone 5 with Nike Running app there’s was a drop of less than 5%.
As wireless earphones, these are some of the best sounding ones we’ve tried out. It musters great battery life as well, it’s just disappointing that the fit is so fiddly and temperamental. You really have to work too hard to get them to stay put all the time. You feel like you cracked it one day and then the next they keep moving about.
At £120 they are very expensive too. Not quite as pricey as the Monster iSport Victory (£130) but at least the Victory earphones have the sound quality and the secure, comfortable fit to go some way to justifying the price. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative and can live without the Bluetooth support, the Pioneer SE-E721 cost a fraction of the price at £40 and offer a secure fit and a sound that’s bassy without overdoing it.