Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Product Review: Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones

Until a couple of weeks ago, my headphone game had gotten pretty week. Even though I have long since accepted USAT's no headphones rule, I still enjoy having music with me on long runs. I also require them when I go to the gym, thanks to a never-ending stream of creepers who think that when I'm panting on a treadmill, sweating enough to coat the top AND bottom in little droplets, is the perfect time to strike up a conversation.

I really enjoyed the wired headphones I've had for the past few years, but they certainly had their drawbacks. They could get tangled (although I kept them in a case, which helped a lot.) and the bouncing cord was annoying when it came loose from my carefully tucked spots and stuck to the backs of my arms. Also, although they survived being washed in the laundry (twice!) they eventually reached their water-proof limits and had begun quitting on me when they got too wet. During these hot Texas Summer days, that became an issue, and lead to two long, lonely 15 mile runs with the only tunes being the ones I sang to myself and the bugs that followed me.

In short, it's a mess!

As is customary in our culture, I took to Instagram to complain about my situation, and thankfully, the good people at Maverick;s sponsor, Jaybird, were listening! 

In the interest of full disclosure: I was sent this pair of headphones by Jaybird. They have recently released their Freedom headphones and like supporting their athletes, so it was super exciting to get them! I didn't ask for them, but also it should be noted that they didn't ask for anything in return either. I just believe in supporting those who support me, so I wanted to share my thoughts on my new swag.

The Headphones

The Jaybird Freedom headphones are wireless, and touted as the lightest, sleekest option in the line up. I have tried their original iteration in the past (The Blue Buds X) and can definitely say these are much lighter, slimmer, and more ergonomic. At the same time, they're still sturdy. They have a four hour battery life on their own, plus an additional four hours if you slap on the external battery pack that also doubles as the charger.

Set up was quick and easy with my Android phone, and they connected right away. The headphones come with lots of pieces to make customization almost endless, so I'll go through those.
As packaged, assembled, and the front of the box


The Charger- The micro USB cable is short and small, making it easy to pack in the case that comes with the headphoens. The part you click them in to is detachable and acts as a battery life extender, adding up to 4 more hours of playtime. The lights on both the headphones and the battery pack are red/orange when charging and green when done. Pretty easy! It took a couple of hours to go from 10% to full charge on both pieces.

The buds- The earbuds come with two options of material and 3 sizes of each option. There is the traditional silicon bud option, but also a "sport foam" option. I chose these after trying both, because they offered a better sound and seemed to stay more firmly in my ears. They offer enough grip that you can forego the wings and just wear the foam buds if you choose, unless you're doing something super active with lots of sudden movement.

The tips- There are several size options that come with them, and clear instructions on how to wear them included in the packaging. Like I said, you may not even need them, but if you do, you can take your pick. I have actually put a small one on the left, but a medium one on the right to help keep it more secure since the right side has the remote, and therefore more weight. 

Cord Control- The headphones come with two cord control button-looking things, and one clip. The buttons can be used to wrap the cord up more tightly against the back of your head or neck, and the clip attaches to your shirt. Since I am a woman and always have a sports bra on, I've found that the clip on its own, attached to my bra, keeps the buds plenty still, so I haven't had to mess with adjusting the button-clips. However, I can see how they would be useful for men, or anyone who want to minimize how visible the cords are alongside their head.

Wear Test

I have so far taken the buds for a 1 hour bike ride (I typically never ride with buds, but wanted to do a complete test in different conditions,) a 2 hour run, and a 1 hour treadmill run.

Bike Ride: I put in the headphones and stashed my phone in my back jersey pocket. I did a one hour loop on a hot morning with pretty windy conditions (10-15 mph, some gusts) The headphone sound was great. They're not completely noise-cancelling, which I prefer for safety, but still sound crisp and clear. I did experience a couple of quick instances of the sound cutting out, but with the way Bluetooth signal works and the wind conditions, I was not surprised. It was annoying, but only momentary, and stopped when I was out of the wind.

The long run: I was more impressed than I thought I would be. I clipped the clip to the back of my sports bra, put in the buds, and ran. The humidity in Austin was 93% and it was 90 degrees at 6:30am when I started. It's safe to say, these things are sweat-proof! They stayed in my ears better than I thought. I wore my phone on my lower back in a running belt and had no signal issues at all.

My one criticism of these are the remote. It is kind of heavy, and being put more on one side than the other puts an uneven burden on your right earbud. I kind of wish the remote were in the very center, with a way to just clip THAT to your shirt. But, I can see why they don't do it that was, since not everyone wants to be able to wear them that low. However, if they figured a way to incorporate the cord control features IN to the remote, a balance could be struck.

The treadmill: I sweat an inhuman amount when running, and even more so on the treadmill. It's enough that I strongly prefer to NOT have to wear my phone because I worry it will get wet. With my corded headphones, that meant having the cord bounce around in front of me constantly as I ran. With these, it lives up to the name: Freedom! No fuss, and no vulnerability to unwelcome conversations. It was perfect. The total time on one charge also went up to right at 4 hours, and the set says there's still about 20% left (audio cues let you know when you turn them on, and when they're getting low.)

Overall Thoughts
At a price point of $199, these are certainly a splurge. But, if you're dying for a convenient way to listen to your tunes and need sweat-proof reliability that comes backed by great customer service, then these are a great buy. The design isn't 100% perfect, as I mentioned about the remote, and I also think the external battery pack is a bit cumbersome. But as battery technology improves, I expect to see that change. I'm thankful I get to #powermypassion with them while training for races!

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