IF YOU’VE RESEARCHED running headphones at all in the last few years, you’ve no doubt encountered many glowing words about Jaybird’s X2 earbuds. Rightly so. The company’s Bluetooth earbuds are comfortable, have great sound, and—thanks to removable fins that nestle into the folds of your ear—they stay put when you sweat. The X2s are a little bulky, however; they stick out of your earholes about a half inch, making it uncomfortable to wear a helmet or a snug hat.
But now Jaybird has a new headphone called the Freedom, for $200, that addresses the bulk issue and improves on the overall design. The earpieces don’t stick out at all, instead curving downward as they exit the ear to sit flush against the lower part of your lobe. Helmets are no longer a problem. Much of the electronics have been moved out of the earbuds and into the nub-like remote that hangs below the right earpiece. The Freedom’s remote is bigger and heavier than the X2’s, but not by much. Just like before, you can wear the earphones with the cable running either under your chin or around the back of your neck. Let the cable dangle under your chin and you’ll feel the remote knocking against your jaw. But loop them behind your head so the cable can rest on your neck, and the weight from the remote assembly disappears. On the old design, charging happened via a USB port in one of the earpieces; the Freedom has a little USB cradle that you snap the remote into. Much more elegant.
I tested the new Jaybirds for several days last week, and I can recommend them. For $200, you’re unlikely to find a set of sporty Bluetooth earphones that are this small, sound this good, and have such solid wireless signal strength.
Natural, rich sound. Supreme in-ear fit with a tight seal. Three sizes of eartips come in the box, as well as a barely-there cable clip for taking up any annoying slack in the one-piece cable. Jaybird quotes four hours of use per charge, but in real life it’s more than six. I charged up the headset all the way, then wore them for two hours of office work, an hour of yoga, and another three hours beyond that. Another charge, and after six hours, they’re still kicking—in fact, I’m trying to wear the battery out as I write this. Audio warnings (“Battery 20 percent”) tell you the reserves are dwindling. For testing, I always kept my Nexus 5X in my pocket and I haven’t experienced any dropouts. I’m not a runner, but I wanted to test them doing something athletic, so I did what you’re absolutely not supposed to do: I wore them on my bike commute. I completed a 25-minute ride with my phone in my pocket streaming the new Marissa Nadler album on Spotify, and I never heard the music break up or stutter. Pockets used to be death for Bluetooth headphones, but this is rapidly ceasing to be the case. The tips remained fully in my ears even though I wasn’t wearing the optional stay-put wings. As I constantly looked over my shoulders to navigate the hectic and interference-ridden Frisco city streets, I remained blissfully (dangerously) isolated from the noise around me. (The things I do for my job, people!)
They finally konked out at six and half hours. That’s commendable, but not long enough for an all-day hike, an all-day work shift, or an all-day anything. You can continue to listen while you charge them by snapping the charging cradle onto the mic/remote thing while still wearing the headset, but it’s about as awkward as tethering gets. My only other minor complaint is the price—$200 is a bit steep. But really, for a wireless sports headset as stable, nice-sounding, and long-lasting as the Freedom, they’re worth it, if you can afford them.
9/10 Excellent, buy it now.