Jaybird Gear BlueBuds X review: Impressively small Bluetooth sports earphones

Features
The BlueBuds' biggest feature is obviously their Bluetooth wireless-streaming capabilities. They should work with any Bluetooth-enabled device, including iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones and tablets. I tested them with the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 , and the iPad Mini.

To use them on, you simply hold down the call answer/end button on the integrated remote to turn them on and put them in pairing mode. A pleasant female voice (Jenna) then instructs you that the earphones are on and ready for pairing. She'll also tell you when the headphones are connected to your device and when the battery is low. I liked her better than Siri, but that's neither here nor there.

The BlueBuds X earphones are very small for Bluetooth headphones. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you tap the call answer/end button once while listening to music, it'll pause it; double-tap and Jenna will tell you that you're redialing the last number you called. Holding down the volume-up button for a few seconds jumps the track forward. To a skip a track back, you hold the volume-down button.

Performance
I thought the BlueBuds sounded very good for Bluetooth headphones. You lose a little something with Bluetooth because you're dealing with compressed music, but the BlueBuds sound pretty dynamic. They also sound fairly open with good detail and strong bass. They're clearly superior to the Plantronics BackBeat Go earphones and play significantly louder. And, as I said earlier, their battery life is better.

Do they sound better than Jaybird's Freedom and Freedom Sprint Bluetooth earphones? Yes, I thought they were a clear notch up, but those models cost significantly less. It's also worth noting that the Freedom has an off-the-shelf design that other companies such as Outdoor Technology (maker of Tags) use for their Bluetooth headphones. The BlueBuds X are much more unusual -- at least for the moment.

The cord length can be adjusted. Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird says you'll get up to 8 hours of battery life, but your mileage may vary depending on how loud you play your music. At a more moderate listening level I was able to hit the 8 hours.

And lastly, in its marketing materials, the company talks up some technology that is supposed to make your Bluetooth connection more stable. I still encountered the occasional hiccup.

Conclusion
I found myself struggling to come up with a rating for Jaybird Gear's BlueBuds X wireless in-ear headphones. After some tinkering, I managed to achieve a snug, pretty comfortable fit with the earphones. No, they weren't supercomfortable, but I got a tight seal and the earphones stayed in my ear while I was running. They also sounded very good for Bluetooth headphones.

But as with all in-ear headphones, these won't fit everyone equally well. Some people will get an even better fit than I did, some a worse one. And, as I said earlier, that tight seal absolutely makes or breaks sound quality.

The big question, of course, is whether these are worth $170. For those who get a perfect fit and are looking for small, lightweight wireless sports earbuds that sound quite decent, they may be. But I think the price is a little steep. They ultimately don't look and feel like premium Bluetooth earphones, even if they sound like them. I only say that because often people have high expectations for products that cost more than $150, particularly when they're outside the warped pricing world of Beats and Bose.

That caveat aside, I have no problem recommending them. Just don't come back and say, David, they're not worth $170. No, they aren't -- unless you end up loving them.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov. 30, 2012
  • Color midnight black
  • Weight 0.5 oz
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features sweat resistant
  • Headphones Form Factor In-Ear-bud