The category of stereo Bluetooth earbuds continues to grow at a rapid pace, with plenty of mobile accessories makers hopping onboard now that more and more music phones are offering A2DP streaming. One such company is JayBird, which focuses entirely on Bluetooth headsets and adapters. JayBird debuted in 2007 with the JB-100 headset and has since delivered a follow-up in the JB-200i, a similarly designed set that includes an iPod adapter. At $159.99, the JB-200i is priced higher than competition from Jabra and Plantronics, but the fact that the transmitter is packaged with the headphones may make it a better value for iPod owners. This headset has its pitfalls, but if you can get a comfortable fit, it's a worthwhile consideration.
One thing is for certain: the JayBird JB-200i offers a nice, low-profile design--especially compared with the Etymotic Ety8. The bulk of the earpieces are contained in the two crescent-moon-shaped units that curve behind the ear when worn. Passersby probably won't even notice them, particularly if the user has long hair. To keep the bulk to a minimum in the previous model, JayBird elected to not offer playback controls on the headset. With the JB-200i, you get three buttons on the right earpiece: one that plays and pauses music as well as starts and end calls, and two more that alternate between volume controls (long press) and track shuttle keys (short press). A thin cable, meant to be worn behind the head below the hair line, connects the right to the left ear piece. The left unit features a small battery contact panel, which connects to a corresponding section on the included charging dock.
Achieving a comfortable fit with the JayBird JB-200i is going to take some effort for most users. The user guide suggests using a mirror the first time you wear the headset. I had much more luck with the JB-200i than I did with the JB-100, but the fit wasn't quite comfortable enough for me to want to wear them working out. (Trying before you buy is always recommended--JayBird has a 30-day return policy.) Also, the buttons are fairly stiff, so you really have to keep a grip on the right earpiece while pushing them; personally, I found it easier to skip tracks on the iPod itself, but you don't get this option with volume (it must be controlled via the earpiece). Still, I'm impressed by the improvement over the previous model, and other testers in the office could wear the headset with no problems. Those who can get a good fit will be rewarded with an activity-friendly listening device. The JB-200i is lightweight and water- and sweat-resistant, so the unit is definitely gym-worthy. When you're not wearing the earbuds, you can store them in the included nylon bag.
During testing, I was able to quickly and easily pair the JayBird JB-200i with the iPod by using the included transmitter. The one thing to be aware of is that the adapter pretty much takes care of pairing on its own once the audio starts playing--this wasn't made entirely clear in the manual. Once the music was piping, I was able to wander more than 30 feet from the iPod before experiencing dropouts. I'm also happy to report that the JB-200i gets louder than its predecessor, which is handy for drowning out ambient noise, as these 'phones don't provide a seal with the ear. On the audio-quality front, the JB-200i is fairly impressive for a wireless set. Bass isn't thumping and music tended to have a slightly muffled and hollow quality at times. However, mids are well represented with warm undertones, and highs are mostly clear and detailed. If you want to cut the cord between your music and you without an ungainly setup hanging from your ears, the JayBird JB-200i fits the bill.