When it released its X2 wireless sports headphone in 2015, Jaybird's drew some criticism from some users because -- despite some improvements -- it didn't seem like much of an upgrade over its predecessor. Well, now the company finally has a headphone with a totally new design: The Jaybird Freedom.
Originally showcased at the CES show back in January, the Freedom is finally shipping a month after Logitech acquired Jaybird for $50 million. It carries list price of $200 in the US, with international pricing yet to be announced (it converts to around £140 or AU$285).
Some of Jaybird's earlier models were also named Freedom, but this new 2016 model doesn't look anything like them and has a couple of distinguishing design features. For starters the buds have a proprietary "tapered stepdown" design, which is a fancy way of saying the buds have been trimmed down and now fit better in your ears. You can also wear a helmet over them without a problem.
Jaybird has built all the electronics into the inline remote and it says the buds and inline remote are made of metal, not plastic, which is mostly true (there is some plastic that's part of the design). The headphones are sweatproof, though not waterproof, and Jaybird expects people to use these not only as a sports headphone but an everyday headphone.
Battery life is rated at 8 hours, which is good for this type of headphone -- but it's a bit misleading because you get 4 hours from the buds and an additional 4 hours with an included charging clip that has a second rechargeable battery inside it. You can continue wearing the headphones with the clip attached, but the package does look a little funny dangling down near your cheek.
You charge the headphones' internal battery and the external battery clip at the same time via a micro USB port in the clip. It's a cool concept to have the extra juice at your disposal when you need it, but the battery clip does seem a little easy to lose.
Luckily the headphones, which are available in five color options, come with a nice little carrying pouch, where you can store the battery clip and any extra tips and ear fins that come with the headphones. A set of cord shorteners is also include, but they aren't the most elegant solution. Jaybird needs to find a way to integrate a cord adjustment design element into the product, not have you attach something to it.
I found the headphones fit better than last year's X2 and I was able to get a tight seal and secure fit using the included ear fins. With a tight seal this is one of the best sounding wireless in-ear sports headphones you can buy, with clean, well-balanced sound that's close to what you'd expect from a good in-ear wired headphone. By that I mean it sounds pretty natural, at least in its default mode. The new Jaybird MySound app allows Apple iOS and Android users to tweak the sound profile to their liking.
I'd say the only downsides are that the inline remote is a little bit heavy, the price of Freedom is high, and all the little accessories that come with the product might overwhelm some people (it's a little like opening a Lego package).
I went for a couple of runs on Randall's Island in New York City and had no problem with the left earbud but the inline remote on the right side tugs a little on the cord as you're running; you can feel its presence.
Monster's Adidas Adistar Sport in-ear wireless headphones have a similar design, but the micro USB port is built into the inline remote, which I preferred. The Freedom sounds better than the Monster Adidas headphone, but the Monster costs half the price.
Equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, Freedom can be paired with up to eight devices, and its inline remote gives you complete control over your wireless music with volume buttons, and allows for phone calls with its built-in microphone. You hold the volume buttons down to advance tracks forward or back and hold the pause/play button to activate Siri on iPhones.
I'm still testing out the new Jaybird MySound app for Android and iOS that allows you to customize the equalizer settings for both the Freedom and X3, an updated and slightly smaller version of the X2 that will also arrive this spring and cost $150. Although I'm not quite ready to put a rating on this headphone, my initial take is that it's a very strong entry in the in-ear wireless headphone arena, but it's not perfect and it's priced a little too high.
I'll have a full review of the Freedom after I put some more mileage on it and compare it to a few more competing products.