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Jaybird Run review: Jaybird's AirPods competitor is almost great

Jaybird's Run totally wireless earphones offer a great fit and strong sound but we encountered some small issues with interference In New York.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read

Jaybird Run is a set of totally wireless earphones that are Jaybird's sports-oriented answer to Apple's AirPods . They retail for $180 (£170, AU$249) -- or $20 more than the AirPods -- and come in white and black.


Jaybird Run

The Good

Wireless, sweatproof earphones that fit comfortably, securely and offer good sound quality. Battery life is adequate at 4 hours and you get two extra charges from the included charging case (a 5-minute charge gives you an hour of battery life). A companion app lets you adjust sound settings.

The Bad

Some occasional interference issue cause sound glitches. Your ears can get a little itchy during extended periods of use.

The Bottom Line

If you can overlook the small interference issues, Jaybird's totally wireless Run earphones offer a great fit and strong sound.

They're noise-isolating earphones, which means they're designed to fit snugly in your ears and seal out sound. To that end, Jaybird provides a few different sized sports fins and eartips, including two larger-sized tips with an oval shape.
I was able to get a secure, comfortable fit with the largest tips, and the earphones were relatively easy to pair with both an iPhone 6S and a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. Jaybird has done a nice job ensuring that most people will not only be able to get a good seal but have these buds will stay in their ears during rigorous exercise.  

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The charging case provides two extra charges.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Each sweatproof bud has a single button that's used to pause, play and skip tracks, answer and end calls and access Siri or Google's Voice assistant. There's also an app you can use to customize those button settings, as well the sound of the headphones (you can adjust bass, treble and midrange settings to your liking or go with the balanced default setting).

You can use a single bud for making calls and runners who want to be able to hear the outside world for safety reasons may also want to keep one ear open and use a single bud for music listening. I thought they performed decently as a headset for making calls.

Interference issue

Over the course of several weeks I tested 4 different pairs of the Jaybird Run. Why four? Well, when I tested an early review sample I encountered occasional Bluetooth hiccups while walking the busy streets of Manhattan. The left earbud would drop out for a second or two and go silent.

When I told Jaybird reps about it, they sent me another pair to test. Then another. And another. And a final pair that had been upgraded with the latest firmware that was supposed to fix the problem (owners of the Run have access to the same firmware upgrades).

Performance has definitely improved, but at certain intersections (28th St. and Madison Avenue and 28th St. and 6th Avenue, for instance), I still experienced little waves of interference. So not everything's perfect, but it has gotten better.

New York has a lot of wireless interference and it's notoriously problematic for wireless earphones. I've had problems with Bragi earphones and others. The AirPods rarely drop, but they aren't infallible. The same is true for Bose's Soundsport Free earphones -- they're mostly glitch free, but once in a while I ran into some interference.

The Jaybirds glitched more than the AirPods and SoundSport Free. But on my runs on the less urban confines of Randall's Island, using them at home and at the gym, the wireless connection was rock solid. In other words, the glitches seemed to be limited to the streets of the city. 

The only other gripe I have is comparatively minor but worth mentioning. Sometimes after having these guys in my ears for 20-30 minutes, my ears did get a little itchy around the base of my ear canals. The cure was easy. I popped the earphone out for a few seconds, gave my ear a little air and a quick itch. Then I put the earphone back in and everything was fine.

Good sound quality (for wireless)

As for sound sound quality, it was quite good for this type of headphone. They're pretty open and there's plenty of bass and a decent amount of clarity. I thought they sounded slightly better than the AirPods, particularly in noisier environments. The Bose SoundSport Free is a little warmer, smoother headphone, with slightly more bass. It's more comfortable than the Run but does stick out more from your ears. 

Ultimately the Run is one of the better-sounding totally wireless earphones I've tried -- and I've tried a fair amount of them. However, that doesn't mean they quite measure up to a set of good wired in-ear headphones like Bose's SoundTrue Ultra, which sound cleaner, more articulate and more natural.  

Battery life is rated at 4 hours, and the earphones come with a charging case that delivers two additional charges to bring the total up to 12 hours. It's also worth mentioning that a 5-minute charge in the case will give you an hour's worth of battery life thanks to the quick charge feature.

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The oval-shaped larger tips helped me get a tight seal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Weighing the flaw

This is a hard headphone to rate. Overall, except for the New York interference problems I encountered, I liked the Run and think most people will be able to get a snug, comfortable fit that's crucial to delivering maximum sound quality. Truth be told, it's hard to go back to Jaybird's corded "wireless" headphone after using these.

I don't want to overstate the interference problem, but I also don't want to understate it. Look at reviews elsewhere, and you'll see some high praise (Engadget, Techcrunch) while others (Wired, The Verge) totally nuked the Run. Not surprisingly, whether or not those individual reviewers experienced interference issues determined which side of the rating spectrum they came down on. 

But for $180, you should get a wireless headphone that performs nearly flawlessly.  If it weren't for the little glitches I experienced, I'd give the Run 4 stars. As It is, I'm giving them a low 3.5 stars because I liked the fit and sound enough to continuing use the earphones despite the occasional dropouts. If Jaybird figures out a way to completely fix the issue through a firmware upgrade, I'll consider raising the score. 


Jaybird Run

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 8Value 7