JayBird first made a name for itself as a Bluetooth company, pushing out a line of stereo headphones with discreet-yet-secure designs that were made with the iPod in mind. So it was both surprising and not when the company elected to move into the wired market with two in-ear models aimed at the fitness-minded. What was surprising was the seemingly backward step in technology, but the move is actually in line with JayBird's focus on active users. Of the two new sets, the Tiger Eyes Earbuds ($89) are the slightly less expensive and more stylish model.
The Tiger Eyes earbuds are fairly standard in design, with the exception of the separate inline mic and volume modules. The former is integrated into the right Y-cable and includes iPod remote functionality: clicking once plays or pauses the track, twice skips forward, and three times skips back. The volume control resides at the Y junction and consists of an oblong black plastic piece with a silver slider for adjusting levels. The cable, which measures 43.3 inches long, is a thin, plastic-coated number that doesn't seem terribly durable and is prone to tangles, though JayBird includes a wrap accessory in the package to help with this.
The earpieces of the Tiger Eyes earbuds are impressively small and are decked out with sleek silver accents. We found the earbuds quite comfortable, thanks to the small size and the vast array of eartips included in the package. JayBird offers two sets of soft black sleeves and five sets of clear silicone sleeves, including one double-flanged pair and one triple-flanged. Though they're not contoured or foam, the sleeves still offer a good seal with the ear, which means you'll get a fair amount of passive sound isolation, a good feature for anyone trying to overcome excessive ambient noise. Also, the earbuds are sweat-resistant (with a lifetime guarantee against moisture-related damage), making them a top choice for workout warriors. However, due to the noise isolation, we don't recommend running on the streets with these suckers.
On the sound quality front, the JayBird Tiger Eyes earbuds perform admirably, though they don't offer the crisp clarity of the similarly-priced Klipsch Image S4. Still, the earphones perform quite respectably overall, with rich and enveloping mids that won't leave you wanting more. Also, bass is definitely present, and you'll get quite a thumping low-end from certain tracks, notably Kelis' "I Want Your Love" and other hip-hop and electronica tracks. There is a slight tendency toward distortion, however, but we're guessing those who are used to the anemic response of stock earbuds might not mind. In the end, the Tiger Eyes earbuds provide an excellent value option for iPod owners with a passion for active pursuits.