The Jaybird X3, the third iteration of the company's popular sweat-resistant wireless sports headphone, is probably the best headphone the company has produced.
What's new about it? Well, for starters it's smaller than the X2. Also, its inline remote has been redesigned, and its battery has been upgraded from NiMH (nickel-metal hydride)to lithium ion to deliver up to eight hours battery life playing music at moderate volume levels. That's the same battery life as the X2 but lithium ion is more reliable than NiMH and can be charged and discharged more rapidly.
On top of that, Jaybird, now owned by Logitech, says it's tweaked the 6mm drivers inside the earbuds. I will say these are among the best sounding wireless sports headphones out there right now. And at $130, they cost $50 less than the initial price of the X2. (The headphones will launch in the UK and Australia in "the next few months" for £109 and AU$179, respectively.)
As for other improvements, the fins that help secure the buds in your ears have also been redesigned for the better, and Jaybird now includes a clip to attach the headphone to the back of your shirt that's similar to the one found on the Bose SoundSport Wireless.
I've never liked Jaybird's cord-shortening accessories, but for those who do like them, they're back. A set of are included along with plenty of eartips -- silicone and foam -- and chances are one of the tips will allow you to get a tight, comfortable seal to maximize sound quality. The only downside to this design is that this is a noise-isolating earphone, which means it seals out a lot of ambient noise, preventing you from hearing traffic while you're running. Headphones such as the Plantronics BackBeat Fit and Bose SoundSport Wireless have open designs and allow some ambient noise to filter in.
It's also worth mentioning that Jaybird includes a little charging accessory that connects to a Micro-USB cable, which you then clip onto the inline remote. It's one of those items that's easy to lose (the accessory has a little lanyard built into it), but Jaybird reps told me it went to this charging method because sweat and grime from people's hands sometimes ended up in USB charging port on the X2 and caused the headphone to fail. The only problem is that if you misplace the accessory, you can't charge the headphone and you'll have to call Jaybird customer support to send you another one (Jaybird says that till the end of 2016 you'll be able to get a replacement for free, but after that you'll have to order the accessory through the company's website for a small fee).
Jaybird's more expensive Freedom headphone has a similar charging scheme, but the Freedom's charging accessory incorporates a built-in battery to extend battery life, and the Freedom's inline remote is too beefy (there's a battery inside it). The X3's earbuds house the batteries and the inline remote is smaller and lighter, making it less noticeable when you're running.
The headphone uses Bluetooth 4.1, and I had no problem pairing -- and re-pairing it -- with an iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. As an added bonus, Jaybird says you can now pair two sets of X3 headphones to one device and even pair your X3s to two devices simultaneously. (I could test pairing two X3s to one device because I only had one review sample.)
As with the Freedom, you can go into Jaybird's MySound App for your iOS or Android devices and customize the sound to your liking, though I thought the default sound profile was pretty reasonably well balanced and worked just fine for me.
Jaybird headphones have always sounded pretty good, but I had trouble getting a tight seal with the X2, which led to a reduction in bass response. I can't tell you whether it's the tweaks to the drivers or that I'm simply getting a better fit with the X3 -- or perhaps it's a combination of the two. In any case, the X3 sounds very good for a Bluetooth sports headphone, with good detail and plenty of punchy bass -- even using the "signature" sound profile.
Like a lot of Bluetooth headphones, they run into some trouble with more complicated tracks where a lot of instruments are playing and tend to mash things up a bit, but overall they the held together well and didn't distort (they were plenty loud at about 75 percent volume).
As a headset, the X3 performed well, but don't expect business-class performance. There's no noise-reduction technology built into the headphone, and it helps to move the microphone closer to your mouth, particularly in noisier environments. But I didn't have any serious complaints from callers, and most said I sounded good.
Overall, I think the X3 is a significant improvement over the X2 and is probably better than the Freedom. While I think the Bose SoundSport Wireless is more comfortable to wear, the X3 did fit my ear a little better than the X2, and it's more discreet than the Bose as well as being helmet friendly, so you can wear it while skiing or snowboarding without a problem.