How many times have your earphone been ripped from your head because the wire’s been caught on something? Or the wire gets wound up in itself and you have to unplug it to straighten it out? Or you’re at the gym and catch the wire with a dumbbell/barbell or other miscellaneous gym equipment? At least a few times I bet.
Bluetooth technology has slowly been improving over the last few years, along with micronisation of electronic components. Thus, here we are in 2013 and wireless earbuds that produce solid sound without dying after a few hours are a reality. Introducing Jaybird’s Bluebuds X. I’m been using them for about a month now, here are my thoughts.
The good bits
No wires – I really cannot emphasize this enough, I have been ruined and will never be able to enjoy wired headphones again. At the gym this is just so useful, no more catching the wire on a barbell or cable. You don’t have to have your phone in your pocket and I’ve found that the range is good for close to 20 ft. Amazing. As a side note, they are also apparently sweat resistant and I haven’t had any sweat related issues with them yet so must be a valid feature.
Sound quality – Whilst Bluetooth does cause a loss of fidelity and volume compared with their wired counterparts, the Bluebuds provide decent bass and volume levels. In terms of volume alone, I like to be drown out outside/ambient noise and these definitely get loud enough for me. As a rough estimate, I’d say it’s about 80% of max volume of a comparable set of wired earbuds. BASS, feel the bass, it’s good, which is important for me too because I listen to a lot of bass heavey music. All this is affected by the seal around the ear canal not being the best, but I’ll cover that more in the cons
Bluetooth & battery life – I use my phone as my music player and the connection set up process was very painless. Once set up is done, the earbuds will connect with a second once you turn them on and I have only lost connection once (in about 100 hours of listening). The official line for battery life is 8 hrs, but I find I only get around 6 hours. This is most likely due to the loud volume I listen to my music at (close to max). But charging is relatively quick at 2 hours and you can just plug your microUSB charger straight in! Which is genius and super useful for me because I use microUSB for my phone (sorry iPhone users, you don’t get this benefit…)
The voice – There is a very pleasant female voice that gives you info about your headphones, like “power on” when you turn the headphones on and “battery low” when you have approx. 30 mins of battery life left. It sounds crazy but it’s like having your own Tinkerbell… And the “headphones connected” message is actually really useful, so you don’t blast your music out via the speaker instead on having it come through the headphones.
The not good bits
The wire – So they’re wireless in that they’re not connected to your device, but there is a wire connecting the left and right earbuds. The problem with it is that it’s made of this rubber that is pretty sticky/grippy. This is a problem because it sits on your neck/upper back and when you twist your head, sometimes it can pull the earbud out. Super annoying. But I got around this by shortening the wire and wearing them over the ear style (as opposed to having the wire go under my lobes). This is frustrating because it could be solved fairly easily by use of a different material.
The seal – Due to having a battery packed into the bud itself means they are quite hefty. Meaning, they may not suit everyone’s ear structure and can cause the you to lose the seal that is all-important for earbuds to block out noise, provide maximum sound quality and keep them secured in place. Personally, the seal is good enough, but I do notice they it could be better.
The price – At AUD$200 they were by no means cheap and I admit that I considered returning them because you can get some very decent wired earbuds for the same price. But the thought of going back to wires was too much to take. It’s a premium price but they have a number of features that may match your specific requirements.
My first set of Bluetooth earbuds and to be honest, they’ve changed my life. Great sound quality, reasonably secure and with no annoying wires getting caught on stuff. The sacrifice of volume for wireless-ness is easily worth it for the benefits you get. They are not perfect but they definitely offer a compelling feature set. If the price was $50 less, then I’d say that’s a fairer price point for what you get.
Wireless has really been one of those ‘oh I’m in the future’ type moments for me. Bluetooth is a developing standard and over time with miniaturisation of other components, I can’t see why sound quality and price won’t improve across the board. To end, a quote from Southland Tales:
“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted”