If you’ve read my previous post on the Klipsch X11i earphones, you’ll know I’m a cheapskate when it comes to earphones. So I was very happy to test out the Jaybird X2 wireless Bluetooth earphones, which come in at a cool $179.99. Billed as highly resistant to sweat and as the USA Triathlon official training headphones, I was excited to not only hear some really nice headphones but to test them in the field. Attractively packaged, the Jaybird X2 are aimed at folks with active lifestyles that need a headphone they can use while running several kilometers at a time, lifting weights in the gym, or biking across the country. For the competition, why not get a visual on the Bose Soundsport Wireless review?
Jaybird X2 Build Quality
The X2’s are very lightweight, meaning you’ll hardly notice them once they’re in your ears. The rear of one of the ear buds has a cover for the USB connector used to charge the headphones. The X2’s are also amazingly sleek and compact. What I first mistook for a pack of some kind that must be carried along with the headphones is actually just a really convenient carrying case for everything. They’re available in a six colors; the ones photographed are the Alpha Green color scheme.
The controller is a simple three-button pad with a minus sign, a dot, and a plus sign. Different actions can be taken with the three buttons depending on how long one holds the buttons down: power on/off, up and down volume, connect/disconnect, skip track, back track, pause, take call, end call, and a few other actions.
Fitting the X2’s
Typical earbuds are placed inside the ear with the wire draped downward, relying on the expansive action of the silicon earpiece to secure the bud in place. The Jaybird X2’s, however, have a unique fitting system: ear fins (or ear cushions, depending on which Jaybird manual you read) that fit the shape of the concha, securing the ear bud to the ear without the use of over-ear mounts. Anyone who has used over-ear mounted earbuds can tell you that while they generally work well, they have a tendency to rub the outside of the ear and become uncomfortable after a relatively short amount of time. Likewise, normal earbuds without extra security rip right out of your ear when the cable is caught (this in particular drives me mad).
With three sizes of ear tips — including a choice between silicon and foam — and three sizes of ear fins, the X2’s will fit any ear with enough finesse and won’t pull out since they’re wireless. They can be worn in an under-ear fit, as is the case with regular ear buds, or by flipping the left-right orientation to allow the cable to travel over the ear in an over-ear fit. In the latter case, there are cord management clips which allow you to get a precise fit around the back of your head, ensuring the headphones stay in place.
While the fit can be made perfect, it takes time and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to use a product as soon as you get it out of the box. I was pumped up and ready to go; just had to fit the headphones and connect them with my device. Turns out, getting them to fit was a real pain, especially with the cable going over the ear. By the time I got them to fit correctly, my psych for a workout had gone away and I just wanted to stay at home and read. Give yourself a solid hour to try out different tips, fins, and to get the cord management clips to work out the way you’d like. Even better: get an extra set of hands when working out the cord clips in the over-ear fit. Also, be extra gentle with the fins: they tend to want to rip if you’re not careful putting them over the buds.
I eventually got to the gym the day after and gave them a go in the environment they were made for. My activity of choice is rock climbing and doing it in a gym is really the only safe place to do it with headphones in. Using the over-ear fit, I made sure to sweat as much as I could on traverses to test out their resistance to sweat: no problems there. No loss of audio quality and they held well in my ears. I then decided to try some harder problems on which I would certainly fall, just to see if they’d stay in. After ascending a few meters, I threw for a hold, missed, and felt my limbs detach from the wall, floating free in space. I hit the pad on my back and the buds stayed in! Never missed a beat. These are now certainly a part of my gym pack.
Bluetooth audio has a well-deserved reputation for sounding awful. This is far from the case with the Jaybird X2’s. Extremely high quality audio comes from these tiny earbuds, with resounding bass and crisp highs. In all honesty, my expectations were low but I was highly impressed with the quality. It’s no wonder several other sites have named the X2’s a top pick for Bluetooth headphones. Only thing: while riding around on a bus in the city I experienced significant audio dropouts. I’m not sure if this is due to interference or just my old iPhone 4, but it was really bothersome.
One of my favorite things that contribute to the quality audio is the unique fitting system. While I griped over the fact that they take time to fit, once they fit, the sound quality remains. The ear fins keep the buds in place and ensure zero loss of low frequencies, as is often the case with typically fitting earbuds. The only thing you’ll wish is that you took it easier on your workout to appreciate the quality audio coming from the Jaybird X2’s.
One of my least favorite things is the lack of a consistent stereo image. When one flips the fit from under-ear to over-ear, the ear buds flip sides, due to the fact that the ear tips angle inward following the direction of the ear canal. While this certainly ensures a solid fit, it means that left becomes right, and right becomes left. Stereo images are created intentionally and leaving it up to the whims of a user is not at all what is intended. In reality, though, this matters very little. The fact that they fit so well, that the cable stays out of the way, and that they sound so great makes me completely forget about the fact that my stereo image might be flipped. Just being able to keep the cable out of my way and not risk ripping the earbuds out of my ears is reason enough to not care. Moreover, the music I’m listening to while exercising is not one that necessarily requires an accurate stereo representation; hell, most of us who listen to music in our home don’t even have an accurate stereo setup (±30º from the direction one is facing). I have over-ear headphones for high quality listening and prefer to be sitting still with a focus on listening instead of pushing myself physically and hearing my heart beat over the music.
Jaybird X2 Specs
I thought it would be a good idea — for the technical folks, anyhow — to expand the topic of Bluetooth audio, since Jaybird does such a fantastic job of it. As mentioned before, poor sound has long been a hallmark of Bluetooth audio. Low bitrates and a signal frequency shared with a dozen other household devices made audio dropouts a regular occurrence and poor sound quality the norm. When aptX, a Bluetooth codec designed specifically for audio came onto the scene, it changed the nature of Bluetooth audio. The X2’s use a custom designed SBC audio codec that supports up to 345kbps bitrate in stereo sound (that’s 345kbps in each channel) to deliver high quality audio wirelessly. While 345kbps is not enough for to hear all the nuance contained in uncompressed audio files like FLAC, it’s plenty for high quality MP3, which has a bitrate around 320kbps.
The X2’s are easy enough to connect with a device: while wearing them powered off, holding the center button on the three-button controller turns them on and puts them in “pair mode”. A nice lady says, “Searching for your device,” while you wait, then says, “Headphones connected” when you’ve connected successfully. The X2’s “remember” up to 8 Bluetooth devices.
The headphones have a range of about 10m, plenty far if your Bluetooth music player is in your pocket. From a completely empty battery, they take around 2+ hours to charge, which deliver around 8 hours of playback time. Really nice since you can just charge your headphones once a week and have them ready for an entire week of exercising.
Jaybird Bluebuds X Comparison
The X2’s are essentially an evolution of Jaybirds previous Bluebuds X earphones. They are both are sweat repellant (a must-have if you’re using them during exercise) and have similar fits, using ear fins to help keep the buds in place while exercising.
The Jaybird X2’s have the same 6mm drivers as the Bluebuds X, the X2s are as usual a little on the warm side. However you’ll find it evens out the sound levels, making the lows smooth with not-too-punchy mids, and crisp highs. SignalPlus architecture is there to help eliminate interference (which helps, but I still experienced dropouts). One of the best of these incremental updates is the software updates; this ensures that while your hard goods may decay and become obsolete, the software it comes with is continually updated.
The Jaybird X2 wireless headphones are a fantastic piece of audio technology designed for active lifestyles, despite the stereo inconsistency and occasional dropouts. Those problems pale when confronted with the fit and overall sound of the X2’s. At $179.99 they’re not cheap, but if you’re in the market for some killer headphones that will last and can keep up with your exercise routine, the X2’s are a top choice. Unless you have the previous Jaybird Bluebuds X, you’re missing out on some serious quality audio. The carrying case ensures you don’t have an excuse for squishing them in your pocket after a workout and keeps them in tip-top shape.