Before Apple displayed immense courage and killed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, Jaybird was making a name for itself as one of the best manufacturers of wireless earbuds. Now that our push into a wireless future has begun in earnest, wireless first companies are primed to elevate their statuses thanks to a new consumer pool suddenly in need of wireless solutions.
If the company’s Freedom earbuds from earlier this year are the Lamborghini-level offering, the new X3 are the equivalent of a Ford Focus. Not nearly as flashy, but reliable and, most importantly, cost-effective.
I enjoyed the Freedom, really enjoyed them, in fact. I’ve always preferred over-ear cans and had never found a pair of earbuds that fit my ears and were comfortable enough to use for extended listening. Jaybird’s premium pair were the first that I would have ever considered purchasing, but at $179.99, it was a tough cost to justify and a tough product to wholly recommend to others.
The X3 alleviate a lot of that pressure by being the most affordable new headphones the company has ever released. At $129.99, they’re well under the price their predecessors, the X2, debuted at and $50 cheaper than the premium fare, while offering many of the same great features.
If you’re familiar with Jaybird, the first thing you’ll notice is they look a lot like the X2. The basic design and shape hasn’t changed much, and it didn’t need to. The company’s previous earbuds were already among the best from a design perspective, so no need to fix what isn’t broken. That does mean they lack the initial wow factor of the Freedom, which are impressively small. It also means the more affordable headphones are less comfortable than their premium counterparts, but you’ll only know that if you’ve tried them both.
On their own, the X3 continue Jaybird’s long history of offering extremely comfortable headphones with a variety of sizes for the tips and ear fins. Like with the company’s previous options, the latest pair come with six different tips, three silicon and three foam, and three pairs of ear fins so users can find the combination that works for them. As someone who was routinely disappointed by earbuds until I tried the Freedom because of fit and comfort issues, I feel confident in saying that nearly every person would be able to find a tip/fin combination here that works.
No matter what I was doing, whether it was simply listening to music on the couch, on a walk or doing a high intensity cardio workout, I had no trouble keeping the buds snug in my ears. I do have to use the fins in order to achieve that level of fit, but they are pliable and soft enough not to aggravate my ears. There certainly is some ear fatigue, I find that all but the most comfortable over ear headphones come with some fatigue after a certain amount of time, but the X3 are still among the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever used.
Though they don’t boast a metal construction like their fancier brethren, the X3 are still supremely well-made and feel incredibly durable. The soft touch plastic finish seems like it can handle a beating, and Jaybird certainly claims it can. The buds are sweat proof thanks to a double hydrophobic nano coating and redesigned seams. Beyond sweat, they will also handle rain, mud and sun without skipping a beat. Something about the Freedom, perhaps the high price tag, made me wary of the claim they could handle anything thrown their way. My concerns were primarily mental, he earbuds handled everything I put them through, but I don’t even have the same concern about tossing the X3 around with abandon because of their more rugged construction and appearance.
One of the most consistent knocks against wireless headphones has been the instability of Bluetooth. These headphones do nothing to quell that complaint. While most of my time was with a solid and uninterrupted connection, I experienced my fair share of Bluetooth funkiness. Cutting in and out when the Bluetooth source (my phone) was in my pocket, for example. It wasn’t bad enough to derail my experience, but there is still a ways to go with Bluetooth if wireless is going to take over the world.
Battery life is improved compared to the Freedom, though Jaybird would say otherwise. By the company’s definition both, and even the X2, have an estimated eight hours of battery life. In reality, however, the premium buds only had a four hour lifespan, which could be extended when you attached the charging clip that doubled as a quasi-battery pack. If you didn’t have the charging clip after four hours, you were out of luck.
Here, it’s a full eight hour battery life. Unfortunately, the convoluted charging method does make the jump. On the X2, users could simply plug the micro USB cable directly into the headphones. On the latest version, like with the Freedom, there is a clip that snaps onto the remote and then plugs into the charging cable. It’s less intuitive than the predecessor, and you’ll have to be diligent not to lose the clip.
As with any audio device, none of the above matters if the sound doesn’t deliver. I am by no means an audiophile, but I’ve listened to enough audio products to know the difference between high-end equipment and the earbuds that come with your smartphone. It’s important to keep the idea of price in mind when talking about audio quality. At $130, the X3 shouldn’t blow your mind with sound, but they should outpace those crappy smartphone buds. That’s precisely where these sit.
I’ve heard much better audio quality from various products over the last year, but they were all of form factors far larger, and far more expensive than what’s offered here. When compared to opponents in its own weight class, they fare well. The sound is crisp with good detail, healthy bass response and decent separation. For working out or commuting, the experience is phenomenal. It won’t stack up to a thousand dollar speaker, nor should it. If you care about always having the best audio quality, chances are you’re not in the market for wireless earbuds anyway. If you want a pair that will not disappoint you, the X3 are a great choice.
The best part about the sound of the X3 is that it’s customizable via the MySound app. Just like with the Freedom, you can use the app to set various sound profiles, including presets to increase the bass, or lower the higher frequencies to help when listening for longer periods of time, plus a plethora more. There’s also a community of users who have created and shared their own presets, making the options even more varied. The single best aspect of it all is that it’s saved directly to the headphones, so even if you switch between devices, the sound profile remains intact.
If you’re looking for a pair of high quality wireless earbuds, your search should begin with Jaybird and with the X3. Though there is no denying the better hardware is with the more expensive Freedom, what these offer in value outweighs the excellent form factor of the premium earbuds.
A price of $130 is nothing to sneeze at, but it does make these the least expensive new pair of headphones Jaybird has ever released, and they come with all the upgrades, including the MySound app, the Freedom offered earlier this year. Given the company’s excellent track record, if you need a gift idea this holiday season for the fitness nut of the family or the daily commuter, get them the X3. They won’t be disappointed.