I first heard of Jaybird when they donated a pair of their X2 headphones (the predecessor to the Freedom) for our Winter 2016 Image of the Month contest winner. With their new Freedoms coming out I reached out to them and by way of disclosure they sent me this pair as a demo model to review. I was really excited to get my hands on these as I've been thinking for years that a pair of Bluetooth headphones that were small enough to just be an earbud would be great for an active lifestyle. Especially sports like skiing and biking where there is a lot of movement I find my headphones getting jostled around quite a bit by the cable getting yanked around.
This first post is my impression after about one week of use. I plan to keep adding to it as I use them with various different activities. Upon unboxing I was initially struck by how small they really are. Their brand ambassador told me that they were the smallest buds they made while still using the same driver from their previous models; I wasn't expecting how small they managed to get them. It's actually rather impressive that they can get that much battery life and good quality sound out of such a small bud and controller.
The Freedom has a lot of options for keeping the headphones in your ear. when you unbox it you'll find three different sizes of silicone ear pieces, two sizes of foam one, three different size ear wings (as I call them), plus some cable management stuff. I'll preface this part of the review with the fact that I seem to have very weird ears. Normal cheap ear buds (like the ones that come with an iPhone) fall out of my ears in a matter of seconds even just sitting completely still. Even with my day to day in ear headphones from Skullcandy I have to wrap the cable around my ear once and put it in to keep it from slipping out. I think it's because I have a fairly small ear hole.
That said, at first I struggled a bit to keep the headphones in my ear. I expected to just use the smallest silicone pieces like I've used with all my other earbuds in the past. However, with the smallest silicone tips they kept just sliding out after about fifteen seconds. The larger ones didn't even fit in my ear canal and just popped right out. I switched over to the foam tips and had more success, but when I went to move very much they also fell out. After about ten minutes of trying different combinations of things I settled on the small foam tips together with the medium wings and that seems to keep them in pretty well thus far. I find that they stay in much better with the little clip to attach it to the back of your shirt as well. My impression is that the silicone tips are perhaps a bit slippery compared to other brands (like the Skullcandy's that I have), but if you have normal ears it very well might not be an issue. Even if you have very difficult to fit ears like mine, there are more than enough options in the box to find something that will keep the tips in your ears, so I like that about them.
Yesterday by way of an experiment I walked around for about an hour with the headphones in. They never got to the point of falling out although every once in a while I did adjust them, but that is primarily due to the fact that I like them to be really pushed in to cut out as much background noise as possible.
Now obviously the most important part of a pair of headphones is how they sound. My very first impression impressed me. The sound was amazingly crisp. I listened to everything from rock, classical music, pop, hip hop, etc. to get a feel for how they do across the spectrum. The highs are very crisp, but I found that out of the box the low end was underwhelming for a premium headphone like the Freedom. However Jaybird offers an app to go with the headphones that allows you to tweak the sound. Their standard EQ preset on the app drops the highs and raises the lows with a fairly neutral change in the middle. In my opinion that sounds much better for the music that is more likely to be listened to while exercising. I'd suggest that be the out of the box configuration for future models, but it is a very simple fix and I am a big fan of the fact that I can easily tweak the sound coming out to match the music I'm listening to. The app seems to be well designed as well in that I don't have to remember to open it when I connect my headphones. It just automatically does the EQ tweaks and it doesn't seem to have an averse impact on my battery life.
They claim a total battery life of eight hours, although four of it is with an additional clip. For how small the battery pack (it's part of the remote) is I'm impressed that I seem to be getting the four hours they promise. I personally don't like using the extra clip because it makes it heavier which makes it pull out of my ear a bit easier, but with four hours of time it's rare that I'd need to have the pack in all that often.
A few other miscellaneous observations I have: the softshell case that it comes with is nice. It closes securely and fits all the ear piece options and charging cable easily. I wish the cable was just an inch or two longer, but it doesn't really impact things that much. I like that it tells you when it connects and when it shuts off. It also tells you the battery percentage when you turn it on which I think is a good feature. Despite the fact that the microphone sits behind your ear it has amazingly clear sound. For phone calls this headset is very clear both on what you hear and what you say to the other person.
These are my overall Pros and Cons:
- Good sound quality
- Small form factor
- Good battery life
- App is useful for customizing sound
- A lot of options to keep the headphones in your ear
- The softshell carrying case is well designed
- Charges quickly
- Connects to phone very quickly
- Very well designed microphone
- Need to use an app to tweak sound out of the box for bass heavy music
- Slipperiness of silicone tips (might just be my weird ears though so YMMV)
I'm planning to take them out to do some hiking and mountain biking over the next few weeks, so I will add any observations to this thread as I go.
EDIT: Removed reference to the skip function not working, found out I was using the wrong button command.