Full disclosure: I was sent a complimentary set of headphones in exchange for an honest review on my blog.
I almost always listen to podcasts when I run, so headphones are key. I’ve tried various styles in the past, but surprisingly, I’ve found iPhone earbuds to be perfectly adequate. I actually like that they’re not completely snug so I can still hear the traffic/noise around me. However, when I’m running on a treadmill, the wire always gets in the way. I have – on many occasions – accidentally knocked my iPhone to the ground because I got my arm tripped up in the headphone wires while getting my water bottle or wiping my face with a towel.
So, a couple of years ago, when I was doing a lot more treadmilling (while rehabbing), I decided to invest in wireless headphones. I looked around and decided to the get the Jaybird Freedom – they had decent reviews and I think I had a discount code at the time too. (It was the older model, which looked like these.) While they were fine, I didn’t *love* them. I’ll get into a comparison later in the review, but essentially, they were a bit annoying to use, so I used them only for treadmill runs.
Fast forward to last month, when I received a new pair of Jaybird X3s. According to the manufacturer, the X3s have the following features:
- small and versatile
- universal secure fit
- long battery life (up to 8 hours per charge)
- personalized sounds (via app)
The X3s come nicely packaged with a LOT of options. Inside the box were the headphones, 6 pairs of ear tips (ear bud covers), 3 pairs of silicone ear fins, a shirt clip, cord clips (to shorten the cord length), a charging cable, and a small pouch. I admit that I felt a little overwhelmed by all of the options! I did have to spend a bit of time figuring out which ear tips and fins fit me best. You can even wear the headphones in two different configurations – under or over your ear. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how best to wear these headphones.
The best thing I found so far with the X3s compared to the old Freedom headphones is that it’s much easier to sync with my phone. The old Freedom headphones were a pain – I had to turn on the headphones and then go to my iPhone Bluetooth settings to make sure they were connected. It usually took about 30 seconds of back and forth – I never knew if the headphones were on because it would just beep whenever I held down one of the buttons. Then I’d have to wait for my phone to find the headphones. With the X3s, I just have to press the power button on the headphones and it automatically syncs to my phone. It also tells me that the headphones are on and how much battery power is left. There are 3 buttons on the controller and they’re pretty easy to use – two are for volume and the center one is for on/off/pause. There’s an app to control the sound – so if you want to control the mixing, you can play around with it. It’s pretty neat, but I feel like I’m not that much of a sound snob to customize it all of the time.
I love the little pouch that comes with the headphones. I put the headphones, charging clip, and a set of ear fins in the pouch and I’m ready to go.
On the run
Take the following with a huge grain of salt, because as I said above, I’m still trying to figure out the best combination of tips and fins and how I’d like to wear them. I can tell you that I forgot the fins once and they definitely fell out of my ear during a run. The fins aren’t the most comfortable for me – my ear folds are on the small side, maybe? I’m still trying to figure out if I like the headphones over or under my ears. I tried over the ear once but ultimately gave up because I don’t think I had them set up correctly. I think it helps to have the diagram in front of you (from the quick start guide) and a mirror. I also prefer the silicone ear tips to the comply (sound cancelling) while running. For some reason, when I wear the comply tips, I get a lot of echo in my head every time I take a step. This had happened to me before with snug-fitting earbuds too.
On my commute
One of the biggest surprises has been that the Jaybird X3s are perfect for my commute. I take the BART train to work every day, and with my iPhone earbuds, I often have to turn the volume all the way up. Sometimes I have to give up on listening to particular podcasts because I still can’t hear very clearly. Not only is this annoying, but I’m also concerned about hearing loss (oh, the pleasures of getting older!). The noise-cancelling comply tips that come with the X3s are just what I was looking for. I find that I can regularly have the volume level on the lower end and have it be much clearer sounding. It’s awesome! Even the giant “noise cancelling” headphones I got for Christmas didn’t compare the sound quality from the X3s.
Pros: great sound quality, easy to sync, small/lightweight, unobtrusive (especially compared to the old Freedom headphones), and comes with a lot of accessories for customized fit. Appears to hold charge for long periods of time — I’ve only had to recharge the headphones a few times and they charge very quickly. I like that they’re sweat-proof, but I didn’t get to test that out. It would be nice to not worry about them in the rain!
Cons: a bit too many options and things to figure out (best fit, best ear tips to use, etc.). The charging clip and cord clips were not intuitive, but once I figured it out, it was fine. If I want to use these for both running and my commute, I would probably switch ear tips depending on which activity I’m doing, so that’s a bit annoying. But generally, all minor complaints.
I’m really glad to add the Jaybird X3s to my list of gadgets. Let me know if you have any questions!