Initial Review: Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones

I don’t listen to music on the trails often because it’s too much work. Between the ear buds falling out or hurting, the dangling cables, and constantly adjusting the volume, I’ve had it. Instead of enhancing my flow, toting my jams has turned into a chore.

The Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth headphones were designed specifically for active individuals. They ship with a variety of earpieces to ensure a comfortable fit, the manufacturer claims they’re sweat proof, and there aren’t really any cables to snag.

So are my riding needs and beats back in tune?

The most frustrating part of working out with the current crop of headphones is the dangling cables. Have you ever had an ear bud ripped out of your ear while riding? I recently broke a set of expensive headphones when the cable caught on my desk and irreversibly bent the audio plug.  Routing the cable through my jacket or out my backpack is less than ideal because it makes removing either difficult. When I’m out riding I don’t want to stop for stupid details.

With this design there are no cables to snag. The trade off? You need to wear both headphones . I prefer riding with only one headphone in when commuting, but the weight of the dangling bud pulled on my ear uncomfortably.

The Jaybirds are great as a workout headphone because they fit comfortably and stay in place. They are heavier than a traditional set of headphones, but after much experimenting, I found a combination of earpieces that worked for me. The trick Jaybird “ear cushions” do a great job of keeping the unit’s solidly in place, but take some time getting used to too insert quickly, and they started to cause me some discomfort after an hour. Combining the more traditional over the ear loop with the custom ear cushions relieved that pressure and allowed me to wear them comfortably all day.

The Freedoms easily lasted for more than the claimed 6 hours. The excellent battery life is a real boon because I frequently forget to charge/bring the charger. The Jaybirds use a semi-proprietary USB instead of the more common micro USB standard found on most modern cell phones.  The charging cord shipped with the headphones is rather short, which is sometimes inconvenient. The package also does not include a USB to wall adapter, but the headphones charged without issue using a spare apple adapter.

The Freedoms come with a convenient carrying case, but fitting both the headphones and USB cord into the case requires carefully packing.

The headphones pair and repair with my iPhone, my old Palm Pre, and my windows laptop without any difficulties. It’s almost easy enough a baby boomer could do it without asking their kids for help. The headphones also double as a headset for your phone. The audio isn’t perfect, as it doesn’t have any fancy integrated noise canceling, but it performs adequately in a pinch. Callers did not complain unless I was in a loud crowded setting like a coffee shop.

I didn’t have any issues with the headphones losing their signal, but Jaybird recommends using an armband when outside. Your body is largely comprised of water and the Bluetooth signal can be blocked if placed in your pocket. My signal never failed when paired with the iPhone I keep stowed in my backpack. It’s pretty neat to walk clear across the office without having to drag your cell phone or laptop along.

Helmet straps first, earbuds second, makes everything work great.

The right earpiece has 3 different buttons which serve multiple purposes. The volume adjust buttons can be held down to skip back to the beginning of a song or advance to the next one, but I kept dislodging the earpiece trying to use this feature when I was I was riding technical trails. This feature works best when you’re running at a jogging pace or trucking up some smooth fire road because it requires a rather long button press to advance tracks. The large side button triples as the on/off, pause/play, and pairing button.

The bottom line is these headphones work great for their intended purpose. The highs are a little muddled, the bass isn’t bumping, and the audio quality won’t blow any audiophiles away, but this is the best audio experience I’ve ever had with a wireless setup. They don’t interfere with my half lid straps, they’ve stayed in place during some really nasty descents, and they have a lifetime warranty against sweat (Jaybird is a USA Triathlon Team sponsor.)  If you’re in the market for a pair of no compromise workout headphones that won’t get in your way, the Jaybird Freedom headphones should be on your short list.

Comments

Rob E. - 03/16/12 - 9:45am

How are they at passing through external sounds? At work I like to block out everything at else, but on my bike, I like to hear what’s happening. I use an over the ear set (Motorola S305) when I ride because earbuds often do too good of a job at blocking external rides. But I’m always looking for other options.

Niels - 03/16/12 - 11:01am

Expensive stuff. weare phone/mp3 in back pocket of jersey, run cable underneath clothing, use paperclips to secure it where needed. never listn loud music when in traffic, especially light trafic, you don’t espect, you need to heare! I’m a messenger, left ear plugged up to 14H/day the cheap way ;)

Brian - 03/16/12 - 11:28am

@Rob E, I also have the same thoughts about earbuds. Blocked sound at work/on a plain is great, but when riding I need to hear other sounds. That’s why I really like Bose “MIE2″ earbuds. They’re comfortable, have great sound, an inline remote control for on the bike pausing/playing/next track.

Tyler (Editor) - 03/16/12 - 11:34am

Rob E. – They block some outside sound, but not all. At a low volume, you would still be able to hear a loud conversation. The inner “bud” doesn’t go too far into your ear canal, so there’s room for ambient noise. As with any headphones, I wouldn’t recommend them when road biking because the music alone would drown out cars. I’ve got a pair, too, and have used them on the trainer and in a light misty rain while mountain biking and they’re still working fine…which we’ll cover more in the final review.

Jeff - 03/16/12 - 12:33pm

From experience I can say they are great. They however, do not work after putting them through the washing machine in the back of your cycling jersey(oops). That said, I frequently left one ear in, and tucked the other earbud into the jersey(through the collar) so it would hang over my chest. That prevented my ear from feeling like it was being pulled down and even on the hottest of days when I was pouring sweat, they never had issues. I personally don’t feel it would be safe to have both earbuds in at the same time while riding on a road, but I really like to hear cars coming up behind me. As an added note, I did experience some cutting out while riding, but nothing that became an issue. My typical setup was the iPhone mounted to my stem and riding on roads surrounded by fields, so there really wasn’t much for the signal to bounce off of, which is probably why I had some cutting out. I fully intend on getting another pair, but for now I just enjoy the sound of the wind rushing by.

JMG_DC - 03/16/12 - 12:44pm

Here’s my solution: I use an ipod shuffle, which I attach to the back of my helmet with a velcro strip. I can operate the shuffle by feel with 1 hand. I use a single earbud (http://www.scansound.com/index.php/earphones/single-ear-stereo-earphones-1/left-bud-deluxe.html), which I wrap around some of the holes in my helmet, such that the ear bud dangles down above my right ear. The ear bud is designed for the left ear, but because it’s hanging down from above my ear, it works in my right ear. Pop the ear bud in, left ear is free to hear road noise, and no cable snags ever. Works like a charm.

NotJensVoigt - 03/16/12 - 1:21pm

Agree with this review. I have a set of these, and they work well paired with my Droid RAZR, especially indoors. Outdoors, the range drops such that I can’t leave it in my back jeans pocket (dropped signal). However, side jeans pocket works fine. Running requires an armband. I haven’t tried with cycling since I don’t like to ride with music, but I’d imagine it’ll work fine in a backpack (closer to headphone than jeans pocket). They’re light and stay in the ear very well, although the ear “hooks” they ship with can get a little annoying after a while.

dino - 03/16/12 - 2:53pm

sent two pair back. the music and lack of headphone cable is so needed but the call capabilities even in a quiet environment was horrible for both sets I purchased. As the article states “no one complained”, Im guessing they were just being nice! But for listening to music they were adequate. Rather disappointing since we have been waiting on these to be released for over a year!

spokejunky - 03/17/12 - 8:21pm

Just wondering how this compares to the MOTOROKR S9-HD

Rob - 03/18/12 - 12:04am

If you *must* listen to music while you ride, please take the time to occasionally check behind you on the trail for people trying to pass etc. Don’t break someone else’s flow because you can’t hear them.

Hpbike - 03/18/12 - 6:25pm

I wish someone would make a helmet with speakers and bluetooth. That way your ears would still be open and you could hear the music. Maybe some type of cup so the sound would not bother other riders.

Topmounter - 03/18/12 - 8:21pm

If I ride with headphones on (which isn’t often and only in certain circumstances), I use Shure canal-phones and just run the cord underneath my top layer. They are a sound isolating design, so they do a great job of blocking wind noise and don’t require much volume to hear them. My situational awareness is far better than when I’ve used earbuds w/ the volume cranked up.

Nick - 03/19/12 - 2:22am

Good idea! I don’t really want to hear the dump truck that flattens me when I don’t hear it and mistakenly veer outta the bike lane.

JoeKing - 03/21/12 - 12:42am

Let me get this straight…all you people ride with some sort of music/communication device when you ride?..right?

I really am from a different generation (boomer) but wearing these on the road is suicide (& illegal where I live) & riding them in the woods???? Are you people serious? You’d rather hear some crap music (?)(that is what you call the noise I hear when I pass one of you in the street) or tweet/text or whatever you do.

I feel sorry for you, I really do, if you don’t get enough pleasure from just being in the woods enjoying the PEACE & quiet of nature. Yep I’m a dinosaur (63) but if this is what 21st century bicycling has become…I’ll pass. Now where did I put that damn walker?

Danny - 10/28/12 - 8:45pm

Hey i’ve owned these for a while and they are awesome they never cutout, have great sound quality, and stay in your ears so you dont need to keep catching or adjusting them. I got mine at http://www.bluetoothsports.com
Also they fit nice with most helmets

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