A Quest for Wireless: Part 1 – Wireless Headphones

Over the past few months, I've been on a quest. My mission has been to find an affordable pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. The purpose for this mission is pretty simple. I wanted to have some headphones that I could wear while running now that I work from home one day a week and can feasibly run during my lunch hour then. While I don't love running, I love the dedicated time with my music. And when I focus on my music and the landscape outdoors, running turns into something I can get into.

Of course, it would be great if these headphones were also esthetically-pleasing, had great battery life and could replace my every day headphones (and headset for phone conversations) that I typically carry in my purse.

In short: one pair of headphones to rule them all!

I did a lot of research and settled on the Jaybird X2s. By all accounts, they were exactly what I needed…but since receiving them, I have gone ahead and returned them to Amazon. I'll go into what I liked about them before I'll discuss why I had to return.

The Good:

The battery life is fantastic. I was on the phone, in the cold, for a good long while with these. I did not lose connection or experience any issues hearing the other person. When I got home and checked the battery I expected significant drain. Nope! These babies were still at 100%. Color me impressed!

Another thing I enjoyed was the premium feel. The packaging was nice and not incredibly hard to unpack (more or less frustration free). The headphones look and feel very high-end — which makes a lot of sense given the over $100 price point. The cord that connects one bud to the other was one of those new-fangled flat ones which, as by design, didn't tangle when thrown into my giant laptop tote.

I also really liked how they came with two different choices for the ear buds. I'm not a huge fan of the silicon tips that are so common and have come to obsess over love foam earplug style headphones. I did appreciate them throwing in some Comply foam tips, even if I didn't really think they were as effective at canceling out noise as I had hoped.

And finally, connecting them to my phone was really simple and I did enjoy the "Jenna" voice prompts where some woman whispers into your ear that you are connected to a device.

Your putter's name is Charlene!
Unclear why they named her Jenna but I have my suspicions.

The Bad:

The first thing I want to do with any gear I purchase is immediately set it up. One thing I noticed with these is that there was no quick start guide or any indicator of how to turn the friggin things into music listening devices! After setting them to charge, I did see in small print that I should go to their website and grab a guide from there. I have to admit, once I did get the guide it was very simple but it was really annoying to have to go to a website (and then hunt for a PDF!) to learn how to play with my new toy. This was especially frustrating because they could've just included an insert that instead said "hold down the middle button to get started."

Fit was also problematic for me. While I read a review that said a woman could fit these, I still think they were large for my ears. The actual tube that provides music to your ear was actually quite wide even without the Comply tip attached! That said, I acknowledge I have somewhat small ears relative to the rest of me so this might be more of a personal problem than anything else. I have problems with the new in-ear Apple headphones (more than my husband and other humans with reasonable ear canal size) so this doesn't come as a shock. I also have to say I really disliked the "fins" that are supposed to keep the headphones in my ears. Maybe I'm behind the times or again, tiny ears, but I had no idea how to make those work. I did not get a chance to test them while running so could be that the fins are more relevant in that case but even still, I felt like they were a distraction and more something that would cause them to fall out rather than stay in.

Finally, the most troubling problem with these was the sound quality. This is what disappointed and surprised me most! Every single review I read indicated that the sound quality was phenomenal and for me it was truly unlistenable. Again, this may depend on the ear but for me they sounded way too tinny as opposed to "bright" as they were described by some.

I tried really hard to make them work. I went and adjusted the equalizer presets on my device but I just couldn't get the music to a tolerable place. I did some digging and found that this could be a fault more of the tech than of the actual device I received. Bluetooth audio is by definition compressed which could account for the lousy sound when I'm listening to streaming or my own MP3s (which, by definition, are compressed). In other words, perhaps I have too high expectations (this should surprise no one who knows me…) for wireless audio. This means that my quest may actually be like searching for a unicorn.

This audio issue coupled with the high price tag made these completely not worth keeping for me. If I'm going to get bad audio due to Bluetooth anyway, I might as well pay less than $100.