Review - Jaybird Freedom

2017-01-28

I’ve been searching for bluetooth earbuds as good as my AudioTechnica ATHCKP500BK Sportfit wired earbuds. I had a set of Bohm S9 earbuds for a while that were okay, but they died inside of a year. I saw another brand that looked promising, until reports of crappy battery life ended their retail life. An up and comer in the bluetooth audio arena called Jaybird looked promising for a while, but I wasn’t willing to throw so much money at something I was sure of.

But I finally did it. Based on a recommendation from a friend, I jumped on the Jaybird Freedom set. I found them at Target and bought them.

There’s a lot to like about these earbuds. First, their sound quality is quite good for bluetooth headphones. I really like that, much like the Parrot Zik headphones, there’s an app to manage your listening experience, so you can tune the earbuds to the sound style that suits you rather than being stuck with what was delivered. All too often I run into a listening experience that’s highly opinionated, and with what I consider to be a really bad opinion.

The battery life is pretty decent, too. But with a caveat. The marketing says they provide 8 hours of listening, but with an asterisk. The set alone will only last about 4 hours, while there is a charging clip with an included battery for extra capacity on the go. What’s cool about this is when the clip is exhausted of power, you can disconnect it from the headset and charget it back up while still using the headset wirelessly. If you have more than one clip, you can guarantee a long listening experience, if needed. But this means there’s an extra bit to keep track of. Not only is it a spare bit of juice, but it’s also the charger. If you lose it, you don’t just lose half of your capacity, you lose your ability to charge.

While I’m a big fan of good sound quality, comfort is a huge requirement. And this is where the Jaybird Freedom falls flat. The AudioTechnica earbuds are super comfortable while providing a solid fit. It takes little effort to put them in, and little effort to take the out. I can wear them for hours without issue. They sound pretty good. They’re hard to accidentally pull out, and they don’t loosen, causing a change to the listening experience. Their drawback is they are wired.

The Jabird Freedom are not comfortable. With the small silicone tips, I can insert them in my ears fine and get a decent fit with little pressure on any part of my ears. However, they are easy to pull out accidentally, and easy to cause to shift, changing the listening experience. This is the plague of earbuds for me. The extra bit of silicone on the AudioTechnica earbuds solves this, and I had hoped Jaybird’s only version of this would solve it. But it doesn’t. The small is far too small. The medium is still too small and easily pulls out. The large fits, but I can still easily pull it out and I can’t get it to fit in such a way that I get a comfortable listening experience. The extra large helps angle the earbud tips better, but they create so much pressure on my ears that it’s just not comfortable for long periods of time. Listening for even 10 minutes is painful.

So while I find the audio to be quite good, it doesn’t matter because I can’t listen for very long without painful ears.

Additionally, as I’ve complained about the Altec Lansing bluetooth speaker, when powering these earbuds on and off, there’s far too much embellishment in the audio cues. I really don’t care to hear the fancy audio tone added in with the notifications of what the earbuds are doing. Just give me what I need and nothing more.

As expensive as they are and as highly regarded as they are, I will continue to experiment to see if MAYBE I can figure something out, but it’s not really looking good. However, I have already declared that my search continues.