Tag: wirelessheadphones

Jaybird Run review: The perfect truly wireless earbuds for workouts

Completely wireless earbuds are everywhere this year. Call it the Apple AirPods effect, or perhaps it's just a matter of the right components being available at the right time. But now that completely cordless designs are less novel than they used to be, companies have to work harder to stand out. Jaybird, which has had years of experience in wireless audio, is taking a stab at the increasingly crowded field with its $180 Run earbuds. They're comfortable, sound great for their size, and offer solid reception (for the most part).

Hardware

The Jaybird Run don't look particularly distinctive, aside from a small logo on the outside. At this point, most companies seem to be settling on a similar style for fully wireless earbuds. They generally try to make them as small as possible -- a departure from the clunky Bluetooth headsets you might be used to. One unique element here is the metal ring around the outer edges of the Run serves as the antenna, which should technically give it a leg-up on reception over competitors with internal antennas. They're about as subtle as the earbuds from Her -- noticeable, but they don't call attention to themselves either.

The differences between wireless buds really come down to the earpiece design. They need to stay in your ears reliably -- there's no cord to save them from falling on the ground, after all -- and ideally, they should be comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time. This is one area where the Jaybird Run excels: It features the "fin" typically found on the brand's headphones, which fits into the upper groove of your ear to hold them in place. Once you get them in, it's hard to notice you're wearing them.

Jaybird gives you four sets of silicone tips: small and large round options, as well as two different oval-shaped tips. There are also three different types of fin accessories, along with a finless one if you have very small ears. And, as you'd imagine, the Run are both sweatproof and water resistant. Jaybird says they feature a "double hydrophobic nano coating" to deal with sweat, which is much tougher on gadgets than plain water.

The Jaybird Run also comes with a chunky carrying case, which adds another eight hours to their advertised four-hour battery life. The case is too large to fit comfortably in your pocket, but it's easy to chuck into a messenger bag or backpack. It can also give the Run earbuds one hour of juice with just a five-minute charge. The case could use a more secure latch, though. It popped open in my bag on several occasions, which made my iPhone automatically connect to them. That was particularly annoying when it was causing my phone to de-prioritize my other devices.

In use

Setting up the Run earbuds was a cinch. Within 30 seconds of tearing open the packaging, I had them securely in my ears and paired with my iPhone 6S. I was lucky enough to have a perfect fit with the default buds. It was definitely the fastest setup period I've seen with any pair of wireless headphones, even my BeatsX.

The right Run earbud handles all of the connectivity with your phone. You can choose to wear it by itself if you'd rather keep one ear open (which is how I typically walk around New York City). The left earbud automatically connects to the right one over Bluetooth when you turn it on, and the sound carries over without any interruption. Everything sounds a bit compressed when you're just using the right earbud, but the audio field expands seamlessly once you turn on the left bud.

You don't have many options for controlling the Run. Each earbud has just one button. Powering them on and off takes one long press, but you can also skip forward to the next track by double-clicking them. The buttons are easy enough to find, but they're difficult to press. Pushing them simply felt painful, since doing so also jams the Run deeper into your ear. Because of that, I avoided the buttons entirely while wearing the earbuds.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When it comes to sound quality, the Run delivers far more than you'd expect, given its tiny frame. My usual round of test music tracks, including "Like A Dog Chasing Cars" from the Dark Knight soundtrack, and Little Dragon's "Klapp Klapp," all sounded great, with a healthy amount of detail and a surprising bass. The JayBird Run unfortunately had trouble with complex high notes; cymbals sometimes sounded like a distorted mess. They certainly didn't sound as good as the BeatsX or the Jaybird Freedom, though, both of which deliver quality that's almost on par with wired headphones.

The Jaybird Run were especially great for podcasts. Dialog sounded rich and natural, with none of the tinniness you get from some wireless headphones. And since podcasts are usually recorded at a much lower fidelity than music, they ended up being ideal for the Run's more limited audio range. I caught up on a big chunk of my podcast backlog while testing them, simply because they were so convenient to wear.

If you like to customize your audio experience, you can also use Jaybird's mobile app to tweak the Run's sound profile. It's flat by default, but the company provides a variety of options like "Bring the bass," which boosts the low-end, or "Extended listening," which cuts down harsh high notes. There are also custom profiles from athletes like Nick Rimando and Kerri Walsh Jennings, and you can find profiles from other Jaybird users as well. If you want, you can also adjust your levels manually. (I opted for the "Signature" settings, which boosts bass and high notes a bit.) The app changes the Run's sound at the firmware level, so any tweaks will apply no matter what you're listening to. If you need help finding exercise tunes, there's also a curated selection of Spotify playlists within the app.

With no wires in the way, the Jaybird Run made listening to just about anything feel completely seamless. It takes just a few seconds to pop it out of the case, and they paired with my phone quickly too. Since they're so comfortable, I occasionally forgot I was even wearing them. At times, too, it felt like they were simply an extension of my hearing. They didn't fall out of my ears once after hours of testing, and after a while my low-level anxiety about dropping them on a New York City sidewalk evaporated.

My honeymoon with the Jaybird Run almost ended abruptly during my first jogging session. They simply couldn't stay synchronized in stereo mode while I was moving, a problem multiple reviewers have brought up over the past few weeks. When I asked Jaybird for comment, a spokesperson said that the unit I was testing were pre-production, and not the final hardware consumers would get. Typically I'd find that answer suspicious, but since the Run aren't actually shipping to customers until later this month, all I can do for now is take the company at their word.

So that's the story of how I received a second Jaybird Run pair to review. I immediately took them out for a two-mile run around Brooklyn's Prospect Park , and thankfully didn't experience any further synchronization issues. My podcasts and exercise playlist all played without incident. Compared to the Jaybird Freedom, which are wirelessly connected to your phone, but still have a thin cable attaching the earbuds, the Run offered a completely different experience.

It's one thing not to have to worry about managing a headphone cable, but running through the park unencumbered by any cables felt truly liberating. I still experienced minor synchronization issues when walking around Manhattan, but that's something I've also noticed with other wireless buds. Extreme radio interference is part of the cost of living in a dense urban environment.

Jaybird's four-hour battery life claim for the Run was close to what I actually saw. The buds would typically last for around three hours and 45 minutes during my testing. As you'd expect, that timing changed a bit if I was listening to quiet podcasts, or loud music most of the time. Together with the battery case, the Run typically lasted around two to three days, depending on if I could fit in a jogging session. As our resident marathoner, Engadget's executive editor Dana Wollman notes that the Run's battery life should be fine for most runners. But you'd probably want a wired pair if you're hitting the pavement beyond four hours.

Pricing and the competition

At $180, the Jaybird Run are slightly more expensive than competing wireless earbuds. Apple's AirPods go for $159, while Bragi's "The Headphone" comes in at $149. If you want to cut the cord mainly for exercise, though, the added cost will likely be worth it for the Run's sweat and water resistance. Jabra's Elite Sport are another solid workout alternative, but they're a lot pricier at $250.

If you're considering wireless headphones, it's worth taking a step back and considering how you plan to use them. If you're a fitness fanatic, it makes more sense to forgo wires entirely with the Jaybird Run. But if you care more about having higher audio quality, and only need headphones for occasional exercise, you might be better off with something like Jaybird Freedom or BeatsX, which still have short cables.

Wrap-up

Jaybird didn't disappoint with the Run. They're everything I'd want in a pair of truly cord-free headphones. While they still require sacrificing a bit of audio quality, that's true of everything else in this category. Losing a bit of fidelity is worth it, though, if you've ever dreamt of going for a run while losing yourself to music and not worrying about any annoying cords.


Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones pack adaptive noise cancellation

Bower & Wilkins (B&W) is dropping its latest pair of premium wireless headphones. How are these £330 ($437) cans any different from the company's alternatives? The "PX" are the first to pack adaptive noise cancellation (which allows you to pick from three different modes through a companion app). The "city" option, for example, will let in traffic noise, so you're less likely to get hit by a car while jamming to Rage Against the Machine. And, there's the responsive interaction feature that auto-pauses your tunes when you remove the headphones. They'll even return to standby mode when you put them down (which should be a boon for battery life).

That's all well and good, but it's not enough to differentiate them from the other products out there. As far back as 2009, Sony had integrated a similar sensor into its MH907 earbuds, with the likes of Parrot's feature-packed Zik 2.0 over-ear headphones, and Apple's AirPods following suit. Plus, these days, everywhere you look an audio company is sneaking some sort of tech into its headphones. And, much of it is a lot more impressive than what B&W is offering (if that's your sort of thing). Throw a stone and you'll hit a pair of wireless earbuds that share your music. And, soon enough, voice-powered cans with integrated AI (like Bose's new QC35 headphones with Google Assistant built-in) could become much more common.

But, as B&W fans will attest, its brand has its own pulling power. Aside from the premium design, which is also present this time round, the sound quality of its devices tends to be top-notch. In the case of the PX headphones, the ability to manipulate the noise cancelling aspect (to block ambient car sounds, or let in chatter) is attention-grabbing. And, then there's the battery life: 22 hours of playback in wireless mode, and 33 hours when wired. Speaking of the design, the PX boasts a leather headband, and an etched-aluminum finish. You can grab them in either grey or gold starting today. Is that enough to make you part ways with 37 bucks more than what you'd pay for the (solid) B&W P5 wireless headphones? Well, that's your call.


Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch arrives October 1st for $300

Fitbit Ionic, the company's first smartwatch, will be available for purchase on October 1st. The watch sports a reported five-day battery life, sleep tracking, guided workouts and music playback via Pandora or Fitbit's Music app. Fitbit Ionic is priced at $300/£300 and comes in three color combinations -- silver gray with a blue gray band, smoke gray with a charcoal band and burnt orange with a slate blue band. You'll also be able to pick up Classic and Sport accessory bands for $30/£25 apiece or leather bands for $60/£50 each. At the same time, Fitbit is also launching its first wireless headphone set -- the Flyer -- for $130/£110. You can snag them in lunar gray or nightfall blue.

The launch of Fitbit Ionic marks the company's entry into the smartwatch field, one which companies like Apple and Fossil are already performing quite well in. Fitbit has been falling behind Apple and Xiaomi in the wearables market recently, so it could use a bump from the Ionic.

Fitbit is also releasing its Coach personal training app in October, which features over 90 video and audio workouts, though you'll have to shell out $8/£8 per month to use it in full. You can pick up the Fitbit Ionic through Amazon, Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Kohl's, Macy's, REI, Target and Verizon. The Fitbit Flyer will be available from Amazon, Best Buy, Brookstone, Nordstrom and Target. You can read out our thoughts on the Fitbit Ionic here.


Beats’ Studio3 headphones pack improved features at a lower price

It has been a while since Beats updated the top-end Studio line of headphones. In fact, the most recent model, Studio Wireless, debuted in 2013. Well, until now. Today, Beats is introducing the Studio3 Wireless, the latest high-end headphones for the popular brand that pack in Apple's W1 wireless chip, Pure Adaptive Noise Cancellation and much-improved battery life into a familiar design.

First, the Studio3 Wireless joins the rest of Beats' updated headphones with the addition of the W1 chip. Not only does that component offer quick Bluetooth pairing, but it also makes the wireless connection more efficient. The company says that this equates to 22 hours of battery life with both wireless and noise cancellation turned on. That's 10 hours more than the previous Studio model and closer to what the likes of Bose and Sony are claiming in their high-end wireless headphones. If you're in a pinch, there's also a Fast Fuel feature that will give you 3 hours of battery life in just a 10 minute charge.

The Studio3 Wireless also features improved noise cancellation. With what Beats calls Pure Adaptive Noise Cancellation (Pure ANC), the headphones use "advanced algorithms" to keep tabs on your environment and adjust to best block out the outside world. Pure ANC also analyzes the fit of the headphones and adapts to sound leaks that may be caused by hair, glasses, ear shapes and movement while listening. The tech also compares what you're hearing through noise cancellation versus the original music to "ensure optimal audio fidelity." Beats says ure ANC scans up to 50,000 times a second to perform its sound calibration automatically in the background.

There are still on-board controls for skipping songs, controlling volume and activating Siri without having to pick up your phone. And yes, a built-in microphone mean you can also take calls with the Studio3 Wireless as well as easily switch to other Apple devices you've connected to iCloud. Beats isn't talking sound quality just yet, but if its previous headphones are any indication, you can expect a load of bass here. As you might expect, the Studio3 Wireless is available in a range of colors and you can buy them now at Apple.com for $350. That's cheaper that previous Studio models and the same price as Sony's recently announced WH-1000XM2 that will arrive this month.

The new Sony model is the follow-up to the MDR-1000X, a very good set of noise-cancelling headphones that debuted last year and still one of the best available. We'll have to wait and see if Beats made enough improvements on the Studio3 Wireless, but since they're already on sale, it shouldn't be too long before we can do just that.

Source: Beats


Fitbit Flyer wireless headphones hands-on: Too basic for the price

Fitbit is coming for your ears. The company's first wireless fitness headphones, called Fitbit Flyer, are designed to accompany you on your workouts, thanks to a sweat-proof, durable body. I got to try out the Flyer, which we've seen leaked before, and am satisfied that it works as promised, but wish it did more or performed better.

The Flyer, at least, in gold-and-white, looks attractive and feels sturdy. A black-and-silver version is also available, and looks just as elegant. Its rubbery exterior is similar to that on many other sports-centric earbuds like the Jabra Sport Coach. I'm not a fan of the way in-ear buds in general poke into my ear, but the Flyer is relatively comfortable. Each pair of headphones comes with swappable tips, wings and fins so you can customize your device for a better fit. Many wireless earbuds already come with these add-ons, though.

To be clear, there is a cable connecting the Flyer's two buds. This isn't a completely wire-free product like the Bragi Dash Pro, Apple's AirPods or the Samsung Gear IconX. The Flyer's cable is long enough to encircle my neck, though, even with my thick hair in the way, and I liked letting the buds dangle down my chest as a sort of open necklace.

The device's power button is on the top of the right bud, and a thumb-length control box sits on that side of the cable. The box contains three buttons for you to adjust the volume or play, pause and skip tracks, which worked well during my testing, although they were somewhat hard to reach. You can also answer calls through the Flyer, which has a dual microphone to suppress noise for voice quality, although these aren't novel features either. I switched from my Apple earphones to the Flyer midway through a call, and my friend said she immediately noticed that I sounded clearer. On my side, I could hear sounds from my apartment, like the creak of furniture or my shuffling footsteps, more distinctly than before. This was frankly quite distracting.

The most appealing thing about the Flyer is how easily it connects to Fitbit's new Ionic smartwatch. All it took was a press of the headphone's power button and a tap on the watch's screen for the two to pair. Linking the Flyer with other devices, is trickier, though. The new headphones are supposed to simultaneously connect to two devices at once with Bluetooth 4.2, but you'll have to make sure the Ionic isn't in the vicinity or Fitbit's headphones will connect to it by default. You'll also have to shut down the headphones, then restart them in pairing mode before other devices can detect them. This is similar to the pairing process for most other Bluetooth earbuds, but made slightly more confusing by the Flyer's preference for the Ionic smartwatch.

The Flyer's most essential feature is the promise of "high-quality sound" with "crisp audio, powerful bass and dynamic range." I listened to a playlist of songs including Taylor Swift's Look What You Made Me Do, Camila Cabello's Havana and Macklemore's Glorious. The Flyer delivered thumping bass and crisp audio even at max volume, although I wished higher notes and vocals were stronger.

The device should, in theory, last up to six hours of playtime, and Fitbit says you can get an hour of juice with just 15 minutes of charging. That's less than the eight-hour rated runtime for the Jaybird X3, which is a popular option in the space, although it only plays music. But other than working seamlessly with the Ionic smartwatch, the Flyer doesn't do anything differently from other wireless headphones. Think about it, the Jabra Sport Coach can count your reps for you, and for $10 cheaper than the Flyer. For the $130/£110 asking price, you'll easily find a wide selection of competing (and more-established) brands like JBL, Bose, Jabra, Jaybird and Plantronics. If you're considering buying the Flyer, you'd do well to remember that playing music is really all it does, and that there are cheaper options that can do more or better.