[UPDATE Oct 2018: After much request, I’ve now written a new post about my current headphones, the Jabra Elite 65t]
For those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Antony and I am a headphone addict.
I have my running headphones, my everyday listening headphones, my music appreciation / zoning-out / airplane headphones, my spare headphones (at my desk, in my car, in my work bag), my grab ’n go headphones and probably a few others as well. I’ve also tried them all – cordless ear-buds, workout headphones, various noise-cancelling cans. It’s not a cheap addiction and its hardly rational but hey, at least it’s not drugs!
With this background in mind, let me introduce you to my new little friend- the Jaybird X3.
I purchased this new gadget after many, many hours of intense research. I had just sold my Apple AirPods (who just didn’t want to stay in my ears) and was looking for the perfect replacement. I was on the hunt for buds that could keep up with me during a workout (primarily running on the treadmill and the road) and still be a good companion during the day for everyday listening and taking phone calls. They, of course, had to be Bluetooth headphones, have a good fit, a decent microphone for taking calls, and if I could wear them throughout the day that was a plus as well.
And so I consulted the blogs. Read review after review, and after many long hours filled and countless spreadsheet comparisons, I ordered the Jaybird X3.
These days you have so many different types of headphones – in ear, on ear, over ear, Bluetooth, wired, full wireless, noise-cancelling, the list goes on! Jaybird X3 fall into the category of in-ear Bluetooth ‘neck-bud’/semi-wired style headphones. The semi-wired means that there is a cable which connects the two in-ear buds to each other.
If you take a look at Jaybird’s website, it’s clear that they’re trying to sell you these headphones for use during sport. But they can easily be used for everyday casual listening as well. I’ve been using them for running in the morning and then letting them hang loose from my neck during the day which becomes really useful to answer phone calls (because holding a cellphone to your face is so 2016) or to listen to music when the urge arises.
In addition to the headphones, I also received a whole array of accessories in the box (way too many in my opinion). There were two types of ear-tips (silicon and Comply) in three sizes each (six in total) as well as three sizes of wing tips. Also included (and not to be lost!) is a proprietary USB cable to charge the earbuds.
The X3’s have an app that allows you to connect to the headphones, change your sound profile and tweak a bunch of other settings. It’s one of those things that you’ll hardly use, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
I’ve never run out of juice on these things. As mentioned, I listen to them for about an hour in the morning and intermittently throughout the day for music and phone-calls. I probably use a combined 3 – 4 hours a day from them and the battery can sometimes last me two days. Jaybird promise an 8-hour playtime on these things which sounds about right.
Connecting to two devices at once
One of the big selling points for these headphones was the ability to connect to two devices at one time. That means that you can easily connect to both your phone and/or your tablet and/or computer at the same time. So imagine, you’re at your desk, listening to Spotify on your computer and next thing your phone rings. Bam!- you just push the button by the microphone and it answers your call. Or you’re listening to music on your computer and someone sends you a funny video on WhatsApp. You push play and Swoosh – just like that, you’re no longer listening to the music on your computer but are now watching a hilarious cat video. The transition is seamless and, with one exception (coming up in the section below), they work incredibly well.
As advertised, this is where the X3 shine. All it takes it two steps to get the perfect fit for exercise. First, connect the two little clips to the cable which are used to effectively shrink the length of the cable and then secondly, insert the headphones in your ears in the over-the-ear configuration. With this in place, the headphones fit snugly across the back of your head and are a perfect companion for gym or a long run.
I’ve been using these for runs over the past few months already and can say with certainty that they’re as comfortable as you get while exercising. Provided you get the length of the cord exactly right, you won’t even know the buds are there (except for the music coming out of them).
The only drawback to this whole configuration is that it takes a bit of time to adjust the cable and then re-adjust after gym every time (#1stWorldProblems).
I’d never heard of Comply Foam tips before but now that I have, I feel my life is changed. These tips, which come with the X3s in three different sizes, provide the welcome alternative to the standard silicon tips the you never even knew you needed. They’re super-comfortable and provide a perfect fit. Just be sure not to lose them, because replacement tips don’t come cheap!
I’ve now made hundreds of calls using the Jaybird X3s and can confidently say that the microphone delivers on its promise. I’ve never had a problem with people not being able to hear me and the remote that’s found on the cable of the X3s makes it simple to answer calls with your phone in your pocket.
While I’m no audiophile, I’ve been very happy with the sound quality for everyday listening.
In this day and age of ubiquitous micro-USB chargers (and now USB-C), its unacceptable that companies still require their own proprietary charger. Although this charger is easy to use, it’s also easy to forget. So be sure to pack the little cable in your bag before going on holiday otherwise the Jaybird X3 becomes useless. It’s also frustrating not to be able to charge the headphones at work and at home without purchasing an additional charger.
Flimsy ear tips
This is one of the major design flaws with the Jaybird X3. When using the silicon tips, the tips fall off the headphones incredibly easily. All you have to do is lightly tap them and the tips will fall off. They’d probably fall off if you looked at them the wrong way! And I’m not the only one who has this problem. Want replacement tips? Don’t count on ordering from Jaybird – as of the date of writing this, they’re out of stock. Maybe they’ve adopted the razor/blade business model and are making some serious bucks from this design flaw.
Bluetooth connection when running
This is a biggie for me as one of the main reasons I purchased these headphones was for running. Now they work great indoors, but the moment you start running outdoors connecting the headphones to your phone (which I keep in a running pouch by my waist), the Bluetooth signal starts dropping. Come on Jaybird, you had one job – to make Bluetooth headphones for use during running. And you failed. What I’m left with is headphones that keep on ‘buffering’ while trying to find Bluetooth signal with my phone which is a few inches away. Not a great way to enjoy your outdoor run…
Calls dropping when connected to computer
As great as the dual-Bluetooth connection works when listening to music to be able to listen to music on your computer and on your phone interchangeably, the whole thing just falls apart when receiving a phone call. I can answer the call without a problem, but sound quality on the Jaybirds is terrible (keeps on dropping and skipping) until I disconnect the headphones from my computer. Then I can take the call in peace. What a pain to have to do this throughout the day when receiving phone-calls when I’m near my computer.
This is less of an issue, but it’s worth documenting should it help someone reading this who is considering buying the Jaybird X3. You can wear the headphones around your neck during the day for ease-of-use when you want to quickly take a call or listen to music, but they just kind of hang there towards your collarbone awkwardly. They don’t have the style, the length, or the magnetic ear-tips that the Beats X do which work much better in my opinion for that purpose. Also, sometimes the headphones get caught up in my car safety belt or simply fall off during the day (in fairness to Jaybird, they do include a shirt clip with the headphones, but it’s not the most practical to clip the headphone to the back of your shirt).
The bottom line
Where the Jaybird X3 works well, they’re amazing. Maybe even perfect. But where they fall short, they fall hard, and its failings far outweigh its successes. For comparison, you can have the best toaster in the world with every feature imaginable, but if it doesn’t make you a damn piece of toast when you need it to, you may as well use it as a door stopper. As awesome as the Jaybird X3 are in certain circumstances, I just can’t bring myself to recommend them to anyone given its main hiccups and would suggest rather waiting for the Jaybird X4s or looking at some of the many other headphones available from Beats, Bose, Jabra, and others.
Also published on Medium.