Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Jaybird BlueBuds X bluetooth earbuds review

setI workout a lot - always have and hopefully always will – but one thing I hate is the piped music you get in most gyms. On the other hand I find wired headphones really irritating so the idea of having some wireless Bluetooth earbuds was very appealing. Enter the Jaybird BlueBuds X.

So why the review? Well unfortunately what sounded like a great idea fell down in practice and I thought I’d relate my experience.

If you’re in a rush skip to Quality below. Also see the Updates at the bottom where Jaybird are being a pain giving me a replacement.

Appearance

I have the black BlueBuds X. Considering the amount of electronics and battery they have to cram in they are reasonably compact. The included carry case was reasonably practical and looks good. Overall, the appearance of the product was fine.

Fit

There are 2 ways of wearing the BlueBuds X. The first way is the most obvious allowing the cord that connects each earbud to dangle downwards from the ear and to loop the cord around your neck. This really didn’t work for me because the weight of the cord acted to pull the earbuds out as I exercised.


buttonsAn alternative is to use an over ear placement. When wearing the BlueBuds this way the cord is kept short and the weight of the cord is supported by your ears. This is the way I used them. The one concern I have is that wearing them like this puts the control unit in direct contact with your head which might allow sweat to penetrate and cause damage.


secure-fitOne novel feature of the BlueBuds is the inclusion of flexible ‘Secure Fit Ear Cushions’. These comma shaped attachments lock the earbuds in place inside your ear. I found they worked quite well and provided as secure a fit as you could reasonably expect from earbuds.

Sound quality

I listen to a lot of Rock-based music when I’m in the gym with subgenres ranging from aggressive metal to alternative. I found the sound quality of the BlueBuds X to be really good for this type of music. It’s quite well balanced and doesn’t have that excessive bass response you get from Dr Dre Beats.

As mentioned above I found the fit very good and the ear inserts blocked out a lot of background noise so overall the sound quality was very good.

You can make phone calls with the BlueBuds but this is something I did very infrequently (I was using an iPhone 5S). Standing in the gym apparently talking to yourself isn’t my style but on the few occasions I did use them to make calls I could hear the other party on the call very well but they usually struggled to hear me. I guess the placement of the microphone is too far away from your mouth to be particularly effective.

Even if you don’t use the BlueBuds to make calls it is useful to get the audio notifications for incoming texts etc.

Range

I tended to keep my phone in a small bag I carry around with me in the gym. I always have gloves, wraps and the such like so it was natural to pop my phone in the same bag. I never had a dropout when using the BlueBuds even when walking several meters away from my bag.

Connecting and Charging

Charging the BlueBuds was easy. All that was required was to connect them to a PC using the included USB cable. One of the earbuds has an indicator light that show red while charging and which turns green when charging is complete.

Connecting them to my iPhone 5S was a doddle. I just switched on the BlueBuds, activated Bluetooth on the phone and they were detected right away.

Quality

OK, this is where it all goes wrong. In 6 months I have gone through 2 pairs of BlueBuds, both failing in exactly the same way.

I experienced occasional uninvited power-offs and loss of audio but these incidents were infrequent and restarting the BlueBuds always fixed the issue. However, eventually I hit another issue with both pairs I have owned, an issue that killed the BlueBuds stone dead.

The first indication that something was wrong would be turning up at the gym to find the BlueBuds would not switch on. This despite having fully charged them. I’d return home assuming the charge hadn’t worked and would plug them in using the USB cable. On connecting the BlueBuds to the PC the indicator light would immediately turn green suggesting they were fully charged. I’d leave them on to charge ‘just in case’ but they still would not switch on. End of story. Dead BlueBuds.

The cause of the failure is a mystery but you have to suspect they are not as sweat proof as Jaybird would have us believe. I do wonder if the over ear fitting is part of the problem because it puts the small plastic control unit that holds the buttons in contact with your head.

Support and Returns

Jaybird support was quite good overall with prompt responses to contact made using the support page on their website. The most irritating thing was being asked to return the BlueBuds to the USA. I’m in the UK so I really didn’t want the added expense. Jaybirds alternative is for you to send 2 photographs to Jaybird: one with the headphones intact and the other with the wire cut. You also have to include a piece of paper in each photo showing your signature and the date.

Really?

I mean, really?

Good job Jaybird on making me feel like you think I’m trying to con you out of a new pair of BlueBuds. Definitely not the kind of customer experience I appreciate.

Conclusion

A great idea and so close to being an excellent product. Wearability, usability and sound quality were great. The only issue was the build quality. The BlueBuds are clearly not up to the wear and tear of gym use and the most likely culprit is sweat.

Having had 2 pairs fail on me in exactly the same way I can only suggest you avoid the Jaybird BlueBuds X if you intend to use them when training. At £123.00 a pop they are far too expensive to think of as a disposable product.

Update 10/06/2014

After my second pair of BlueBuds failed I contacted Jaybird again for a replacement. This is the response I got:

XXXX XXXXX (Jaybird)
Jun 9, 2:56 PM
Hi,
Try this first,
Firmly but quickly press the power button 8 times and then hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 2 times.
When finished, plug the headset into the charger and tell me what you see.
Most of the time if the headset turns RED it will charge and function normally again, Make sure that if the light is red to fully charge the unit again.
Try holding the power button down for 10 seconds also some times it takes longer to turn them on.
let us know and if this does not work and I would be happy to help with an exchange.
My best,
XXXX

Now I was stupid enough to actually try this and guess what? No change. Back to Jaybird.

Incidentally, I was told when the last pair failed that pressing and holding the power button for 10 seconds does a factory reset.

Update 12/06/2015

OK, I’m getting pretty fed up with Jaybird now. For some reason I can’t get their support person to understand that the BlueBuds were bought online and that there’s no physical receipt. He really wants a ‘picture’.

Frankly I’m done. They don’t work anyway.

2 comments:

  1. Same story here. But I guess I am a lot more fortunate than you, they were able to replace my Bluebuds 4x. I also received the same instructions from them about pressing the button a number of times for so many seconds, etc. I think they made a mistake by claiming that the BBX1's are sweat-proof. Sadly, my last pair died today for unknown reasons. Do not buy these if you plan to use it for heavy workouts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to admit I did follow up and they sent me a new set (the 3rd) shortly after I posted the above. The last set has been working ever since and I'm still using them 4 to 5 times a week in the gym. The difference has been not using the 'over ear' placement. That keeps the control unit away from contact with my hair and therefore less likely to get sweat in it.

      I'm still not impressed with the customer experience though.

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