When Jaybird released the Jaybird X2 wireless headphones, they quickly became a favorite for athletes and casual listeners alike. Their reputation grew thanks to rugged construction, impressive sound quality and, above all else a respectable price that just kept dropping.
The appropriately named X3s carry the Jaybird torch onwards, improving on almost every feature of their predecessor and managing to hit the market at a lower cost while doing so ($129, £109, AU$199).
As with the X2s, the X3s are targeted at the sportier sorts, with endorsement from athletes Lauren Fleshman and Brandon Johnson as well as a number of features that’ll appeal to more active users. But many of those same features also make the headphones just as convenient for the casual listener without pushing the price up too much.
The headphones come with a multitude of fitting options, with three different sizes of fins, Comply foam tips and silicone tips, as well as a shirt clip and two cable-shortening clips.
As a result, the customisation process can perhaps be a bit tedious and fiddly (particularly the cable-shortening clips), but once you’ve found your ideal combination you shouldn’t have to adjust it again.
It’s worth mentioning that two separate sets of the Jaybird X3 we received had the medium silicone tips (the ones attached to the headphones on shipping) distinctly warped. It seemed like the silicone had shrivelled a bit and, as a result, neither held its shape nor sealed correctly. None of the other tips had this issue so we assume it's a packaging problem.
The fin-style securing method is a god-send for the bespectacled user, as over-ear and on-ear headphones can end up being painful or just incompatible altogether with the arms of your glasses. They also work deceptively well at keeping the ear-pieces secure when moving about.
With a sweat-proof design, lightweight and compact build, and plenty of methods of securing them, the X3s are well equipped to handle the rigours of physical exercise — the actor voicing the power-status and battery-percentage alerts even sounds like the vocal embodiment of activewear.
Despite the slightly over-energized voice, it gives you a very clear indication of the status of your headphones — whether they’re connected, what battery percentage (in increments of 20) they’re sitting at, and whether you’re powering on or powering off. Given there’s very little visual indication, this is very useful.
Despite their athletic focus, the headphones still suffer from occasional connection loss, especially when your phone is in your left (and sometimes even right) pants’ pocket, a problem that still plagues many wireless and truly wireless headphones on the market.
This can be prevented by using a phone sports armband to get your device closer to the Bluetooth receiver that seems to be located in the headphones remote, or when not exercising you can use your shirt’s breast pocket. Neither of these are overly convenient though.
Beyond these drop-outs, the sound quality is exceptional considering the X3s are both inexpensive and wireless.
We found the silicone tips provided a slightly better seal than the Comply foam tips, and as a result offered higher audio fidelity, albeit with a similarly slight drop in comfort.
The stock audio profile is relatively treble-skewed, but thanks to the free Jaybird MySound app (available on iOS and Android), you can use a five-band EQ to fine-tune the acoustics or switch between a variety of presets and user-created profiles.
These profiles save to your headphones rather than to the playback device, meaning you can set it once and then use it across any of your other devices without needing to re-tune.
Most of the X3’s design changes over the X2s are for the better — a smaller profile allows them to fit under helmets and hats, an upgrade to Bluetooth 4.1 provides longer battery-life (8 hours) and the ability to pair two devices, and support for the aforementioned MySound app makes for incredibly malleable sound.
Features of the X2 that have remained are, for the most part, the ones that tick the biggest boxes. The sweat- and dust-proof design is essential if you want to work out to some tunes, and a load off the mind of the everyday listener caught in a drizzle. Their compact size, wireless nature, and awesome sound definitely bely their price.
Unfortunately the smaller profile means that the X3s now charge with a proprietary charging dock — although the tiny dock still uses micro-USB. While the higher-end Jaybird Freedom range has made this dock double as a portable charging pack, the X3’s is just another piece of paraphernalia that you’ll either want to leave at home, or risk losing.
Both this and the intermittent drop-outs are going to affect each user in different ways — some may not mind having a single charging dock left at home, and others may not ever experience the audio cutting out (we found the problem lessened when in enclosed spaces or in larger crowds).
This really is a fabulous pair of sports earphones on the whole, and the flaws we’ve mentioned are comparatively minor for what is otherwise a superb wireless offering at a stellar price-point.
We would comfortably recommend these to gym junkies, audio purists and average Joe’s alike (don’t worry, you’re special in your own way), and while waiting for Bluetooth connections to improve their reliability is an option, at this price it isn’t worth missing out.
- For some more in-ear headphone recommendations, check out our guide to the best in-ear headphones.