Having spent a couple of years wowing consumers in the US with its wallet-friendly earphones, Jaybird has finally brought its popular X3 Bluetooth earphones to the UK market.
With two previous generations earning praise for their audio quality, stay-in-ability (if that's a word), convenience and value for money, will the X3 be as good, or even better?
Jaybird X3 review: Design
- S/M/L silicone and foam tips
- Clip-on charging cradle
- Detachable, adjustable fins
- Rain/sweat resistant nano-coating
What's great about the Jaybird X3's design is all in the little details. The ease by which you can remove and re-attach the ear tips thanks to their stiff rubber ring lining, ensuring they hold shape to be easily slipped into place. In many earphones, it can be a struggle to get the flimsy tips to go back on again after removing them to try different sizes.
Then there are the fins designed to hold the earphones securely in your ears. They're also easy to remove, but can be moved to fit your ears and rotated so that you can wear them over-ear or under-ear.
The earphones' design is kind of unremarkable, but we don't say that as a bad thing. There's no excess bling. The earbuds are solid and relatively chunky. Sound is delivered by a driver through a protruding metal cylinder. There's a purposeful reassurance in the durability. And, thanks to a nano-coating, they're also resistant to sweat and rain - so you can workout or exercise in any conditions and they should survive.
They're comfortable enough to wear for long periods, although the default medium tips do feel a little larger than those we're used to testing. Still, this was a good thing in some ways, as it effectively sealed out ambient noise leaving us immersed in the audio rather than being distracted by what was going on around us.
More importantly, the earphones are very secure regardless of activity. They didn't once feel like they would fall out when we were running. And while we didn't need them, there are cord clips designed to hold the earphones really snugly to your head too.
Beyond the earphones is an inline remote control, shaped like a large pill, with buttons that are easy to reach. It features another useful inclusion: gold connection points for the proprietary charging cable. Rather than fit the earphones with the standard, space-hogging Micro-USB port, you just snap the cradle onto the inline remote, and it charges the battery. This cradle houses a Micro-USB port, so you can attach it to any existing cable you have lying around, you don't need to try to use the very short one that comes with the earphones.
Jaybird X3 review: Features and performance
- 8-hour battery life
- Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity
Jaybird states that you should expect up to eight hours of music playing from a fully-charged battery. In our testing, we achieved close to that: our battery was down to 80 per cent after around 90 minutes of use.
Likewise, the Bluetooth connection between the X3 and our iPhone was very reliable. It never dropped, and there were no glitches even during running or kettlebell sessions.
Unlike a lot of modern sports earphones, the X3 don't profess to be "hearables", which means they're purely for music listening. There are no sensors for measuring heart rate, and nothing to track your steps, pace or cadence.
It's audio only - and no surprise, given their £109 price point. If you already have a Fitbit or Apple Watch strapped to your wrist, there's no need for added sensors in your earphones. Instead, you just need music to drive you through your most gruelling sessions. And these can certainly do that.
Jaybird X3 review: Sound quality
- 6mm drivers
- Passive noise isolation
- Attractive, intuitive app
One of the best things from a sound perspective is the method in which you can customise the profile to suit your mood, the music you're listening to, or your activity. It's all done through Jaybird's iOS or Android app.
The app offers multiple ways to customise the sound of the X3 earphones. One of those is a manual equaliser, which is attractive and simple to use. Dots on your device's screen signal where you can adjust, while moving them changes the curves and contours of the boosted/cut frequencies with a flowing, attractive animation.
Once you have a sound you like, you can set it as a preset, then get about creating another new one. You can also choose to share your presets with the wider Jaybird community.
Likewise, you can head to the "Discover" tab to take a look (or listen) at some sound profiles created by other users. There are many, many sounds to choose from, all organised in easy-to-navigate sections based on genre, with a section of curated profiles chosen by Jaybird staffers. There's also a featured carousel at the top of the page showing off the trending sound profiles. What that means to the average consumer is that you can have customised sound without having to mess with the equaliser yourself.
Interestingly, one of the other app features is the ability to swap left and right sides. So if you prefer to have the inline remote hanging from your left year, rather than your right, you can swap them over and still have the layers of music playing through their intended sides.
As for the sound itself, the audio is plenty loud enough. By default there's plenty of bass to fill out the sound profile - which is pleasant and immersive rather than overpowering. Even with a flat EQ setting, every kind of music we tested was enjoyable to listen to. Whether that be Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, Coldplay's latest single or heavier, bassier songs.
If there's a criticism, it's only that the audio isn't the most crystal clear. But at this price what you get from the X3 is outstanding.
The Jaybird X3 earphones are lightweight, easy to carry around, great to use while exercising, and have impressive audio that's infinitely customisable via an intuitive app.
There's no extras for fitness-tracking, but given the anticipated £109 price tag (due end of March 2017) we're not surprised. Nor do we care - because earphones this good would normally cost upwards of £150.
For most people the X3 will be an ideal everyday partner - whether you're into sports or not. Looking for affordable sports earphones without the compromise? Look no further.
Powerbeats 3 Wireless
Powerbeats 3 Wireless make great earphones for use during runs and workouts, and the over-ear hooks ensure they won't leave the sides of your head in a hurry. They're immersive and last a very long time on a single charge, comfortably outlasting most other earphones on the list. If you're an iPhone user, the built in W1 chip makes pairing and connecting much more convenient.
Read the full review: Powerbeats 3 Wireless review: Beats and bass
Bose SoundSport Pulse
As sports headphones go, the SoundSport Pulse are among the best we've tested in terms of sound quality, but their design is a tiny bit clunky. They also come with a heart-rate monitor to track your pulse while you run, although you can pick up a non-HR model for £149. They have more comfortable tips, but their battery isn't as long lasting as the Jaybirds'.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Pulse review: Fine sounding sports earphones