Jaybird’s a fledgling audio company when compared to some of its veteran rivals. What the plucky upstart does have going for it is a laser-like focus on sports and recreational headphones. Where other audio companies might have a sporty offering or two, you know what you’re getting with Jaybird – headphones that can deal with the rigours of exercise and sweat. Lots and lots of sweat.
The Jaybird Freedom appear to be conventional neckband-style sports headphones, although they’re special in the sense that the earbuds themselves are made from metal. This is uncommon for Bluetooth headphones, due to metal typically hindering the Bluetooth signal.
There are four different colours available: Carbon (black), Gold (with white), Blaze (red) and Ocean (blue). There are also two shades exclusive to Apple stores in colours to match the Space Grey and Rose Gold iPhone finishes.
Each earbud is also impressively tiny and light, yet feels really well constructed and robust. They’re a fraction of the size of the Jaybird X2’s. The size and weight is helped by the fact that the battery is moved to the in-line microphone and remote control unit. But with this design choice comes a rather limited four-hour battery life.
That’s not great, especially because that’s barely more than some truly wireless earbuds provide – those are earbuds that are completely cord-free. The Apple AirPods can supposedly last five hours on a single charge, while many standard wireless neckband-style Bluetooth headphones I’ve tested have offered up to eight hours of continuous use.
To alleviate these battery woes, Jaybird includes a separate charging unit, which clips onto the back of the remote control and can provide a further four hours. You can also leave the charging unit attached and listen while you charge, but this adds additional weight and isn’t ideal. Luckily, 20 minutes of charge will net you another hour of listening.
Fit is key when it comes to sports headphones. There’s nothing worse than headphones that constantly slip out or cables that bounce around or get caught when you're working out. But while you want a secure fit, you also want comfort.
In this regard, the Jaybird Freedom cover a lot of bases. There are multiple ways you can wear them, be that inserted straight into your ear canal or looped over the back of your ears and inserted upside down. Then you can choose to have the cable draped across the back of your neck or dangling down in front.
Three pairs of different-sized silicone tips are included alongside three pairs of compressible Comply foam tips that provide a more secure and isolating fit, too. Then there are four different-sized wingtips used to lock the headphones to your outer ear.
Simply put, there’s no shortage of accessories and wearing styles to find what works for you. A travel pouch is also included, but it’s not going to offer any real protection.
Looping the Jaybird Freedom over the back of your ears will be the most secure method – especially when paired with the cable-management options that are also provided.
There are two cord-management clips included, although you can use just the one if you want. These can be used to take in the extra slack, so the cable doesn’t bounce around behind your head while you run or exercise. Then there’s also a collar clip thrown in as well. I found that if I didn’t use the cord management, the weight of the remote made the headphones feel a little lop-sided, so it’s worth doing even if it is a little fiddly to get right.
If it sounds like there’s a dizzying array of options, you’d be right. Jaybird has an instructional video on its website and I’d heartily recommend dedicating a bit of time to familiarising yourself with the choices. I lost nearly 40 minutes experimenting before I found a customisation I was happy with, so don’t expect to grab these out of the box and immediately hit the gym or start pounding the pavement.
Once I was happy, there was no budging the headphones from my ears, and they survived both the rhythmic bouncing of running as well as the more spontaneous, explosive movements of weight training.
However, I found that the wingtips began to bruise my outer ear slightly after prolonged use. A slightly more supple material wouldn’t have gone amiss. Using the Comply foam tips was also a little fiddly, especially when wearing the headphones in the upside-down configuration. Occasionally they would pop off when trying to compress them.
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There’s a Jaybird MySound companion app available on iOS and Android that lets you adjust the Jaybird Freedom’s sound. The great thing is that the sound adjustments you make are transferred to the headphones, so they’ll follow you to whatever device you connect them to and you don’t have to keep the app installed if you don’t want to.
It’s just a shame you can’t store multiple different listening profiles on the headphones and toggle between them using the remote. That way, you could have an EQ perfectly adjusted to when you’re listening to tranquil classical music during a run, or tuned towards spoken dialogue for podcasts, then a bass-heavy customisation when you’re hitting the weights and need an extra bolt of adrenaline. As it stands, you’ll need to reach for the app.
The standard out-of-the-box EQ is called "Signature" and is actually reasonably good for most scenarios. The bass plays a little fast and loose for my taste, veering into rather boomy territory, but that’s not unheard of for sports headphones. It means vocals can often sound a little recessed and the mids rather thin.
Thankfully, you can either choose from a range of pre-adjusted EQs, some of which are supposedly by Jaybird’s athlete partners, or just adjust one yourself using the simple EQ adjustment sliders. It’s easiest to start from the Flat EQ and adjust from there. A handy "History" slider lets you undo incremental changes.
Overall, the Freedom are some of the better-sounding sports headphones I’ve tested. There’s plenty of energy and presence to their delivery, so with a bit of tuning it’s not too difficult to find a sound profile you’ll enjoy if you’re nonplussed by their out-of-the-box sonics.
Microphone performance was surprisingly good, even when you’ve used the cord management to put the remote and microphone essentially flush against the back of your head. The microphones did capture some rustling of my hair, but they managed to pick up the sound of my voice without any problems, and callers didn’t express any problems with hearing me.
If you’ve struggled to find sports headphones that feel secure, the Jaybird Freedom are worth considering. Chances are that, with such a range of fit options, you should be able to find one that's suitable. They do, however, take a lot of setup time to get right, which isn’t something you say about most headphones.
The battery life is an issue at four hours of continuous playback, with only another four from the charging clip. It means you need to think about a degree of battery management, which isn’t great if you normally just leave your sports headphones in your gym bag. The charging clip can also be easily lost – and that's the only way to charge them.
They’re also a little expensive up against some rivals that have dropped in price, such as the Jabra Sport Pulse. But if you’re looking for headphones that aren’t going to budge, have great build quality and sound great, the Jaybird Freedom are definitely worth considering.
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The Jaybird Freedom require a lot of setup time, but it’s worth it if you need a secure fit from your sports headphones.