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Jaybird's Freedom wireless earbuds balance sound and battery life

Engadget Engadget 23/05/2016 Billy Steele
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True to its word, Jaybird's latest wireless sport earbuds are making their debut in the first half of 2016. The company's $200 Freedom in-ears are now available and I've been putting them through their paces for the past few days. This new model follows Jaybird's popular X2, adding customized sound through a companion app and an accessory that could end your battery woes. It's that mix of sound and features that makes the Freedom a worthy competitor when it comes to fitness-focused in-ear headphones.

Let's chat about the size of the Jaybird Freedom first. The buds themselves are 20-percent smaller than previous models, which leads to a better overall fit for more people. Don't think the smaller speakers means smaller sound though, as the audio quality didn't take a hit (more on that in a bit). There's also an assortment of rubber and foam tips in the box so you can use the material that works best for your ears. Those fin-like hooks are here as well, only this time they're removable for the times when a more traditional fit will do just fine. And yes, those are sweat-proof earbuds.

There are two key features that make the Freedom in-ears worth considering. The first is a charging clip that snaps on the in-line controls to double battery life. Without it, you can expect around four hours worth of power, but adding it doubles that time. In a hurry? Attaching the clip for 20 minutes will give you enough juice to make it through an hour-long workout or run. What's more, that add-on doesn't weigh down the earbuds with a lot extra heft either. You'll notice it, but the added weight doesn't become a burden.

The second useful feature is the MySound companion app. With that software, you can choose from a number of pre-selected EQ settings or build your own. I started with the preset from Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando as a basis for creating my settings for the earbuds. Rimando is one of many Jaybird personalities who made their EQ preferences available for the app, but there's also a smattering of genre-specific templates. More useful that just being able to tweak the sound, those changes sync to the Freedom headphones so that no matter what device you're using them with, the sound you like it always available.

Jaybird's Freedom wireless earbuds sound good out of the box, but after a couple of minutes futzing with the EQ, I had them tuned to match even the best in-ears I'd tried. I'm a big fan of Sennheiser's Momentum wired buds, but the sound I was able to achieve through the customizable settings easily rivals those. There's plenty of bass without becoming overpowering, with a well-rounded overall sounds across bluegrass, hip-hop, metal, rock and electronic artists. My only real complaint is that I wish they were a tad bit louder. When I'm working out, I like my music cranked up, but I'm willing to admit it's a personal preference.

By now you've likely noticed that those in-line controls are closer to one side rather than sitting in the middle. My initial concern was that all of the wireless components that had been crammed in that housing would pull that earbud out during any physical activity. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that's not the case. While it's true that all of the tech is situated inside that remote, Jaybird managed to do so without adding noticeable weight. I didn't once feel like those controls were pulling the headphone out of my ear on that side.

There's some small touches that make using the Jaybird Freedom an enjoyable experience. For example, when you first turn them on and pair them with a device, there's a voice cue to let you know the in-ears are paired. It also lets you know how much battery life you have left. For me, this was particularly useful because it told me whether or not I needed to put that charging clip in my pocket when I got out of my car at the gym. Of course, with the ability to plug in that accessory separate from the earbuds, there's a chance you might never completely run out of battery.

As I've already mentioned, the Jaybird Freedom is on sale today for $200 and comes in four colors: white/gold, black/silver, red and blue. If a mix of customizable sound and battery life is what you're after when it comes to wireless sport earbuds, you'll want to give these a look. And when the time comes open your wallet, you can do so at the company's website or Best Buy for now. More retailers will offer these in-ear headphones in the months to come.

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