[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 14 March 2015]
Bluetooth headsets are rapidly becoming the way to fly, doing away with annoyances like having to shudder have wires connecting your headphones to your stereo.
I’ve used both the Jabra Revo and JayBird BlueBuds X for several months and they’re both good for their intended purposes but have drawbacks.
By their very nature of having to provide their own power, Bluetooth headphones add annoyances like having to remember to charge your headphones or you will indeed have a quiet and boring workout session. For myself I always make sure to top the BlueBuds off before each session—life’s too short to stress about your headphones dying in the middle of a workout.
The BlueBuds X and the Revos share, obviously, their lack of wires, but also the use of pleasant female voices to tell you when they are connected and disconnected as well as fairly odd interface schemes.
Let’s begin with the BlueBuds, which solve a real, albeit first-world, problem: Wires are annoying when you’re working out. Less of a problem when you’re on the couch, but at the gym or running, ugh, wires, amirite?
Though no matter whether you’re looking to rock out at the gym or you want to walk around your house listening to tunes without wires, you have to deal with the “interesting” control schemes on both these headphones.
On the BlueBuds, you have to accept that the standard up volume, down volume, double-click to forward scheme has been transformed into, well, something.
I, personally, can’t understand it, whatever it is. And it involves volume up or down beeping. Seriously, I know you caught the click when you turned down the volume. I didn’t need to hear a beep to know that. And the double-click, well, I don’t know what the hell is happening there. I just want it to skip forward, but it doesn’t. It’s weird.
The Revos, on the other hand, have this whole odd future thing going on where you can swipe on the right can to change the volume and click different locations to forward or backward.
Sigh. It’s not good. Unless perhaps if you have way better eye to hand coordination than I do. It’s a lot of moving your finger in the general area and guessing and cursing and wishing you were better at guessing where your finger is.
The BlueBuds are tiny little things and you have a bit of an arts and crafts project ahead of you when you first take them out of the box. Since they’re in-ears you need to find your tip size and since they come with flaps, or wings, if you prefer, that need to be fitted to your ears.
After you find your size, you have to adjust the strap—through a pretty cunning mechanism—so it’s snug against your head. Do not half-ass this step or you will be very unhappy in downward dog. Or so I’ve heard.
Once you’ve gone through the setup, what you have is a set of headphones that, though a little bit of a pain to put on, will stay snug through pretty strenuous workouts and that sound … decent. The BlueBuds do sound much better than the Apple EarPods and are impressive for their size, but the bass is lacking for any anthems you want to crank at the gym to push yourself.
But if you don’t enjoy the bass you’ll find them good. I’m hoping the next generation will find some way to get more solid bass.
Note that the set in the picture above have been fitted with Comply S-500 tips, which makes them sit better in the ears—an option I recommend, but note that fitting the tips on the BlueBuds will involve some determined pushing.
The Jabra Revos, on the other hand, have a much more substantial size which gets you much longer battery life and an almost ridiculous amount of bass. The Revos are tuned for earthquake. Personally, I’m a simple man and I do enjoy the bass, so it’s not a problem, but if you like your headphones flat the Revos will probably annoy you.
(Incidentally, why, oh freaking why, does iOS still not have a system-wide equalizer? Shakes fist in general direction of Cupertino. People listen to audio a lot on these devices…)
Speaking of annoyances, one thing I haven’t seen mentioned in any reviews is that Bluetooth is highly susceptible to microwave interference so every time I’m cooking dinner and have to warm something in the microwave I find myself a little sad as the Revos start cutting out unless I go into a corner as far away from the microwave oven as possible until it’s done.
Note also that the Bluetooth stack in iOS (in my case an iPhone 6) does have a tendency to blow a gasket once in a while, leading to intermittent audio dropouts until you reboot the phone or turn Bluetooth off and on. It’s happened on both these products, but strangely never on my car stereo. Shrug.
Looks like “Did you try turning it off and on again” will stay in the IT professional arsenal for a long time.
Final thoughts: The BlueBuds are excellent for exercising. The sound is a little weaker than I’d like for the money, but acceptable, and the Revos are great if you can stomach a lot of bass. Cutting the headphone cords is a huge upgrade and it does seem inevitable this is the way of the future.
Oh, and speaking of future, the Revos have power-up and power-down sounds that make my inner 12-year-old happy every time I use them.
Note: The product links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which is greatly appreciated.