Turkey. Ham. Eggnog. With Christmas looming, you’re getting a little concerned for your loved one, who seems to be a little too… jovial. While there is a plethora of tech gifts you could consider, fitness audio makes for an extremely practical and meaningful gift for someone you truly love (and truly wish would get into shape). At USD99, you might have been considering the Jaybird Freedom 2. VR Zone checks out the Jaybird Freedom 2 to find out if it truly is the value proposition it claims to be.
Full disclosure: the Freedom 2 is a review set on loan by Jaybird to VR Zone.
The Freedom 2 comes in a slightly lightweight but aesthetically pleasant box with sufficient relief, texture and sheen to feel premium. The sleeve slides off to reveal a black box with the Jaybird logo. The front lid flips like a book to reveal the earbuds. Accouterments like the manual, USB cable and charging clip, shirt clip, three extra sizes of ear inserts, and a rubber carrying case can be found underneath this cardboard-and-foam panel.
I received the Gold pair, but the Freedom 2 also comes in Carbon (black) and Steelblue (blue).
While the colour took some getting used to, the form factor was easy to negotiate. The warped teardrop shape is reminiscent of the Klipsch X10 (and X11 and X12), a series of headphones I personally hold in high regard in terms of design (and audio quality, but more on that later).
Ergonomics and build quality
Jaybird prides itself in being an athletic brand first – not an audio company. This immediately set my expectations in place: the fit and functionality would be optimised at the expense of audio quality or other non-athletic characteristics.
Let’s start with the good.
The buttons and control panel is exceedingly well-built and confidence inspiring. Clicky and responsive. As above, I appreciated the form factor of the earpiece housings. The usage of aluminium in the exterior sure does add to the sturdiness and premium feeling of the earphone. The earphone comes with a useful clip and a nifty adjustment feature that allows users to obtain the optimal cable length to match their necks.
Going for the inaugural run, I began to have a few concerns.
Firstly, the control box resides under the right cable for ease of adjustment. This, in practice, pulls the slack from the cable that runs behind the neck, causing the left side to be more taut. This isn’t a problem, usually, but when in a country like Singapore with Left-Hand Drive, glancing over your right shoulder to check for turning cars with a taut cable between your left ear and shoulder isn’t very comfortable. Earphones like the Sudio Tre solved this problem by placing an identical box under the left earpiece to balance the cables out.
The adjustment mechanism (the rubber bands holding the loops of cable) might be a great idea since individuals of different neck lengths can optimise the cable length to their liking. However, the excess of cable and the weight of the rubber bands tended to catch on my neck with some resistance, adding to the aforementioned difficulty associated with neck-turning.
I then drafted this article and visited the Jaybird website – only to find out that the earphones could also be worn another way. You put them on upside down with the wires going over the ear. The SpeedFit cable management system is then pulled taught so the earphones rests snugly behind your head. While this makes the earphones almost non-existent, and alleviates the issue of the cable hindering head movements, some issues still persisted.
The ear inserts provided an excellent seal, and held the earpiece in place securely. However, the moulded fin does not stick upright enough to gain leverage on one of the cartilaginous bits in my ear. Equivalent earphones use the silicone fin-like protrusion to brace the earpiece in place to prevent wiggle and sliding. I tried three sizes to no avail; perhaps my ears are deformed.
Moreover, the housing of the earphones stuck out such that that when the cables were pulled taut, the earpieces were pulled out of the ear canal, resulting in a precarious fit.
Jaybird is a subsidiary of consumer tech giant Logitech, which makes plenty of audio accessories. You would then assume the advantage it has in the market would be in the audio department.
You’re absolutely right.
The audio is crisp, clear and accurate. I currently personally own and use about 10 sets of earphones, earbuds and headphones from the likes of Shure, AKG, Koss and Sennheiser, and I was struck by the quality of the Freedom 2 despite being a Bluetooth sport earphone.
The Jaybird’s soundstage is incredibly wide, and bass replication accurate and detailed. Mids have sufficient body while the Highs require a little fiddling in the ear before it sounded just right. If the Jaybird Freedom 2 were a concert, I would be standing. Smiling. Clapping slowly. Good job, Jaybird, good job.
I would avoid more food-based metaphors, but Jaybird adds more icing on the cake: customisable sound presents and EQ sliders in their free Jaybird App. Great for picky folk like me.
The Freedom 2 soars above the competition in this regard, despite Jaybird’s branding and philosophy as mentioned in the earlier segment. With most phones giving the 3.5mm audio jack a miss, the Jaybird Freedom 2 is a real choice for Bluetooth audio on the go. This means that the Freedom 2 is able to fulfill a dual purpose – always a neat feature of any gift. More than enough reason to overlook the slight issues in the ergonomics department. Most only run for a couple of minutes a day, anyway. On a treadmill or track, too.
The Freedom 2 lasts four hours on a single charge, with an added four with the included charging clip/cradle combination. You have to charge both units at the same time, snapping the control box of the Freedom 2 into the clip before plugging the included micro USB cable into the port on the clip.
The charging clip could help extend the battery life eight hours, but I felt it was a little small and easy to lose. Be extra vigilant if you’re not very careful with your belongings.
Despite this, four hours is plenty for a day’s worth of commuting to work before an hour and a half of my gym session.
Pairing was fast and hassle-free as expected.
Powering on with a long-press on the middle button on the control panel, the approximate battery life is announced verbally, and a cheerful, great sounding voice announces the unit has powered on.
Final Words & Recommendations
While the Jaybird Freedom 2 might not be the best fitting fitness earphone in the market right now, it could be due to irregular head geometry on my part, or some other reason. Despite this, the Jaybirds have, to me, set the standard for Bluetooth audio. With its incredible sound quality, the Freedom 2 makes for an excellent all-rounder for the gym rat that also has to face an hour-long commute to and from work. Just do be sure to test out a unit in person to ensure ergonomics aren’t an issue with you!
Housing: Composite, Aluminum
Finish: Satin polished metal parts
Model: In Ear, Bluetooth 4.1
Battery time: 4 hours (active), 8 hours (with recharge from charging clip), 110 hours (standby)
Charging time: 20 minutes = 1 hour (quick), 180 minutes (full)
Driver: 6 mm driver
Sensitivity: 96 ± 3dB SPL @ 1 kHz 1mV
Impedance: 16 Ohm
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz