Introduction

You know when you buy a new gadget, then start using it for the first time and come to realise that the company that made it genuinely put a lot of thought into the features, ergonomics, and performance?

The Jaybird X3 is one such product.

Jaybird refers to the X3 as "headphones", but you and I know them better as earphones. For this reason, and to save confusion, I will be calling them earphones in this review.

These are not my first wireless earphones, they aren't my second or third either, but they are certainly the most memorable, and the pair that I can see myself not needing to upgrade for a very long time. The last pair that gave me this kind of feeling was the Sennheiser IE80, but I then discovered wireless freedom when decent Bluetooth earphones became a reality,

At the time of writing, there is no direct European retail outlet for the X3. I understand that we should have them in stores very soon, although international buyers can still purchase them from the official Jaybird store. Just be wary that import duty may be applied by your local customs handling body.

I purchased them from eBay two weeks ago when the Jaybird store had them out of stock for UK shipping. They are in stock now, and had I waited, I could have saved £50 at least... Such is life.

Features

The X3 has some stand-out features that add to the listening experience for me. For one, the MySound app (Android / iOS) allows you to tailor the EQ from 20Hz to 20KHz and save custom profiles that can be shared with other users of the app. The app also shows the battery level, both integrated into the app, and an optional notification icon within the phone OS.

The X3 also has a very simple way to directly check battery level by pressing either of the volume buttons when there is no audio playing. An American voice will speak out the remaining percentage.

It is worth mentioning that this audio notification is rounded to the nearest 10%, so an actual 42% as shown via the app is spoken out as 40%.

Long pressing the play/pause button for more than a second launches Google Now on Android, and Siri on iOS. The same button can answer or reject incoming calls, with the ability to redial the last number with a double press. Speaking of which, voice quality seems good. The microphone is sensitive enough that my voice was able to be heard when the X3 was worn using the over-ear method.

On top of that, you can also team up two pairs of X3s whereby one will share the audio being sent to it with the other pair. I personally have no use for this, but it may appeal to some out there.

Micro USB via an included proprietary attachment dongle is the only way to charge the X3. The dongle can be detached so that a different micro USB cable can be used.

I find the use of this dongle for charging a bit pointless, as it means you must keep it on your person in the event the battery level gets too low and a top-up is required. Why not just use a micro USB port like everyone else?

The charging LED turns green when full, and flashes red at 10% remaining

Charging takes 2.5 hours for 8 hours of listening time. The input current is fixed at 500mA, so any USB port on any modern device will be able to charge the X3 at the same rate.

Specifications

MySound app compatibility iOS and Android only
Noise-isolation Passive

Impedance

16 ohms
Speaker sensitivity 96 +-3dB At 1KHz
Frequency response 20Hz - 20kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion <3% (1KHz, 1mW)
Power output 5mW nominal, 10mW max

Driver Size

6mm
Bluetooth v4.1, handsfree, headset, A2DP, AVCRP, SPP
Battery 8 hours playback, 2.5 hours charge time, 20 minutes charge = 1hour playback
Microphone

MEMS, Omni directional, ultra low power
-38dB +-3dB (Test conditions: 1KHz, 0dB = 1V/Pa)

Weight

0.63oz (17.9g)
Prices USA: $129.99
Canada: $159.99
UK: £109.99
Europe: €129.99
Source: Jaybird direct

Contents and construction

The inclusion of three different sizes of Comply premium memory foam tips is very welcome. A single pair of Comply premium tips start at around $12, so having three pairs in different sizes bundled in the box is a great bonus.

Aside from the memory foam tips, there are also silicone tips in the same sizes, two cable loops, and a shirt collar clip included. For those that like them, fins are also included for a more secure fit.

The earphones are made out of a matte rubbery plastic. They feel solid and high end compared to cheaper earphones I've had before. The barrel section the ear tips fit onto are made of metal, and there is a filter on each to protect against moisture and dirt.

The cable is not flat; it would have been nice to see a round flexible cable, as flat ones end up twisting in the pocket I find. Nevertheless, it is still thin and flexible enough to not be too much bother.

The illustrations and photos in both online and paper literature were slightly confusing. They show the right side earphone on the left ear, even though the text instructions indicate that the earpiece with the button pad attached is the right channel.

I later figured out what was going on. The MySound app allows you to swap the channels around, and the literature assumes that buyers are aware of this feature already. Perhaps the instructions could be clearer in this regard.

I did tweet Jaybird about this initially, and within the hour had a reply from them saying it was being looked into. Pretty swift response time on social media!

Performance

For anyone with a Samsung Galaxy phone, the first thing I recommend doing when trying new earphones is to tailor the audio chip to them, and in turn, your ears.

This can be done from Settings > Sounds & Vibration > Sound quality & effects > Adapt Sound.

Sound quality exceeded my expectations. The X3 has a wide soundstage with an openness to it that I have not heard on an earphone before. My previous Bluetooth buds, the Bienna QY8, had excellent sound characteristics as well, but the Jaybird X3 improves upon all the positives of the QY8.

Size comparison against the QY8

Playing an acoustic or live recording, you could be forgiven for thinking they were open ported. I can best relate the signature of the sound to how it feels when listening to the Sennheiser HD650. A good mixture of smooth, warm, and natural sounds, and excellent instrument separation.

There is no obvious sign of sibilance, and the bass hits quite low, but not to the point of being boomy. It all feels "right".

My local music collection consists of many genres and in different states of mastering quality. Poor recordings are more obvious on the X3 than on the QY8, for example, and is more in-line with the Sennheiser IE80.

Find a great track with excellent mastering, though, and you really get to hear what the X3 is capable of, no matter the genre.

Battery life appears to be on point with what Jaybird claims. I have not listened for eight hours straight, but on and off, every two hours appears to consume 25% of battery. Not quite the 10-12 hours of other premium brand wireless earphones, but it's certainly decent.

Comfort

With the Comply tips installed and the over the ear method used, I found the X3s to be very comfortable. The memory foam tips warm up and mould to the inner contour of the ears within moments, creating isolation from outside noise. It is worth noting that because these are passive noise cancelling buds, you will still hear loud noises within the vicinity.

I walk approximately five miles a day, and had no problem with the X3s staying put. I have to say that the cable clip system for over the ear wear is ingenious, moving my head around all manner of angles didn't budge the cable or buds one bit.

Conclusion

I was afraid I'd not like the Jaybird earphones, even though I read nothing but praise for them, and in fact the company itself. I have already owned some excellent affordable wireless earphones, as well as high-end wired ones, so the X3s had high expectations that needed to be met for their price.

In this regard, I would say that the Jaybird X3 hits the mark perfectly. An excellent bang for buck earphones that not only delivers a premium sound but has the ergonomics and accessories to match.

Everything seems to just work, and work exceptionally well at that. Even the free app is very polished.

It is a shame that Jaybird chose to use the charging dongle instead of a standard USB connection directly on the X3, a point has to be taken away due to this.

But even so, it is a very easy nine out of ten in my books.

 

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