Product Review: Blue Buds X

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In training for the 2013 Route 66 Marathon, my Motorola S9-HD malfunctioned apparently because my sweat made it past the seals and damaged the internal components. Yeah, I sweat a lot.  After fighting with cables again for far too long, I researched wireless options. Though the Motorola’s were pretty good, they only lasted a little over 1 year, didn’t fit all that well, and due to the fit, the sound was at best mediocre.

After significant research, I purchased JayBird’s Blue Buds X (BBX) bluetooth headphones. They were unconscionably expensive so they had to be great, right? Right???  In a lot of ways, the BBX are great, but that statement comes with several caveats.  Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

It’s all about the fit.  These headphones sound extremely good for bluetooth ear buds. In fact, if I were given a choice between Blue Buds X and Beats, I would choose the BBX. That said, if I listened to the BBX without a proper fit, I would prefer $5 gas station ear buds. You must spend the time making sure they fit right.

The BBX come with 3 different sizes of ear tips and 3 different sizes of ear cushions. To get the best sound, you must select the proper size ear tip. To keep the best sound during your workout, you must select the proper size ear cushion and position it correctly. Everybody’s ears are different so there is no tried and true process of determining the correct fit. I used the small ear cushions for several months before trying the medium cushions yet I have to use the largest ear tips. You just have to experiment with it over time and see what works.

Beyond the fit options, you also have the option of wearing the cable over or under your ears.

I tried the over-ear option once. After spending 15-20 minutes adjusting the cushions and securing the cable with the cord management clips, I went out for a trail run. It was an extremely hot day so the sweat was fast and heavy. As soon as a drop of sweat dripped into my ear, the previously very secure BBX popped right out. I had to stop and switch to the under-ear option after trying several times to get the ear bud to stay in place.

In the under-ear position, the sound is great, and the BBX are relatively secure. There are a few challenges, though:

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  • When the music is not very loud, the cable bouncing on your neck sounds a little like bumping a stethoscope.
  • The cord tends to jump to one side or the other. I find myself pulling it back to the middle pretty frequently.
  • Once or twice per mile running, I find myself pushing one or both buds back into my ear.
  • If I’m sweating heavily or if it’s raining, it can be a challenge to keep the ear buds in place.

So for running, I think the fit is good enough, and for strength training, I can’t imagine using another style of headphone. Headphones that have hard plastic around the back of your head get in the way on bench exercises, and corded headphones tend to get tangled up and create safety issues with various exercises. Having a small cord sitting on the back of my neck has been much better.

The battery life is remarkable as long as you’re fully aware that the advertised 8 hours of battery life is at low to medium volume. I tend to listen to music on my iPhone as loud as it will go with the BBX, and I’ve found a 2.5-3 hour limit at that volume. If you turn it down, though, you should be able to get 8 hours. I think I’ve gone as high as 6 hours for home use. The BBX also charge within 2 hours so it doesn’t take long to get back to it once you eventually run the battery down.

The music and call controls are a little difficult to use, but that’s mainly because I have big, shaky hands. It’s not unusual for me to yank the right ear bud out of my ear trying to switch a song or adjust the volume. Additionally, the voice prompts in response to controls are a bit abrupt with how they mute the music, but it’s fine once you get used to it. Just remember to keep the BBX in your ears for powering off and back on so you don’t accidentally hold the button until the device shifts into pairing mode. I’ve ended up with dead headphones a few times due to leaving them on inadvertently. 

The microphone works surprisingly well. I’ve received phone calls on windy Oklahoma days while running, and I have yet to receive any complaints about difficulty hearing me over the noise. Beyond exercise, if I’m going to be on a long work call, it’s not unusual for me to use my BBX instead of the supposedly better suited Logitech headset.

Overall, I am very happy with my Blue Buds X, but I wish I could find a fit that would allow me to avoid adjusting the cable and ear buds frequently during runs. Even with some of the problems, though, I’m not sure there’s a better bluetooth headphone out there.

Pros:

  • High quality sound for a bluetooth ear bud
  • Amazing battery life
  • Better than expected microphone quality
  • Sweat and water resistant

Cons:

  • Secure fit option defeated by sweat and rain
  • Normal fit option also susceptible to sweat and rain
  • Frequent adjustments needed during running
  • Does not work well with balaclavas

 

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