About once a year, I end up buying new earbuds.
Through a combination of being thrown into my pocket or bag everyday, enduring rough workouts, and who knows what else, one year seems to be my average for how long I can make a pair of earbuds last. If the earbuds’ drivers start crackling, the in-line-remote stops working, or the materials start cracking or peeling, it’s time for something new.
After years of this happening consistently, one might think I’d be tired of it. But I’m not. I know it’s nowhere near economical, but I enjoy the chance once a year to check out whatever new technology or designs have been released since my last earbud purchase. Humor me: We’ll call it “staying up to date.”
Last year I made the jump to bluetooth with the Beats Powerbeats 2, and I was really happy with the experience of wireless earbuds and how they held up. Not having to worry about wires while writing, walking around, and especially while out on a run was a huge improvement over being tethered down with a wired pair. I doubt I’ll ever go back, and so I was specifically looking for a hot new pair of bluetooth buds when browsing for this year’s purchase.
Jaybird is another company that’s been pushing the bar when it comes to wireless earbuds in past years, and their new Jaybird Freedom Wireless earbuds had just hit stores around the time I was looking to buy. Their design looked like it could be the next logical evolution of wireless earbuds, and they had a feature that addressed one of few remaining problems I had with using bluetooth for audio.
It’s a couple months later now, and I think I’ve got this particular pair of headphones figured out. Last year’s jump into bluetooth was a sea-change from my experiences prior. And while I’m not expecting the Jaybirds to impact my usage as much as switching to bluetooth itself did, I do want to see them improve on what I’ve used before.
Since getting the Jaybirds a couple months ago, I’ve shown them to a handful of people, and all of them, without fail, have reacted in one of two ways:
- “Wow, those are small!” or
- “Those look good!”
These were the same reactions I had the first time I laid hands on the Freedom Wireless. The immediate thing that stands out is the way they push design forward from previous bluetooth designs with their smaller casings.
Jaybird cites some technical innovations that allowed them to shrink the driver size and use an all-metal body while still retaining sound quality and signal. The result is great. The buds are tiny — even smaller than Apple’s default-standard EarPods — and certainly much smaller than any other bluetooth earbuds I’ve seen to date.
There is some plastic used in the construction, but the earbuds themselves are made from metal — most of that being a pleasing sandblasted aluminum that we’ve come to know and love from Apple’s products. Among black, red, and blue colorways, the Freedom earbuds also come in the signature champagne-gold that Apple’s been championing in recent years. It fits in with the rest of my kit nicely.
In the box, Jaybird have included a host of options to help everyone find a comfortable way to hold the Freedoms in your ears. You’ll find Jaybird’s signature wingtips, some rubber tips, and Comply foam tips, all in three different sizes. The buds also come with some cable-shorteners designed to help with an over-the-ear style fit.
Speaking of those cables, they’re a traditional round design that has a decent length to it — though not enough so the earbuds could tangle in your pocket like a traditional wired pair of buds. The cables are thicker than the ones you’d find on Apple’s EarPods, but it inspires confidence in the Freedom’s durability instead of causing annoyance.
Travel down the cable from the right earbud and you’ll find the Freedom’s built-in remote and mic. The Freedom’s remote is a bit larger than you’d usually see, but it sports the usual volume up, down, and play/pause buttons along with a microphone and status-LED.
The center button is how you power on and off the Jaybirds. A four-second hold powers up the earbuds, while the volume up and down buttons can be used to skip forwards and back in your music, or to mute and un-mute calls in addition.
Turn the Jaybird’s remote over to the back though, and you’ll spy something a little less standard — five golden contact pins appear next to the Jaybird branding. In order to make the Freedom’s casings so small, Jaybird had to put the battery found in bluetooth earbuds somewhere else. And well, the remote is pretty much the only place you could physically put it.
This is the reason the Jaybird’s remote is so much larger in size. The four-hour battery’s longevity is admittedly not all that great, but instead of hiding a micro-USB port under a fiddly flap, the Freedoms use a little clip-on charger to save space and get a boost in play-time. Here’s where those pin-holes on the back of the remote come into play. The clip-on charger can be a bit fiddly, but it has another four-hours worth of charge, totaling up to eight hours from the buds and charger combined. This essentially puts the Jaybirds into the acceptable range of battery life for modern bluetooth headphones, even if indirectly so.
The charger is also where you’ll find the Freedom’s micro-USB port for the recharging of both the clip and earbuds. Plug the clip into both the included micro-USB cable and the Freedoms and they’ll charge simultaneously. Jaybird says a 20 minute fast-charge will get you enough juice for 1 hour of playback, and in my testing it took just over 90 minutes to charge the Freedoms from empty.
The last thing included with the Jaybird Freedoms is a little snap-style carrying case. It’s nothing insanely well-made, but it is a nice addition for keeping the earbuds protected in your pocket or for storing the various bits and bobs that come with the Freedoms.
The Jaybird MYSOUND App
After their design, the Freedoms push forward with their MYSOUND companion app. You’d be hard-pressed not to notice it called out all over the packaging, and so upon buying the Freedoms, I downloaded the app to see what extra functionality it might hold.
Upon opening and syncing my earbuds, I was pleasantly surprised. The MYSOUND app allows you to set a custom EQ setting for your earbuds. In and of itself, this isn’t out of the ordinary, but what is special about the MYSOUND app is it allows you to save that preset to the earbuds themselves — not only to the device you’re connected to.
This lets you design an EQ that sounds good to you on one device, and then carry that sound over to whatever device you’re listening on next without any extra configuration.
In the app, you’ll find an assortment of EQ presets from popular athletes and musicians that you can download and tweak to your liking. While I didn’t find myself overly excited by the feature, I bet there are some people out there who’d like to use one of their favorite artists’ sound as a jumping-off point.
Lastly, the MYSOUND app is also how you’ll change the option to swap the left and right audio channels. This option wasn’t there when I first bought the Freedoms a couple months ago, and I was glad to see it appear in an update since then.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jaybird continue to add smaller features as time goes by. I’d wager the MYSOUND app will be the enabler if there are any firmware updates for the Freedoms themselves down the line.
The app is undoubtedly a nice addition. I was never able to tune my devices’ EQ for my earbuds in the past due to using a variety of headphones or speakers to play audio across my devices. The MYSOUND app allows me to solve that problem, tune the Freedoms to the close-to-neutral profile that I prefer, and have that carry over to any device I connect them to. This is excellent.
It’s also good to see Jaybird actively updating things through the app — a vote of confidence that these earbuds will continue to work and improve over time.
I didn’t know I wanted earbuds that came with an app, but I’m happy the Jaybird Freedoms do.
So you can tweak the sound to your heart’s content, but how is that sound quality to begin with? Such small bluetooth earbuds certainly won’t be studio-monitor caliber, but how do they stack up against last year’s bluetooth tech or against other wired earbuds?
To my ears, the Freedoms come out pretty well. With a proper fit in the ear, I am able to hear plenty of the detail I like in the highs. Cymbals and higher-pitched vocals come through well.
The mids admittedly aren’t the Jaybird’s strong suit. Out of the box they’re quite overbearing, though after a little EQ-ing through the MySound app I found them to be much better. Mids are still a little muddier than I’d like to hear, but not to the point of being distracting.
The bass is the closest I’ve gotten to the punchy, staccato response that I’m looking for from earbuds thus far. The Freedoms have some crispness that I love hearing in a song’s beat, but still have a bit of a soft edge. The buds aren’t studio-caliber, but they’re great for the casual listening I’ll be doing.
There’s no comparison to the Powerbeats 2 from last year. The Powerbeats have some highs and mids hidden in the midst of their sound, but they’re nearly drowned out by the muddy and overbearing bass. The Freedoms trounce the Powerbeats in sound quality, even more so in that I can dial back the worse parts of the sound through the MySound app.
I do wish the Freedoms’ mid and bass responses were a bit tighter, but they’re certainly passable. The fact there are actual highs and I can hear the awesome cymbals in Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories more than makes up for them. And hey, there’s always next year.
Comparisons and wishes aside, I do come away from the Jaybird Freedoms impressed. They manage to sound better than last year’s bluetooth tech while still slimming down their driver size and dealing with bluetooth’s shortcomings.
I tested the Jaybird Freedoms by using them at least once every day. That usage is pretty cleanly split between what I’d call “Daily Use” and “Active Use.”
Daily use is what I’d call walking around, sitting and working, or any other times where I used the earbuds during the day. Active use is largely exclusive to working out or other activities where you need earbuds to fade away while remaining secure.
The Jaybird Freedoms start off strong for daily use. The Freedoms are basically a perfect pair of earbuds for how I use them throughout the day.
The Freedoms are much smaller and nicer-looking than other bluetooth earbuds , and as such I’m always happy to throw them into my pocket or take them out for a work session when home or out at a café.
When out and about, the Freedoms manage to seal out what I consider to be the right amount of background noise. They isolate the music or podcast I’m listening to without completely rendering me dead to the world. I could still hear someone shouting or a truck bearing down on me, but the other patrons at the café aren’t a problem.
That isolation is reliant on getting a good seal in your ears though — this is a little easier said than done with the Freedoms.
If you intend to use the Freedoms while sitting or walking around, then a single set of the rubber or foam ear-tips should be suffice and fit easily. If you’re like me and want to use the Freedoms for your fitness activities without reconfiguring the fit each time, you’ll have to find a way to work with Jaybirds’ wingtips.
I was eventually able to get a fit with the wingtips that stayed in my ear with a good seal, but it took me far longer than any other pair of earbuds I’ve owned. The better part of a week was spent swapping out different size ear-tips or wings, and even now I still have the occasional moment where I have to re-find that seal sweet spot.
The Jaybirds’ fit isn’t a deal-breaker — and certainly not after you’ve found the right fit for you — but it is a step down from the over-the-ear ease and security of the Powerbeats 2 that I’m coming from. I’d love to see Jaybird bundle a Powerbeats-esque “over-ear wingtip” in their future products.
Besides the fit and isolation, battery is another consideration for using the Freedoms in daily use. Smaller devices with smaller batteries don’t always bode well for usability, but the Freedoms work out just fine for me.
I don’t generally use my earbuds for longer than an hour or two at a time, and so the Freedom’s four-hour capacity lasts a couple days on average before I’ll top them up from the charging clip or outlet.
This works fine for me, but if you’re looking to use earbuds for longer stretches of time, or if you’re regularly caught without a charge, you might want to look for a more hardy option.
My favorite feature, bar none, is the Freedoms’ dual-device bluetooth connection. This feature solves my last real annoyance with bluetooth earbuds. My Powerbeats 2 were awesome to use in their own right, but something that got old quickly was having to pair and un-pair in order to switch between my iPhone and iPad. It never took that long, but having to switch to the settings app on both devices in order to disconnect and then reconnect was a hassle that pulled me out of what I was doing.
The Jaybird Freedoms solve this with the addition of Bluetooth 4.1 and its multi-point spec. This lets the Freedoms connect to both my iPhone and iPad simultaneously, and switch between them on the fly according to which one is actively playing audio.
This can lead to some jankiness if you’re listening to something on one device and accidentally start playback on the other, and I’ve had a hiccup or two where my audio played out of the device’s speaker instead of the earbuds. However, this happens so infrequently and this feature proves so valuable that it far outweighs any remaining bugginess for me.
With the Freedoms, I don’t have to think about connections and pairing, which is the final piece of the puzzle to wireless earbuds being ideal for daily use. No matter the device, I can hit play on a video or start a song and know that it’ll play through the earbuds without having to leave the app or think about it.
Overall, the Jaybird Freedoms are a tiny, sleek pair of wireless earbuds that you pull from your pocket and switch on with the press of a button. They’re ready to go on your computer when you sit down, and without doing anything, they’re ready to go on your phone when it’s time to leave. You don’t even have to stay in one place to top up the battery, so long as you’re not marathoning a work session that day.
This description matches what I’m looking for with my bluetooth earbuds the vast majority of the time. Of course, this optimization for the perfect “around-town” pair of earbuds couldn’t come without a cost, and I found that cost readily when looking at active usage.
You pay a price for being active when using the Jaybird Freedoms. The biggest issues here come from Jaybird sacrificing so much in the name of size.
The thinness and lightness — so nice when sitting or walking — force the Freedoms to compromise when working out.
I run most of the time for my workout, and while the Freedoms’ small size and light weight are nice to have, the finicky fit in your ear and extra-heavy remote compromise in ways other bluetooth buds don’t.
While the Freedoms fit well enough once you finally find a comfortable configuration, the wingtips aren’t entirely up to the task of holding in the Freedom Wireless over the course of an intense run. They loosen a bit in my ears, which leads readjustments and having to feel how sweaty and gross those rubber tips get over time.
And while the Freedom’s slightly chunkier remote was alright for more passive activities, it’s absolutely noticeable while you run. Imagine someone tugging on one of your earbuds’ cables every time you take a step, and you’ll get the idea.
Those two unpleasantries out of the way, the battery is still just fine for an active use-case. Four hours is more than long enough for the majority of workouts most people do, and aside from your average marathon, I can’t think of anything that would time out the Freedoms.
Even with all this said, I still think the Freedoms are a fantastic step forwards for wireless earbuds. They’re not without their compromises, but their eye-catching design and dual-device connection keep them great.
Room For Improvement:
Here are some — mostly small — ways that Jaybird could make the Freedoms even better.
Better active fit options. I already touched on this, but I think I’d be able to better recommend the Jaybird Freedoms as fitness earbuds if there were a more-optimal fit setup included in the box. Some over-ear hooks in the style of the Powerbeats 2 would work great.
Flat cable design. The Jaybird Freedoms’ round cables work without issue, but can sometimes get a little coily if left in a pocket all day. In my experience, flat cables stay straight and untangled 100% of the time, and I’d love if Jaybird adopted that approach here.
More color options. The Freedoms’ black, red, blue, and gold colorways are already a decent selection, but it wouldn’t hurt to see a couple more. Can we have a rose-gold or silver option? Or maybe some funky pink, purple, orange or turquoise options? One can dream.
Better sound and longer battery life. While we’re spitballing ideas, it wouldn’t hurt to have the Freedoms sound even better or have them last longer on a charge. These two feel like givens as time goes by, but it’s important these features progress along with everything else.
Value and Wrap-Up
As for the Freedoms’ value, at the time of writing they retail for around $200. You can find them for $180 on Amazon if you’re willing to look, but either price puts them solidly in the premium bluetooth earbud market.
Are they a good value at this price point? It depends on why you’re buying the Freedoms.
The Freedoms are not without their compromises — the finicky fit, short battery life, and sub-par active use makes them a hard sell, especially to anyone who is buying earbuds for longevity or active-use explicitly.
Those trade-offs — while unfortunate — do allow the Freedoms to be near perfect bluetooth earbuds for daily use. They’re small and attractive, they sound good, they come with a useful app, and their dual-device feature solves the last of my bluetooth quibbles.
For me, the benefits outweigh compromises. Which is why the Freedoms have become the only headphones I use on a regular basis. They’re wonderful for when I’m listening to music, working, or walking around.
The Freedoms are a premium set of earbuds, with a price to match and a unique set of quirks. But if you’re like me and are looking for the best bluetooth earbuds for daily use that money can buy, and you are fine with them being just alright for your workouts or runs, then I can give the Jaybird Freedoms my recommendation.