If you’re like me, an Ipod is an essential running accessory. On training runs, I typically listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. to help pass the time. In the winter, I could not survive on a treadmill without some form of distraction, and the TV in my basement or my laptop set on a shelf in front of the machine are as necessary as the treadmill itself. The one problem with all of this is how to get the sound produced by these devices into your ears. Wired headphones are manageable outside, though the cord can be annoying, but on a treadmill the wires become a major nuisance. Enter the Jaybird wireless bluetooth headphones (for more info, check out the Jaybird Website here).
I had been searching for a set of wireless headphones for awhile, but most were either too large, or they did not seem well suited to the varied conditions that I run in (not to mention that they also needed to resist the sweat produced while running). Given the price of many of these headsets ($100+), I didn’t want to make a purchase unless I actually though it might work for me. Just before last Christmas, I came across the Jaybird headphones on Amazon.com. Reviews seemed fairly positive, and they’re pitched at an active crowd with a major selling point being that they are water and sweat-proof. The Jaybirds are pricey (~$150 for the Ipod compatible model), but I took the plunge since I thought they might solve a number of running-related audio problems. I bought the Ipod compatible headset and an additional adapter that would allow them to sync with any device that has a normal headphone jack (see here).
After about 3 months of use, I have to say that I’m really impressed with this little gadget. The sound they produce is good (I’m no audiophile, but it sounds almost as good as the phones included with an Ipod), they sync flawlessly and quickly with every device I have tried them with (including Ipods, TV, stereo, laptop, audio adapters on gym treadmills, etc.), and they are pretty comfortable despite their size (I hardly notice them while running). The headphones and jack adapter are both rechargeable via an included charging dock, and the charge seems to hold pretty well (I can tell when a charge is needed since the audio becomes fuzzy, but after a charge it works fine again). The Ipod adapter is powered by the Ipod itself (no charging needed), and it does not seem to add much of a perceptable drain on the Ipod battery. Finally, they do seem impervious to water and sweat, which makes them ideal for anyone planning to use them while exercising (these would be great for resistance training as well since they cut the wire completely out of the picture – i.e., no range of motion problems or yanking of the wire out of your Ipod).
One of my favorite features of these headphones is that I can control Ipod volume and advance songs using controls on the headphones themselves. Thus, I can slip my nano with the receiver into an internal coat pocket and control it entirely by fidding with my ear. I’m sure I look like an idiot while doing it, but hey, it works! Positives aside, there are a few minor problems that are worth mentioning.
One issue I have had with these headphones (and this is mentioned frequently on Amazon reviews) is that the wire connecting the two sides drapes across the back of your neck (this wire allows the two sides to share power from what I understand). As you start to sweat, the wire tends to stick, and this is annoying and can on occasion dislodge the earpiece on one side or the other. The wire can also be a problem if you are wearing a running jacket with the collar zipped up all-the-way. I have worked around this problem by attaching a small plastic paperclip to the size adjustment band on a hat, and then threading the wire through the paperclip. This holds the wire higher in the middle, and thus prevents it from dangling on my neck. Problem solved.
My only other real complaint about the Jaybird unit is that the earpieces do not always stay put, and I have to push them back into my ear canal from time to time. I imagine fit would vary highly from person to person based on size of the ear canal, but it can be annoying to have to push them back in to get the best sound. I have recently consulted the user’s manual on how to optimize fit, and it seems to have helped a bit. This is certainly not a deal breaker, and given the option I would definitely by them again.
On the whole, I’m very happy with the Jaybird headset, and would recommend them highly to anyone searching for a wireless solution for use while exercising.
Update (3/26/09): Just ran 12 miles with these on Sunday, and barely noticed them on my head. Being able to stick my Nano into my chest pocket and not worry about it is wonderful!
Update (7/01/09): Durability update – 6+ months of regular use on the run and they still work great.