Anyone who rides with music has experienced a similar situation: You're “just riding along,” minding your own business and jamming out when, without warning, a branch reaches out, grabs your earphone cord and turns it into a garrotte. Be it an unsecured cord or ill-fitting seals, riding with earphones can be more trouble than it’s worth. Some designs work better than others, but most share a fatal flaw: the cord.
Thanks to Bluetooth, gone are the days of those nasty, tangle-happy cords. The first Bluetooth headphones I tried–almost a decade ago–were chunky, uncomfortable things that were a promising innovation, but ultimately fell short of a usable music product. The technology has come a long way since then.
Last year, Utah-based Jaybird, which is owned by the Swiss electronics giant Logitech, revamped its popular BlueBuds X earphones. The promising new X2s bear a price tag of $150, for which one would hope they’d include a trail-side DJ. Sadly, they don't, but they do sport an 8-hour battery life, a vast selection of fit options, a proprietary Bluetooth SBC codec to improve audio quality and reliability, as well as a life-time warranty against damage from sweat.
The X2s include three sizes of both silicone and memory-foam eartips, plus three sizes of wingtips that lock the earphones in place. You can choose whether to route the earphone cord above or below your ear. All those options make it a process to find the right fit, but it pays off to spend the time and get it right. I've found that the memory-foam tips give me a tighter seal, keeping the earphones in place like a burr stuck to a favorite riding sock.
Jaybird claims an 8-hour play time, and the X2s easily meet that benchmark. Even in cold weather–when battery life in most electronics plummets–the X2s soldier on, and can go several rides without a charge. When they do finally run out of juice, charging usually only takes an hour or two, depending on what power source (wall outlet or USB port) you're using.
As far as sound quality goes, the X2s hold their own against wired earphones at this price point. The audio remains crisp and clear with the volume maxed. A lot of earphones will overdo the low tones, drowning out the mids with deep, but gravelly sounds. The X2s don't fall victim to the bass trap; once you get a good seal they have a nice punch and rumble, but don't overstate the bass. Regardless of what you listen to, you won't be disappointed when you crank up the volume.
Now for the kicker: Do the X2s hold up to the punishment that mountain biking dishes out to electronics? I've taken mine through torrential downpours, sub-freezing snowstorms and blistering hot, dusty desert trails. They've been dropped on concrete, whipped by branches and shoved deep into the black hole that is my riding pack. But they have emerged, still whole, ready and willing to crank out more tunes for the next ride. All of the buttons on the inline remote still work, and the plastic casings of the earphones remain crack free.
I ran into some trouble with the X2s about a month into testing, when they developed serious pairing issues with Apple devices. After a chat with Jaybird customer service, a new pair of X2s was sent out to replace the original defective one. The warranty process was a breeze, and the new earphones arrived quickly. I've used them for a solid three months, pairing them with devices from many different brands. They haven’t skipped a beat.