Jaybird RUN XT hands-on: Improved water resistance, customizable buttons, and video playback failure
Music motivates me to run faster and further so I rarely run without something playing from a connected smartphone or music-enabled watch. Jaybird was one of the first fitness-focused audio brands I tested nine years ago. Since then, I have tested several Jaybird products and been pleased with the performance of the brand, until now.
Jaybird released its first fully wireless earbuds with the Jaybird RUN in late 2017. The Jaybird Tarah Pro was released in late 2018 and as the last step in ensuring all of its products meet the IPX7 level of water resistance Jaybird recently released the Jaybird RUN XT. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with a pair of these new earbuds and they are not going to replace my favorites, the Jabra Elite Active 65t.
Compared to the Jaybird RUN, the RUN XT improves with a higher level of water resistance, new color options, and refined design. The two available colors are black/flash and storm/gray. Storm is light blue and the storm/gray color is the model sent to me for evaluation.
Also: Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users
- Microphone: Omni-directional MEMS on the right earbud
- Water resistance: IPX7 rating
- Battery life: 80 mAh for each earbud for up to four hours of battery life. The charging case provides another eight hours of run time.
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
- Earbud dimensions: 14.3 x 19.5 x 19mm and about 7 grams (depends on your selected fin and tip)
For $180, wireless headsets today should have the latest technology and that means Bluetooth 5.0, or at the least 4.2 Low Energy, with a charging case incorporating a USB-C port and not the old microUSB standard. aptX support would also be nice to see at this price.
One reason I discovered Jaybird many years ago was its ability to create headsets with sweat resistance and a warranty to match my usage. I only run outside so am often running in rain and other inclement weather conditions. The new Jaybird RUN XT has an IPX7 water-resistant rating, which means it can handle submersion down to one meter for up to 30 minutes. There is also double hydrophobic nano coating to protect the headset. In other words, you can wear these in just about any weather condition
Fit has always been something you could customize with a Jaybird headset through the use of different tips and fins. The new Jaybird RUN XT model includes four pairs of fins and silicone tips. The fins are integrated with a silicone oblong piece that fits around the earbud. An opening in the fin piece with labeling for the size ensures accurate installation on the earbud. There are also four sizes of silicone tips to help you find just the right fit. We typically see three sizes of tips with most headsets.
Jaybird advertises four hours of playback time and so far that is about what I am seeing. It states that you can get up to an hour of playback with just five minutes of charging. Callers confirmed that I sound good on my end through the Jaybird RUN XT, with the omni-directional mic located on the right earbud. All calls are handled through just the right earbud and you can use this earbud in mono configuration too if you want one ear open for safety.
There is a one button on each earbud, located towards the bottom of the Jaybird logo and towards your face when inserted. There are also indicator lights at the top of each earbud so you know if an earbud is turned on or not. By default, the button on the left is used to activate your selected assistant while the right side is used to play/pause music and answer a call with a single press. A double press of either earbud skips forward or declines a call while a long press on either (more than 3 seconds) turns on or off each earbud.
Also: Jaybird Tarah Pro wireless sport headphones, hands-on: 14-hour battery life powers endurance workouts
I prefer to use wireless headsets where I can control volume so at first I didn’t think the Jaybird RUN XT would fit my usage habits. I then launched the Jaybird smartphone app and discovered that you can switch the single button press to an alternate set of controls. I now have the right bud increasing volume while the left bud lowers volume. A double press of either still jumps ahead one song.
A charging case, colored to match the earbuds, is provided with two formed compartments to store and charge the RUN XT. Indicator lights are present on the front, one for each earbud so you can view the charging state after inserting the earbuds. Unfortunately, the old microUSB standard is used for charging up the battery case. It’s time to move to the USB-C standard folks.
While you do not need the Jaybird iOS/Android app to use the earbuds, I highly recommend you install it for an optimal experience. With the app installed, you can switch the functionality of the buttons, as I detailed above.
The app lets you customize your equalizer settings, manage the headphones, and even choose and share playlists. Spotify integration is present, which is perfect since I am a Spotify subscriber and have been looking for more playlists for running. Jaybird also recently added some recommended podcasts so it is another way to discover podcasts related to exercise.
How-to guides, fit guides, and support is also provided through the app. You also need the app to use the find my buds function, which will show the last known location of your connected Jaybird RUN XTs.
Price and competition
High end wireless earbuds currently range in price from $150 to $180 so the Jaybird RUN XT is priced about right, if some of the specs were a bit higher. It is the same price as the first version of the Jaybird RUN as well.
The 2018 Samsung Gear IconX has a MSRP of $179.99. However, the Samsung website currently has a $30 reduction in price so you can pick up a pair for $149.99.
RHA recently released the TrueConnect earbuds with a price of $169.95. The Jabra Elite Active 65t headset, one of my faves, is priced at $179. Bose also has the SoundSport wireless headphones for $149.95.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The Jaybird headphones I’ve used over the years have always sounded great since sound quality is one of the four pillars of the company’s design philosophy. Music plays loud and clear with the RUN XT and I actually cannot pump them up to the highest volume level or my ears get blown out.
I also have not experienced any connectivity issues with the RUN XTs. I’ve tested them with multiple phones and watches with seamless playback. Despite using an older version of Bluetooth with no aptX support, the earbuds have performed well for music and podcasts.
Calls are handled just through the right earbud with audio limited to just the right side. The left earbud actually allows in ambient sound when a call comes in to help you hear your own voice so you don’t have to take it out to have a decent call. Callers sounded good in the right earbud and they told me I sounded fine as well.
However, there is one fatal flaw that may prevent you from wanting to spend $180 on this headset. On my daily Sounder train commute, I see about half the people watching video content on their smartphones with headsets and I can often been seen streaming the latest Netflix or HBO show. You will not want to use the Jaybird RUN XT for streaming the audio from a video. If you do, you will notice there is a consistent lag between the mouth movement of characters and the audio playback on the RUN XT. I tested several video streaming, and offline, services with the Jaybird RUN XT and the Jabra Elite Active 65t and there was lag on the RUN XT with none present in the Jabra headset. We should not see such poor performance from a $180 headset. It would be great if Jaybird could fix this with an update, but I read through the forums and this was also a problem with the previous Jaybird RUN headset so I’m not optimistic for a fix here either.
The Jaybird RUN XT never slipped out of my ears and were comfortable for hours of wear. The audio sounded excellent and the ability to customize the equalizer is something we don’t see in many of these wireless earbuds. I know that video is not really the focus of wireless sport headphones, but given the fact that mobile devices today require wireless earbuds, other earbuds don’t have this issue, and the RUN XT is priced at $180 this functionality should work perfectly.
The high level of water resistance is great and these earbuds should last you for years with your workouts in various conditions. If an update can fix the video problem then maybe I’ll try them again, but until then it’s back to the Jabra Elite Active 65t headset.