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True wireless headphones worth checking out – CNET

Jaybird got off to a bumpy start in the world of true wireless — that’s “AirPods-style headphones” — when it released its Run headphones back in October 2017. That model, updated to the Run XT in 2019, was well designed but had some small performance issues that held it back from being great. But its successor, the Jaybird Vista (cue the Windows Vista jokes), includes design and performance improvements that make it the product I’d hoped the Run would be.

At $180 (£160, AU$280), it’s a little more expensive than it should be, but it was one of the better true wireless headphones to hit the market in 2019. It will appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless sports headphones that offers full waterproofing.

jaybird-vista-colors-cropped

The Jaybird Vista will eventually come in three color options (black is currently available). 


David Carnoy/CNET

What I liked about the Jaybird Vista

  • The headphones fit in my ears securely and they were mostly comfortable to wear. Three different-sized ear tips and sports fins are included to help you get a tight seal and secure fit. They’re lightweight for their size and they fit my ears better than the Beats PowerBeats Pro, which has a little bit bigger sound and more bass. 
  • The charging case is relatively compact, lightweight and fits in a pocket without a problem.
  • They sound quite good, though not as good as some of the top-sounding totally wireless earphones out there such as the Sony WF-1000XM3, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless and Klipsch T5 True Wireless. As long as you get a tight seal they deliver warm, pleasant sound, with relatively well-defined bass.
  • They seem durable. They’re fully waterproof with IPX7 certification (they can be fully submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes). I dropped a bud a couple of times and it was no worse for wear.
  • Battery life has improved. It’s now up to six hours at moderate volume levels, with an additional 10 hours from the charging case.
  • The charging case charges via USB-C. A five-minute charge nets you an hour of playback time.
  • The Jaybird Vista works better than I expected as a headset, though it doesn’t work so well if you’re in a noisy environment. An ambulance with its siren on went by as I was talking to someone and they couldn’t understand what I was saying. You can take calls in stereo or use each earbud independently.
  • I had a few interference hiccups (New York is notoriously challenging for truly wireless headphones), but nothing serious. The wireless connection was generally solid — an improvement over the Run. Jaybird is using a new wireless chipset with Bluetooth 5.0 that clearly helps. 
  • I didn’t experience any video latency using various video apps.
  • The earphones have physical buttons for controlling playback. There are volume controls, but you have to program them into the button controls in the app. To raise the volume, you press and hold on the right bud. To lower the volume, you press and hold on the left bud. 

They fit me very securely.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Vista downsides

Here are few things I didn’t love:

  • As I said in the intro, the price seems a tad high. These feel like they should cost around $150 or slightly less. For instance, JBL’s Reflect Flow earphones, which sound just as good and offer similar features, now cost $100. 
  • They’re not quite as detailed or dynamic as many top-sounding models (true, some of those models cost slightly more). Out of the box, I didn’t think they sounded great, but I was able to improve their sound via the app by searching for and selecting user-created EQs and adding them to the list of preset EQs (which I didn’t think were so good).
  • They were occasionally a little uncomfortable in my ears. But after I pulled the bud out for a moment and reset it, it felt fine. These should fit most people’s ears well, but like with most in-ear models, they won’t be right for everyone.
  • As noted, the interference issues (wireless hiccups) with the Vista are minor, but with some competing models I experienced virtually no interference issues while testing them in the streets of New York. 
  • There’s no transparency mode that allows ambient sound to leak in (which would allow you to hear the outside world). Since the headphones seal out a good amount of noise passively, you’ll need to play your music at lower volumes to hear traffic around you when you’re running. The JBL Reflect Flow has an Ambient Aware mode. 

Overall, as I said, The Jaybird Vista is a nice upgrade over the Run, with improved performance and some design tweaks, both to the case and the buds. That makes this an appealing sports headphone that will stay in your ears during vigorous activity. But in a world where you can get a pair of AirPods for $159, the Jaybird Vista is a tad pricey. Hopefully, we’ll see some discounts as we head into the holiday season and more true wireless earphones hit the market.

Key features, according to Jaybird

  • Weight: 6 grams (0.2 ounces)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • IPX7 waterproof, sweat-proof and crush-proof 
  • 6 hours of audio on a full charge, plus 10 more from charging case
  • USB-C charging
  • 5-minute charge gives you an hour of playtime
  • Take phone calls in stereo or use each earbud independently
  • Redesigned 6mm drivers 
  • Customizable EQ using Jaybird app
  • No video latency
  • Price: $180 (£170, AU$280)

More headphone recommendations

First published July 31, 2019.

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