Enough was enough. Those damn cables had caught or snagged on a door handle, car handbrake one to many times and that was it. I needed a set of Bluetooth wireless headphones. It turns out there really isn't much out there in the way of choice or information when you google for iPhone Bluetooth headphones the results were pretty inconclusive.
As I was spending my own hard earned cash on a set of headphones to save my ears, time after time the Jaybird Freedom Wireless Bluetooth Headphones came up. Reviews on amazon were more than favourable, meeting all the requirements of being lightweight and having that all important iPhone control feature available. Out came the credit card and my order placed and all the time my earlobes were rejoicing as the prospect of never being tortured again by a snagged cable.
[one_half][/one_half][one_half_last]All of the amazon reviews as I mentioned were positive in the general with only the odd whispered complaint about poor sound and a generally muffled experience. These were few and far between, heavily outweigh by the positive comments. So apart from the dubious styling in the vein of Lieutenant Uhura earpiece communicator surely these were a surefire winner and from the sounds of it (pardon the puN) would provide a wonderful auditory experience compared to my existing headphone line up
I'm no audiophile, I know very little about Bluetooth headphones, dynamic frequencies and range responses that other reviews have so this is all subjective. I'd be prepared to sacrifice some audio quality for a wire free experience but not much, Bluetooth does have limited bandwidth to play with.[/one_half_last]
To give you an idea of my thoughts on headphones heres a rundown of all the headphones which I've owned thus far :
Apple Headphones v1 : Basic, ok for speech, not so great for music, distinctly middle of the road
Apple Headphones v2 : A lot better than the V1. Better separation but a touch washy and mellow on lower end bass. Top end keeps clear without being shrill.
Sony Sony DR-EX300iP Headphones : All around a tidy set of headphones, lightweight with a decent remote yet a touch flimsy and broke after a year. Sound wise everything is tight but not muddled.
Denon AHC560R Headphones : The most expensive and the worst. Starting with the microphone being a preposterous 35cm away from your mouth, top end verges on shrilling with cymbals almost causing a headache. Bass tones were low and dull with no punch. The only saving grace was a mid end that reminded me of the most basic EQ setting you'd get on a 90s hifi.
Freeeeeebird (Cue Leonard Skyner)
So the obvious advantage with these headphones is the cordless and wireless nature and although they look like something from a 90's sci fi movie the weight is barely noticable, if noticeable at all. Those units look slightly ungainly yet when worn don't pull or drag. There is a slight amount of cable thump but not so much as you'd notice or want to scratch the insides of your ears out. Good marks so far for ergonomics and weight.
Ease of use however is a whole disappointing different kettle of fish. As these headphones are fairly snug in the ear canal the last thing you want to be doing is pushing them even further. Unfortunately the power / multifunction button on the side is incredibly stiff and in flexible. I tried a few times to do a Uhura one finger press but it wasn't going to happen. That button is hard to press so you end up inserting your thumb between your head and the inside of the Freedom's to operate the multifunction control.
Volume controls do work well requiring very little force to get anything to happen and no reverberation of heavy duty click making it's way into the ear canal
Jaybird Freedom Sound Quality:
All of the testing was done with lossless audio source and the same track, a track that I've listend to for years and know pretty much each note and subtle nuance, The Blues Brothers (Original Soundtrack Recording) - The Blues Brothers. Being a live band performance including piano, drums and some excellent bass guitar riffing it covers from low to high end well enough
Right from the get go everything sounds distant. Vocals are just flat and bearing in mind there's barely any singing in this test it's noticeable. Left and right channel separation is good with distance between left and right being well defined. Yet knowing there was more in the background I found myself leaning into the side as if that was going to help me listen to the detail I know is there.
Turning things up a little there's obvious distortion in a rumbling guitar track such as Days Are Forgotten - Velociraptor! Turning to the latest album from the Sterophonics - Graffiti On the Train which has a lot going on at the Freedom's seem to give up, turning music into a diluted experience. My experience is similar to some of the comments over on the product reviews at Amazon
From Prodigy through to Dire Straits, I could not find one track which these headphones seemed suited to. I gave these to a friend to try without telling him the price, and he said he'd have paid about 20 pounds for them based on the audio quality.
Things do look up with podcasts, perhaps focussing more on speech and podcasts than music. The muffling effect works quite well smoothing out the spoken word but once again there's little in the way of flair or richness to speak off
Overall On Music Quality
Overall everything sounds flat with no real level of sound sticking out. Bass tones are just about adequate and there's not worry of high end shrill as everything is just flat and uninspiring. When there's a lot of noise going on the Freedom's seem to give up, turning noise into mess
When cranked out Jaybird Freedom's are loud enough to be loud yet safe but you can't let loose and really crank them up.
Are they Worth The Money?
So you've guessed by now it's a complete trade off. Do you go wireless and enjoy the benefits of clutter free iPhone / iPod / iPad or any other bluetooth device listening but sacrifice the quality of what listen to?
At £99. Nope. At £75. Nope. At £50. It's about right I suppose but I just begrudge the flat listening experience from any headphones, especially when I know corded ones that are a lot cheaper can be so much better. Although Bluetooth surely that technology has been around long enough to become viable for decent music?
A lot of people will justify the sound quality due to spending £99 on these units and I am tempted to look at the next model up to see if things improve sligtly.
Overall On The Jaybird Freedom's
I'm left disappointed. The polish and presentation of the box, website and positive reviews initially gave me hope these would be the most expensive and last headphones I would ever need. It's with a heavy heart I'm boxing them back up as they've developed an electrical buzzing noise only solved by holding the cable in the right place at the right time.
If you can pick these up cheap for about £50 then they are ok. Don;t expect anything special or to easily manipulate that multifunction button. As for an alternative, I'm just as stuck as you are.
Updated 6th September
If you can stick with wired the best headphones bar none for a sensible price bracket are the MediaDevil Artisanphonics EB-01 premium wood earphones
The newer version