Jaybird Sportsband Bluetooth Stereo Headphones Review

Jaybird Sportsband SB1My wife doesn't let me blast my ultra music collection much while I am lounging at home and my noise canceling headphones live at our new open plan office, so I figured it was time to get some new headphones for at home. I read somewhere that wired headphones are so passé, luckily my friend had recently shown me the Jaybird Sportsband Bluetooth stereo headphones. I had bad impressions of Bluetooth headsets thanks to the guys (and possibly girls) who walking around yelling at seemingly no one and acting all nonchalant, but these headphones (which also feature as a headset) look a bit more traditional and not so attention seeking.

I paid $169 Sing ($89 USD from the site) which is a tad expensive, but considering that they work with my Android phone (headset/music), Playstation 3 (headset) and computer (music/Skype) I find the price to be very reasonable. The headphones feature 5 buttons: play/pause/answer, previous track, next track, volume up and volume down. The buttons all worked as expected when changing volume, answering a phone call and playing and navigating music in iTunes and the HTC music player (the track skipping controls don't work on the iPhone).

The build quality is very sturdy and they feel like a quality piece of hardware. The earpieces can be adjusted vertically and slightly rotate which is a nice touch, they sit quite well even while getting your sprint on. Bass seems to be the headphones strong point and the overall sound quality is good but far from spectacular. An issue is that everything is so minimalistic that the packaging doesn't mention any requirements (e.g. Mac OS/Windows version) and the instructions are very basic consisting of just a few basic diagrams and not any troubleshooting or care instructions (they do mention a link to a full manual but this just ends up being a pdf of the same basic document). This ends up being a problem for those less technical as Windows doesn't include A2DP support and you have to install a new Bluetooth stack which may (works on my Lenovo S10) or may not work with your hardware. They do provide a good range - I can be five meters away in the kitchen and it works through the concrete walls.

The big issue is probably more to do with the hardware you are using with the headphones rather than the headphones themselves. As mentioned earlier Windows does not work out of the box (I could not get A2DP working in Boot Camp) but Mac OS 10.5 and above does. Your hardware must stream the audio to the headphones which involves re-encoding the audio and you sometimes encounter skipping when your computer/phone can't keep up, this happens occasionally when tested on my HTC Hero and frequently on my Mac Mini when copying files onto a network drive. Bluetooth has limited bandwidth so if you are using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse you may also encounter skipping and low audio quality.

In conclusion I have found the headphones to have been a decent purchase and it is great to be free of wires, but having had some serious issues with Bluetooth and the encountered skipping it really seems like Bluetooth is the headphones strongest and weakest point. If you can live with wires I would recommend buying some high quality phones over these.