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Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth Headphones Review

February 10th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have a problem.  I am totally addicted to Bluetooth headphones.  I have no idea how I developed this addiction or what deepseated child neuroses my constant updating of my BT headphones collection is satisfying, but I can’t get enough of the silly things.  My wife is very patient with my obsession, despite how much money I spend on it.  The Jaybird SB1 is the latest addition to my collection.

My previous experiences with Jaybird left me a bit leery of ordering these.  I had purchased a set of their Freedom headphones when those had first come out only to realize when I got them that they were not compatible with glasses.  Which basically meant they were useless to me, even when I was wearing contacts (cause, you know, I have to look cool by wearing shades).  I can’t believe that no one on the Jaybird testing team had this problem.  I don’t know about you, but I use wireless headphones as much as possible.  Years of listening to Air Supply and Barry Manilow at glass-shattering volumes have left my ears unable to discern much of anything, so I don’t miss the ultra-high fidelity that wired headphones bring.  And I’m willing to give up that fidelity anyways because I hate being tangled up in cords, especially at the gym.

I ordered the SB1‘s through Amazon, where they were marked as pre-order status (and cheaper than on the Jaybird site itself).  They actually arrived within their customary 2 day window, much to my surprise.  So here are my first set of unboxing pics.

IMG 0191 600x450 Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth Headphones Review

(Man, that guy could be my twin.  Well, at least in terms of the chrome dome anyways).

IMG 0194 600x450 Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth Headphones Review

Nice plastic wrapping.  Could the electronics industry use any MORE plastic?  I mean, I know we have infinite oil supplies, but still.  Sheesh.

IMG 0198 600x450 Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth Headphones Review

Nice and new out of the box.  The manual, by the way, is a marvel of simplicity.  I think there are only fifteen sentences in the manual.  Everything is done through colored pictographs.  My wife was unable to figure out what said pictographs meant, which goes to show you who the target audience might be.

IMG 0202 300x225 Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth Headphones Review

This is the power/control portion of the headphones.  Five buttons.  That’s it.

Pairing was very straightforward.  The phones arrived with sufficient power to turn on and connect to my iPhone without any issues.  Charging took about three or four hours.  It has a nice touch in that the power indicator only glows red until it’s charged up.  When the SB1′s are fully charged, the red charging light goes off.

There is about an inch of extension to the drivers, and the foam is fairly thick.  The controls are covered in a matte rubber, and are easily manipulated even in gloves once you’re used to them.  The big silver power button serves as a play/pause button and the iPhone only allows volume control through BT anyways, so it’s not like I had a lot of choices to make.

The Jaybird people make a big deal out of the fact that the headphone pads swivel in two dimensions.  The amount of play in that swivel is not huge, so I don’t know that I got a lot of additional comfort because of this.  The foam covering the headphone drivers is a thicker version of the foam that come with earbuds.  Jaybird must be expecting that these things will last, because they didn’t provide a spare set of foam covers.  I can see them being torn over time and Jaybird would be well advised to make sure they have replacements available.

Sound quality was good.  Like I said, I’m no audiophile, but I had no issues with the sound level reaching my ears, even compared to my previous Sony BT headphones, which plug directly into my ears.  Phone quality was also good.  Folks on the other end had a bit of trouble hearing me but I chalk that up to the fact that I’m not a yeller – I speak at a normal volume no matter the environment and expect the headphone mic to pick me up.  The SB1′s did that just fine.

In terms of downsides, I had three main issues with the SB1′s.  First (and this will vary based on user), the headphones are TIGHT against your ears.  My ears were sore after an hour or two of use and I don’t think I have a very big head (small brain, you know).  For the more cranially endowed, the SB1′s might be way tight.  I’m sure the plastic headband will expand and loosen over time, but it’s something to keep in mind.  Second, I experienced weird volume issues as the power on the headphones drained down.  It was very difficult to reproduce, so I couldn’t tell if it really was a problem, but for some reason, the volume refused to drop down below a certain (very loud) level.  It was bizarre.  Finally, I noticed that the rubber underside of the plastic headband had started pulling away from the headband at the edges.  It wasn’t horrible, but it was enough that I was concerned.  I ordered a replacement pair from Amazon and this time I’m going to check the edges right upon opening the packaging.  I wasn’t sure if the edges had always been this way or if it had developed over the two weeks I’ve had the headphones.

Overall, the SB1′s are a good set of BT headphones.  They did slide around a bit on my head, which I really kind of chalk up to the fact that I have no hair.  The sound quality is good and the microphone seems to work just fine.  Controls are easy to use, charging seems quick, and overall I’m pretty happy with these.  The specs indicate that these are pairable with up to two devices but when I tried to pair them with my PC, I got all kinds of errors.  Contacting Jaybird support indicated that this was a Windows limitation rather than an SB1 issue.  I will ding them on support though – I asked them another question and I have yet to hear back from them.

I’ll update the post when I get a replacement pair from Amazon.  I’m hoping that these will be my primary BT headphones for the foreseeable future, but I’m sure I’ll fall in lust with another pair.

UPDATE: I received my replacement pair of SB1′s in the aftermath of the East Coast Snowpocalypse.  This time I took a careful look at the edges of the headband where the rubber and plastic meet.  They seem to be just fine, so it makes me think that either I got a defective set or it might be a problem that develops over time.  I’m hoping not because I do like these headphones.  I’ll post another update if I notice that they are starting to pull apart again.  Jaybird does offer a year warranty so you do have some level of recourse.

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