For years, wireless earbuds were one of the Holy Grails of the gadget world. There is, after all, a delicate balance to be struck between quality and portability, and generations of attempts failed to hit that sweet spot.

And the Jaybird BlueBuds X hit the scene. Countless big name electronics companies attempted to crack the code, but it took a then largely unknown Salt Lake City-based audio manufacturer to pull it off. It's been two-and-half years since the BlueBuds first hit, but they remain the gold standard in Bluetooth sport heads. That is, until now.

Two and a half years after showing the industry how it's done, Jaybird is back, dropping the unnecessary "BlueBuds" tag from the equation in favor of the far pithier X2 branding. And like the superhero film of the same name, these sportbuds manage to improve upon their predecessor in just about every conceivable way.

In The Box

What sets Jaybird's approach apart from much of the competition is the company's keen attention to detail. And while, at $179 a pop, the X2 are hardly cheap by workout headphone standards (frankly, the last pair I bought for myself were $15 at RadioShack), the company has taken care to offer the best possible experience right down to the packaging.

The X2s ship in a retail store display box with a built-in magnetic clasp that opens up to display the full spread – a welcome change from the plastic blister pack. Inside are the headphones (naturally), three pairs each of ear fins, silicon ear tips, and foam ear tips.

The tips are housed in a slide-out cardboard tray designed to be held onto after the box hits the trash heap. The two little plastic pieces that attach to the headphone's cable to regulate its length are a lot easier to lose, but there's no reason to ever detach them from the cord, really.

The centerpiece of all this packaging is a newly designed rubberized carrying case that's portable and secure enough to be tossed into a backpack when it's not needed. A small, thick USB charging cable comes coiled inside the case for easy accessibility.

The Look

Not much has changed from an aesthetic standpoint since the previous generation. No big surprise on that front, really. The Jaybird form factor is, with a few slight deviances, the industry standard for Bluetooth sport headphones – at least until manufacturers can do away with the cable altogether.

The flat cord is flanked by earbuds on the other end, each a little large and beefier than those on lower-price headphones. Perhaps Jaybird will be able to shave a few millimeters off the end in future iterations, but the company clearly had no desire to sacrifice audio quality for the sake of saving space, and as is the headphones sit pretty comfortably in the ear.

Interestingly, there are no marks distinguishing the right ear from the left, which seems like a strange oversight on Jaybird's part. The headphones do, however, have a slight bend toward the tip designed to conform to the contours of the ear, so getting them in the right corresponding ears does make a difference.

The rear of the right earbud pops off to reveal a microUSB slot for charging, while remaining tethered to the earbud itself so the user doesn't have to worry about losing it forever. Halfway between the back and the tip is a small light to indicating charging, syncing and the like – there's also a voice that lets you know when the headphones are connected, so you don't have to keep checking the light on the earbud.

The cord itself houses a small control panel about an inch below the right earbud. In the center is a small circular power button with volume controls on either side. There's also a microphone for making voice calls. I'd have preferred having the controls placed even closer to the ear, but they're plenty accessible as-is.

Comfort

The ear fins are, admittedly, a bit off-putting the first time you see them, sharp little pieces designed to sit on the inside of the outer ear. They're not so bad, really, though they do take some getting used to. I hung around Jaybird's booth at IFA and watched as person after person attempted to get it to fit just right.

The good news on that front is a.) you hardly notice the things once they're in right, and b.) you can take them off if they bug you too much. I personally found that I couldn't have them in for longer than 30 minutes or so without getting a bit annoyed.

I found that, for the most part, I didn't really need them. Sure, most of the earbud's weight is distributed in front of the tip, but for most activities the X2s sit comfortably in the ear without falling out. Running and other high-impact activities are another story – without the fins in place, the headphones start falling out almost immediately.

Sound

And what, then, of the most important bit? The X2s sound great. It's here that the headphones really start living up to the somewhat lofty price tag. Unlike much of the competition, the Jaybirds don't lean too heavily on amplified bass to compensate for their shortcomings. Instead, the headphones offer a solid and distinct mix of lows, highs and mids.

And they get plenty loud without experiencing any sort of audio distortion. I did hear a bit of a tinny sound from time to time, but that likely was due to some connectivity issues.

Sure, the X2s have the trappings of workout headphones: the bright colors, the rugged design, and the sweat-proof casing, but if you're going to spend $180 on a pair of earbuds, you're going to want to wear them outside the gym – and these deliver. In fact, the Jaybirds quickly replaced the rest of my earbuds for everyday use.

Battery Life and Connectivity

Good news on that front, too – Jaybird souped up the battery. The company claims eight hours of life on a charge, and I certainly had no problem getting through a full day of use with the things.

The X2s do a solid job staying connected, as well. I was able to maintain a steady signal up to about 10 feet away, though your best bet is to just keep the connected device on or near your person. As long as it's in your pocket, you likely won't experience any interruptions.

Conclusion

The biggest downside for most potential buyers will no doubt be that $179 price tag. It's a pretty restrictive number for workout headphones, but the X2s are, thankfully, far more diverse. These little Bluetooth buds pack great sound, design, and battery life into the best wireless sports earbuds around.

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