Most Bluetooth headphones have a neckband style design and there are few over the head style Bluetooth headphones out there. Even more rare are Bluetooth earbuds, as the technology simply won’t fit inside such cramped space. JayBird have found a way to circumvent this problem with their JB-200 earbud hybrid.
The JB-200 is a combination of earclip style headphone and earbud with IEM style tips on them. It’s extremely small for a Bluetooth headphone and is barely visible if you have any hair at all. How do these headphones hold up to the big clunky headphones with plenty of room for the tech needed? Read on to find out.
- Quick Look
- Battery life (music): 5.5 Hours
- Battery life (standby): 110 Hours
- Weight: 23.5g
- Bluetooth version: 2.0
- Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, Headset, Handsfree
The JB-200 come with an impressive amount of accessories. beside the JB-200 themselves there is a pouch, charging cradle, extra tips, USB charging cable and AC adapter. Bundles are available with both iPod adapter and a 3.5mm adapter that charges on the same cradle as the JB-200.
The design of the JB-200 makes you wonder how they can cram that much into that little space. The clip that sits behind the ear contains all the electronics and also a charge connector and playback controls. In between the left and right clip is a cord that goes behind the neck which is just the right length for comfortable wear. The clips themselves are also comfortable and once you learn to put them on (it takes a few tries to get the hang of it) they stay on.
The buds however aren’t as comfortable. Getting the earbuds to fit in my ear and actually point in the direction of my ear canals took quite a few tries and unfortunately the design of these buds aren’t too good. The flexible rubber that holds the buds to the clip works like a spring so when you actually do manage to wriggle the earbuds into place the flexible rubber will pull them back out and leave them in a less usable position both with regards to sound quality and isolation. My suggestion for a future version would be flexible rubber connectors that you can mold into place and they will stay there, kinda like bendable action figures. Also the earbud-with-rubber-tip design should be dropped for real IEMs or something along the lines of what Sony uses on the EX90 IEMs, which would go a long way to help the buds actually stay in there.
Another grief I had with the JB-200 was the buttons. They are incredibly hard to press and since turning the headphones on an off requires you to hold down the answer button for 5 seconds it will physically hurt your fingertips. The buttons should be hard plastic – not pointy hard rubber – and be bigger so they’d be easier to press.
The accessories also deserve a mention with regards to design, especially the charge stand. It looks really good and you basically just dock your JB-200 to charge them. The 3.5mm Bluetooth adapter fits nicely in the front of the charging cradle and don’t require a separate charger.
I had no trouble pairing the headphones to my Sony A828 or the 3.5mm Bluetooth transmitter from JayBird and reconnecting also works perfectly. Playback controls aren’t that stable as I couldn’t get the next/prev function to work. According to the manual, a short press will skip track while holding the button will change volume. The volume part works fine, but no matter how fast I press the button it won’t skip track in 98% of the times I tried it. I don’t know what causes this but obviously it’s supposed to work since it skipped the track 3-4 times during the time I tried it but it’s simply too buggy to be used and you have to rely on the player to skip tracks.
Range is another sad story on the JB-200. Bluetooth is very picky about human parts in the way of the signal and if you’re outside where the signal has nothing to bounce off of you can lose connection at times with most receivers and headphones. The user manual states a recommended distance between transmitter and receiver of about 2 feet for the JB-200, which is unfortunately rather accurate. The range with my Sony at maximum sound quality was by far the worst and the bigger 3.5mm transmitter did provide a better range, but you still absolutely need to carry the music source around your neck or use an armband to have any chance of getting a signal. It’s an unfortunate side effect of a the receiving headphone being so small and for many – myself included – it’s a dealbreaker.
The JB-200 do support headset profile and will work as a handsfree for cellphones, but since that’s not relevant for a music headphone review I haven’t tested voice quality or sound quality for phone calls.
Rated battery life of 5.5 hours for such a small device really isn’t bad at all and seeing the JB-200 is designed for workouts and sport us it should be sufficient. Real life battery life is a little less than rated, but considering the size I can’t really put the same expectations for battery life on this thing as I do for full size Bluetooth headphones.
Sound quality is a bit disappointing on the JB-200. Due to the design problem with the buds not going in as far as IEMs should, bass is lost by the time it reaches your ear canal. Holding the buds further into the ear by hand show that there is potential for better bass but the spring like rubber connectors flips it back out as soon as you release your grip and pretty much all of the lower bass range goes with it. Mids are also not too good and sound overly pronounced and hollow. That being said it’s still way better than those stock earbuds that a lot of sports fanatics run around with and I’d definitely see people trading sound quality for usability on this one.
Despite its flaws, the JB-200 is a very intriguing device. It won’t fall off your ears even if there was an earthquake and it’s so incredibly small you hardly notice it’s there. if you’re into sports or working out and don’t mind using an armband and having less than stellar sound quality, go for it – there isn’t anything on the market that has the same design to show as the JB-200 and the closest thing you get is the Sennheiser MX-W1 earbuds with Kleer technology which use a giant transmitter. If you can live with big headphones however the Jabra BT620s offers better sound quality, usability, battery life and ra
nge – just not the same form factor and won’t be as good a choice for athletes as the JB-200.