Gear Review: Jaybird Run XT

by: Jon Levey | July 22, 2019

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Tags: The Pro Shop

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This is the third in a multi-part series reviewing true wireless sports earbuds. Click here to read our review on the Jabra Elite Active 65t, and here to read our review on the Apple AirPods. 

Pros                                                                 Cons
Secure fit                                                        Limited function controls
Comfortable for extended wear                 Case and battery life could improve

Price: $150

Other audio companies offer a range of products, but Jaybird has always been strictly about wireless sports headphones. The company was started by athletes for athletes, with the emphasis on creating the most secure, durable and unobtrusive listening devices that can handle the most intense workouts and outdoor adventures. I got a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds X more than six years ago, and they’re still going strong. Those older buds are Bluetooth audio, but connected together by a wire; the new Run XT is truly wireless. Which is why I truly wanted to test them out. 

First Impression
The Run XT earbuds come housed in a pill-shaped case. It’s a little larger than some its competitors—not ideal for a pants pocket, but still travel friendly. It’s available in two colors: Storm Gray and Black Flash (I tried the former), both being somewhat understated. The buds are labeled for each ear, and provide four hours of playback on a charge with another eight hours in the charging case. Acceptable numbers, but slightly below average. The charging indicator lights on the case are simplistic—either blinking or full—but the accompanying app gives the exact power levels of each bud.

However, for earbuds that are targeted at a rugged audience, the case has a somewhat flimsy feel. The small latch closure on the case requires a light touch to pop it open. I dropped it on the floor and it spit the earbuds across the room. This problem is compounded by the fact that there’s no magnetic attraction between the buds and the case. Fortunately, the app does have a “Find My Buds” feature which tracks the last known location. 

It’s not difficult to properly align the earbuds in the case, but there were a few occasions when I closed it without doing so and only one of the pair got a recharge. The voice prompts announcing a successful connection, battery level and incoming calls also sounded tinny and dated. It felt straight out of a 1980s video game. None of these are egregious errors, but they are handled better elsewhere and could be improved. 

Every ear is different and not always a suitable match for certain earbuds. The Run XT seemed made for my ear. It comes with about a dozen interchangeable fins and tips for exact sizing. And after experimenting with a few setups, I had no issues with fit or security. They sat comfortably inside the ear and never popped out during exercise. The fins nestle inside the ear, and they strike a good balance of expansion without instilling too much pressure. I also could wear them for extended periods of time without experiencing significant ear fatigue.

One of the strong selling points of the Run XT is it carries a IPx7 certified rating. That means the buds can be submerged up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. I never tested the capability, but have found several reviews that vouch for it. However, this is meant to protect against extreme weather and not for full-on swimming. But it does give you the confidence that the buds are built to handle anything you can throw at them.

The playback sound is up to the task, too. It had the requisite thump active earbuds generally dole out with respectable clarity. It was arguably a little hollower than some of the other brands I’ve tested, but nothing close to dealbreaker status. Besides, help does exist in the Jaybird app which has a programmable equalizer, and various presets submitted by Jaybird users and athletes—Loud and Heavy, Big Bass Beats, etc.—to customize the music. The app also has numerous athlete recommended playlists that you can download with a Spotify account. 

The buds are equipped with clickable function buttons. It requires subtle pressure that can jam the bud further into your ear if you’re overzealous. However, the bigger problem is they don’t do enough. There’s a default option that has the virtual assistant in the left bud and play/pause/call handling in the right. The alternate option available through the app switches the controls to volume down and volume up/call handling. Either option will let allow a double-click to skip forward a song. The customization is rather limited. It’s fine if you like to start your music and zone out during a workout or run, but can be irritating if you fancy more manipulation. 

The earbuds also don’t have a feature that lets in ambient noise. They do a good job of blocking out surrounding sound with low leakage even at higher volumes. You can go to mono configuration of just the right earbud, but I find music in just one ear awkward. So they’re better-suited for focusing on a workout and not keeping you alert on a run on a busy street, or at your desk in the office. And depending on what you’re looking for, that’s not necessarily a negative.

A potential drawback to office work and general use—at least in my opinion—is phone calls being mono. I much prefer dual audio when speaking through the earbuds. The sound quality of the call is also substandard. It’s still convenient that you can answer calls at the gym or on a run if necessary, but it’s not a strength. And for people who like to use their earbuds with video apps such as YouTube and Netflix, there is a noticeable lag in audio. 

The connection during playback, though, was mostly reliable. The buds use Bluetooth 4.1, which is an older technology, but it didn’t seem to hinder performance. The buds would occasionally lose contact, but the absence was short-lived. In one instance, I (mistakenly) left the phone on a different floor of the house with the buds in my ears and it still maintained a connection. I’ve also been doing what I call the “40-yard lunge test”—I put the phone on the ground and lunge for 40 yards in an open space with no major objects between the phone and myself. When the phone was placed directly on the grass I did incur a few cutouts; however, when raised just slightly, the sound was completely clear and uninterrupted. 

Bottom Line
The Run XT earbuds are for athletes. People who like to hit the gym or the trail and want earbuds that will work as hard as they do. In my test run I found them comfortable, secure and a worthwhile training partner. There are shortcomings by way of limited control functions, unimpressive case, phone call quality and video playback. But if your top priority is to provide a dependable soundtrack to your workouts, they’re more than up to the task.


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