Friday, November 09, 2018

Jaybird Sport Ear Buds Review: New Run Focused Tarah, X4, and Tarah Pro

Article by Sam Winebaum

Over the last few years in a crowded market for earbuds Jaybird Sport, a Park City, UT company owned by electronics accessories giant Logitech has staked out a focus in running and endurance sports for its line of earbuds, sponsoring athletes such as Tim Olson and Rory Bosio and creating the wonderfully inspiring Run Wild series of short films exploring the future of global running culture through people places and music. 

Quite frankly while the marketing and sound quality have been excellent, run specific functionality especially secure easy to tune fit, adequate but not ultra worthy battery life, and water resistance for all run conditions and over time were somewhat lacking in prior seasons.

Not so in 2019 as Jaybird introduced its spot on new wireless buds X4 ($130), Tarah ($100), and Tarah Pro ($160)  at a wonderful event in Brooklyn complete with night run with the famous Black Roses run crew, a panel discussion led by Scott Jurek and screening of new Run Wild films. In our initial testing we have been delighted with the new line and its attention to what runners need.
The 2019 line includes left to right below:  X4, Tarah, and Tarah Pro.

Completely re-worked X4 ($130)
New Tarah ($100)
New Tarah Pro ($160).
All three address running needs with great battery life, and market leading battery life in the Tarah Pro, water resistance improved to IPX 7, personal sound tuning and improved run focused fit options. The Run ($180) a completely wire free bud with 4 hours on board and 8 more hours in its battery charger continues. All are available now.

We filmed Jaybird in Brooklyn introducing the new line

All three new models share:
  • excellent battery life specs with the Tarah coming in at 6 hours, X4 8 hours, and Tarah Pro a staggering and marketing leading as far as we can tell 14 hours of on board juice.
  • rapid quick charge with the Tarah Pro able to charge for 2 hours of play in 5 minutes!
  • a big 6mm driver and similar sound quality for me across all three
  • improved water resistance rating to IPX7 rating so sweat and truly waterproof and not merely water resistant. This means they are submersible in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. This said they are not designed for swimming and the charger clip must be dried before using it. But they should survive most any run conditions and over time.
  • All kinds of tips and fins to tune the fit but implemented slightly differently in each model. The soft silicone fins are the same for all and super comfortable. 
  • an improved system of cinching behind the head with Tarah Pro's reflective braided cord and head shaped controller the most effective. 
  • access to Jaybird sound presets for types of music and adjustable via a geeky sound wave graph with in the Pro a method based on hearing aid set up using tones in different sound ranges to tune the buds to your personal hearing. With my relatively poor chainsaw use damaged hearing I found this technology effective allowing me to better hear the full range of the music. 
So beyond the battery life specs and shared features how do the models differ?

Tips and Fins
The Tarah and Tarah provides 3 combination of tips and fins. the tip, neck, and fin all being connected in a single easy to slide on silicone piece.
The X4 allows for mixing and matching tips and fins and also includes 2 sizes of squishy black Comply tips. It has the most fit options but I personally prefer the combo tip, neck, and fin of the Tarah and Tarah Pro, simpler and fewer pieces to tune...and lose.

Control modules and Chargers
The Tarah and X4 share a similar shaped control module while the Tarah Pro curves slghtly around the head.
Left to Right: X4, Tarah, Tarah Pro
The controls on the Tarah and Tarah Pro are exceptionally easy to find and recognize by touch, the sleeker X4's module somewhat less so as the buttons are closer together. Controls include all the usual including volume, pause, track forward/back, call answer, etc...

The control modules are water resistant but not as waterproof as the earbuds. The X4 and Tarah have a snap on charger module while the Tarah Pro's connects magnetically. The magnetic pull is quite light and USB cord short so beware if you jostle module and charger, they may disconnect.

Connection Between Buds
The X4 and Tarah have a rubbery thin flat cord which I found tended to stick to clothing around the neck with a tendency to tug on the buds. The Tarah's cinch tab is quite frankly to small and disconnects very easily from the flat cord. The X4's is larger and more secure on the flat cord
The Tarah Pro has a reflective braided cord which sits considerably more easily on the neck with less stick than X4 and Tarah's. It's cinch tab is bigger yet and easier to operate than the other two.
There is another "connection" in the Pro. The buds can be magnetically snapped together, for example to rapidly remove but keep handy around the neck.
Snapping the buds together automatically pauses the buds and shuts them down after 15 minutes as does setting them down as there is an accelerometer built into the Pro. We far its only purpose is to detect lack of motion to shut them down.

Under or over the ear
The Tarah Pro bud rotates at the battery to allow easier transition between under and over the ear wear. It works well. The X4 also allows for over the ear wear but getting it there is more awkward.

In Ear Fit
All three have a comfortable fit but there are differences.
Each of "barrels" with the common yellow driver embedded leading to the ear has a slightly different shape. I found the Pro's more elongated smooth shape worked best in my ear. And as the rear battery pod rotates you can also twist it to get a just so fit. The twist is also used for an over the ear fit and is far simpler than trying to wrap the cord behind the ear. The Tarah fits similarly to the Pro but the yellow plastic housing and edge of the longer rear circular pod (the battery) is more noticed in ear.  In particular the plastic fin locator on the Tarah seems to press my ear more than the Pro's, there being no plastic fin locator on the X4. The X4 has a similar fit to Tarah Pro.

Sound Quality
Given all three share a common 6mm driver (see photo above) they all have very similar sound. The sound is rich and well balanced between high and lows if a bit on the high side for me. Depth is very good.

Firmware Updates
The Tarah and Tarah Pro can be updated wirelessly while the X4 needs to be connected to a computer to update its firmware. Sound tuning via the app can be done wirelessly by all three.

Jaybird App
The excellent Jaybird app is truly a useful companion to any of the three buds.

Personal EQ allows you to tune the buds to your listening preferences. A number of presets are available as shown below.
You can also play directly with the waveforms for each of the models  but that is to geeky for me.

The Tarah Pro, in addition to the tuning options above, introduces a more sophisticated approach based on the method used to dial in hearing aids. A series of tones in different ranges are played. Slide up the volume until you hear the tone then move to the next range to tune. My hearing is not the best from several years of chain sawing in my youth and I was able to improve, if subtly, my sound quality with this method.
My Personal EQ is above, the circles show where I ended up after the test with each of the tones. I did not look at these results before testing but did seem to find that as indicated the biggest differences were as the tuning showed, in the mid ranges.
The Jaybird app provides run focused Playlists via Spotify, with the most seamless play experience if you have a Spotify Premium subscription although free has been fine too you just have to do a two step from your selected Jaybird playlist over to Spotify and suffer through some ads. With free Spotify you will not be able to play offline Spotify playlists, something useful of course on longer out of cell range adventures.
There is a Find My Buds feature which will locate your buds based on current location if on or last location when they were connected if off

Jaybird demonstrates its focus on running, the outdoors and endurance sports with these three long battery life, IPX 7 water resistant buds and the excellent app. They join the completely wire free Jaybird Run as three solid options. My personal preference is the Tarah Pro for the following reasons: of course the long battery life but as significantly the good fit, tunable sound, big control buttons and the non stick rugged neck cord which along with the rotatable battery makes over or under the ear fitting easy and secure. Next would be the X4 primarily for its slightly more comfortable fit in ear than the fine Tarah.

Jaybird screened its new Run Wild film Track 05 The Grit at the intro event to the delight of the Black Roses run crew and their leader Knox Robinson who were featured in the film shot on the streets of New York some of which we had just toured with the Roses.

The products reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Comments Questions Welcome Below!
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