Jaybird makes some of the best Bluetooth sport earbuds around (see the Tarah Pro for an excellent corded option). But when it comes to making completely wireless fitness earphones, like Apple’s AirPods but designed for workouts, Jaybird hasn’t been able to best Jabra.
The $180 Run XT is a refreshed version of 2017’s Jaybird Run, which sported a premium, comfortable design but suffered from Bluetooth connectivity issues. The rebooted version isn’t plagued by that problem, but it still can’t quite top Jabra’s Elite Active 65t.
Design and Fit
If you’ve seen a pair of wire-free earbuds in the last year or two, Jaybird’s Run XT will look familiar: Open the pillbox-shaped charging case to reveal two round earbuds nestled inside. It’s identical to the 2017 original Jaybird Run, with extra silicone tips and fins included in the box to perfectly customize the fit.
Jabra’s Elite Active 65t doesn’t have adjustable fins, so I found the Run XTs to be a more secure fit. They were comfortable to wear for runs and commutes.
The Run XTs come in two shades: a black version with neon green tips (which you can’t see very clearly through the silicone tips) and a gray model with electric-blue tips. I tested the gray earbuds for this review.
The biggest difference between the original Jaybird Run and the new Run XT is the latter’s new IPX7-rated waterproof design. (The Run XT’s predecessor was sweat-resistant but not fully waterproof.) Jaybird added a double hydrophobic nano coating that protects the earbuds and their components from the elements.
It would take longer than a month for the adverse effects of water and sweat to affect the functionality of Bluetooth earbuds. But I put the Run XTs to the test with four weeks of workouts, including a morning 3-miler in which I got caught in a rainstorm and the earbuds were hit with water and sweat simultaneously. They performed capably, without any issues whatsoever.
If you’re using the Run XTs only to listen to music, the audio is perfectly fine. Jaybird offers control over how the earbuds sound in the company’s free iOS and Android smartphone app, with presets that include the self-explanatory Bring the Bass and the mellower Extended Listening. You can also fine-tune the lows, mids and highs to your exact preferences in the Jaybird app.
I could faintly hear the thud of my shoes on pavement as I ran, but it didn’t distract me from the creepy, pulsing beat of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” or the melodic bump of Post Malone’s “Wow” remix. These earbuds are designed for working out, but I actually preferred the sound quality of the Run XTs when I wasn’t running. The in-ear design and sealed fit allowed me to quietly jam to Shaed’s dreamy “Trampoline” without thinking about keeping pace with a beat (or having to hear anyone else’s conversations).
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Overall, the Run XT’s sound is solid, though I prefer the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which sounds a little clearer to my ear. And Jaybird doesn’t offer an option to allow ambient noise in, which Jabra does, so outdoor runners might prefer the Elite Active 65t to the Run XT.
The original Jaybird Run earbuds had some connectivity issues. The two buds would often lose their Bluetooth connection to each other, leaving just one earpiece (specifically, the right one) connected to the device. Jaybird seems to have fixed that with the Run XT, at least in my experience running around the streets of New York. Even when running through parks or through densely populated neighborhoods, I had no Bluetooth issues.
Instead of connectivity problems, though, the Run has a syncing issue that rears its ugly head when you’re watching videos. I viewed a couple of film trailers and the new Ariana Grande “Monopoly” music video on YouTube while wearing the Run XTs, and there was a consistent lag between the video and the audio.
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As I watched Grande move her lips and flip her ponytail, the song itself would play a second later. This wasn’t a slight lag; it was enough to ruin the viewing experience altogether. I tested the Run XTs against a pair of Apple AirPods and Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds to make sure the lag was unique to the Run XTs. It was. Other reviewers on Amazon appear to have experienced the same issue.
Like other wire-free earbuds, the Jaybird Run XTs come in a charging case that juices up the earbuds when you’re not wearing them. Jaybird says the earbuds offer 4 hours of battery life with an extra 8 hours in the case, for a total of 12 hours without charging the case. I easily made it through two weeks without charging the case, and that included multiple workout sessions and 45-minute commutes to and from work.
Rival fitness earbuds last longer on a charge. The Jabra Elite Active 65t offers 5 hours of power in the buds and an additional 10 hours in the case, for 15 hours in total. Jaybird’s Run XT battery gets the job done, but if battery life is your biggest concern, you can get more for your money with Jabra.
Jaybird’s $180 Run XT offers a few great features, including the completely waterproof design for outdoor adventurers. The ability to fully customize the fit with both tips and fins, as opposed to the Jabra Elite Active 65t’s tip-only personalization, is a bonus.
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But Jaybird still hasn’t perfected the technology inside the Run XT. Instead of Bluetooth connectivity issues between the two earbuds, as in the original Jaybird Run, the Run XT now has syncing issues with the device you’re playing music or videos from.
Overall, Jaybird’s Run XT is underwhelming for the price. Jabra has nailed the combination of fit, battery life and software with the $165 Elite Active 65t, so it’s still my go-to pick for Bluetooth fitness buds.
Credit: Tom’s Guide