There’s nothing especially flashy about the Jaybird X4 headphones, but they cover all the bases you want from sports headphones, and they cover them well. They’re durable, they sound great, and the battery life is long enough that you don’t have to constantly worry about finding a plug.
However, on opening the box we had a bone to pick with the Jaybird X4 wireless headphones, so it makes sense to get that out of the way first. Only two sizes of ear tips are available. You get two foam tips and two rubber ones, whereas with the X3s you got three sizes of each type.
Not a huge deal, you might say – three choices could be overkill. Perhaps it is for most people but I lost the size that fits me best, especially with the foam tips. So the reduced choice means a less customisable and, for me at any rate, a less comfortable fit.
I also found that one of my foam ear tips didn’t stay on the headphones at all, so every time I took them off I had to fish it out of my ear afterwards. I stopped using the tips as a result, because it felt like it was going to get stuck in my ear canal eventually.
However, the overall fit of the X4 headphones is still secure enough for sports. Occasionally I found they required a little tinkering with to stop them gradually sliding out of my sweaty ears mid-run, but in general they stayed put.
The fit is helped by the ear fins (still available in three sizes, I note), which hook into the top part of your ear. It’s worth experimenting to find the right fin for you, because the top of it can make your ear sore if it’s too big, but once you have the right one they are essential to keeping the X4 buds in place.
Another factor that slightly affects the fit is the wire between the headphones, especially as the remote is on one side of that wire and weighs it down slightly on that side. I found that with each run I had to fiddle with the cord cinch to set it up right, and if I turned my head quickly to look for traffic the buds could become dislodged. For the most part, however, it’s not a problem, and it’s generally an issue with headphones unless you go for truly wireless buds like the Jaybird Run.
The X4 headphones are also hardier than the water-resistant X3s when it comes to handling sweat and water, with an IPX7 waterproof rating that means they can be submerged for 30 minutes in a metre of water without any harm being done. You probably won’t need or want to do that, but it does mean you can take them out in a storm without any worries.
The X4s excelled when it came to connectivity, finding and linking to my phone within seconds every time I turned them on, with no drop-outs during activity. It’s also easy to connect them to a different device – simply hold the power button for longer when turning them on and they’ll become visible to connect to your laptop or smartwatch, if you prefer.
Every time you turn on the X4 headphones they’ll also update you on their battery life, which is a welcome feature with Bluetooth headphones and not as common as you might think. What’s less welcome is the proprietary charging clip, which means you can’t just sub in someone else’s micro-USB cable if you’ve left the Jaybird clip at home. Battery life is a solid if unremarkable eight hours and you can get one hour of playback from a ten-minute charge.
Sound quality is where the X4s impress in comparison with many sports headphones, especially if you use the foam ear tips which provide a closer seal. The rubber tips still provide a decent seal and are more resistant to sweat, making them better for sports. You can customise the EQ settings of the headphones in the partner app in line with your preferences, so if you prefer pumping bass over crystal-clear vocals, that’s your lookout.
For my money the out of the box setting was a little bass-heavy, so I took a minute or so to change it. You can also choose EQ settings created by other users, including famous athletes and music artists.
At £109.99 the X4 headphones are in the middle of the price range for wireless (but not truly wireless) headphones, and that’s about right based on their features. There are cheaper sports headphones like the Plantronics BackBeat FIT or the JBL Endurance range that match up well to the X4s in terms of fit and battery life but don’t sound quite as good, and there are more expensive headphones that offer flashy features like the ability to make you more aware of ambient noise. For most people, though, the X4s will more than suffice for soundtracking your sport of choice… although I’m still not happy about those ear tips.
Buy from Jaybird | £109.99