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Expanding The Sound Horizon with The Jaybird Vista The Jaybird Vista took me a bit by surprise. It was just back in March when I started using the Jaybird RUN XT headphones, Jaybird’s upgraded version of their RUN bluetooth headphones. I was a fan of the original RUN, and I found the RUN XT to be an improvement on the original. Knowing typical product cycles, I figured that the RUN XT would be the last Jaybird earbuds that I would see for a while. I was incorrect in that assumption. As it turns out, Jaybird had another pair of wireless earbuds waiting in their wings, the Jaybird Vista headphones. As you can probably guess from the name, this new pair of speakers is not a new version of the RUN, but rather a new style all together. As I said, I am a fan of the RUN headphones, and as such, a wholesale redesign of the ear buds seemed strange to me. This confusion quickly morphed to indignation. How could they mess with the RUN design? Unless, the Vista design is actually better than the RUN... Vista Specs: Case and Battery Before I get into comparing the Vista to the RUN, let’s take a look at the general characteristics of the Vista. The Jaybird Vista headphones are bluetooth connected earbuds that store in a charging case. OK, so maybe that’s exactly like the RUN, and Airpods, and similar designs. Regardless, this allows Jaybird to put smaller batteries in the actual headphones, with the rechargeable charging case carrying a much larger battery that can then deliver the juice to the earbuds when you put them away after use. Getting to the specifics of the battery, you’ll get six hours of music on a full charge in the earbuds, and the case will add another 10 hours. Should you need charge in a hurry, 5 minutes of charging will get you an hour of music. The case itself charges via a simple USB C port, a departure from the more run of the mill USB cable used for RUN charging. Vista Specs: Custom Fit Like most Jaybird headphones, the Vista earbuds come with silicone ear coverings to fit ears of different sizes. Unlike the RUN series though, the ear fins and the part that goes into the ear are connected as a single piece. This does reduce the possible fit combinations from nine to three, but maybe Jaybird realized that there are not many people out there with tiny ears with huge ear holes. I actually welcomed the lower level of adjustability. I got a little brain locked with the extended choices when I first dialed in fit with the RUN. With the Vista, I only had to pick between three, and the standard sized ones actually fit the best. The fit is nice and snug too. These are not noise canceling, but they block out the vast majority of the ambient sounds. Granted, this can be a bit dangerous if you are running on roads and can’t hear cars, but it’s amazing at the gym or range when your neighbors are talking on the phone, or when bad golfers are giving other bad golfers lessons. The fit is definitely secure enough to meet my gym and range needs. I didn’t experience any slippage at all. The Vista buds stay in the ears. There’s a bit of movement when you press the buttons, especially if sweaty, but not enough to be annoying. Vista Specs: Tune Control Controls on the Vista are pretty intuitive. You have single-press pause, double-press to skip, and so on. What’s cool with the Vista is that you can use the Jaybird app to customize how the buttons work. You can even dial it in so that you can adjust the volume from the buds with long presses. I know that I was initially annoyed with the first batch of RUN headphones where you could not adjust volume, and now you can do just that. Irony is after I goofed around with the new settings, I just ended up going with the factory settings. Should you want options though, you can reprogram the buttons to suit your needs. Vista vs RUN XT So how do these new Vista earbuds stack up against the RUN XT? Here are some of my observations: Both are super easy to pair, but the system has changed a bit with the Vista. Rather than pairing from the headphone like the RUN, the Vista pairing is initiated from a button in the case. This was a bit unexpected, but it worked without a problem. I was worried about the buds becoming unpaired, and then needing the case to repair them, which is likely true, but they have yet to unpair, so this is not an issue. The new Vista case has a smaller profile, and I think that it is an improvement on the RUN case. Sizewise, it fits way easier into a pocket than the thicker RUN case. There are also little magnets in the case that align the earbuds precisely for charging. I actually had one of the small brass charging prongs break in one of the RUN cases, making inserting the earbud correctly annoying. With the Vista, there are only two charging prongs per bud, and the magnet lines them up perfectly with the holes in the earbud. Hopefully this leads to a longer case life. I think that the sound quality out of the Vista earbuds is actually better than the RUN XT. I’ve got no real way to quantify this, but that’s my overall impression. The bass is amazing, especially considering how small the speaker is overall. The Jaybird app allows for easy sound level customization as well. A few tweaks on the EQ, and I was very happy with the sound output. Make sure to use the app because you can also take advantage of the Find my Buds feature should you misplace them. A Vista Worth Exploring With the Vista, Jaybird has continued their streak of producing excellent wireless headphones, and although I was a bit skeptical about them redesigning the RUN, I think that the Vista is a better design. The fit and sound are improved, and the case, even with the switch to USB-C, is better than the RUN case. At $179, the Jaybird Vista is not cheap, but they also do not perform like cheap headphones. This price places the Vista in direct competition with the Apple AirPods. Having “borrowed” my son’s AirPods this summer, I prefer the Vista for anything physical. The fit is just way more secure. I also think that the Vista’s tighter seal in the ear makes for better listening. Watching movies with the Vista headphones allows me to totally tune out the other environmental sounds, something that the AirPods could only accomplish at much higher volumes. As an Apple diehard, it’s tough to not go with Team Jobs, but I think that the Jaybird Vista is a better option.
UE BLAST: A BOOM with a Bonus https://www.ultimateears.com/en-us/wireless-speakers/blast.html Ultimate Ears for Ultimate Bluetooth Audio Time and time again, I have been impressed with Ultimate Ears speakers. Those of you who have followed along with the speaker reviews, or checked out my audio addendum thread, know that my love and respect for the tune delivery of UE speakers is based upon not one or two models, but SIX MODELS. From the ROLL to the WONDERBOOM, these speakers are the gold standard portable audio units for me, by quite a large margin. Today, we add a seventh model to the review set, the UE BLAST. With the BLAST, Ultimate Ears brings their superior audio delivery to the world of smart speakers. Not only are we looking at a speaker that will pair with your phone through Bluetooth, but also one that has the potential to do so much more through the power of Amazon's Alexa wireless connectivity. Audio First For me, the most important thing to address first is sound quality. I really don't care what else a speaker can do if lousy sound quality makes me not want to listen to it. I am happy to say, and not a bit surprised, that the UE BLAST has UE BOOM audio prowess. This speaker delivers the same rich, 360Â° sound that the UE BOOM and MEGABOOM speakers are known for producing. Bass is deep, perhaps not trunk-rattling, but like the other UE speakers, the BLAST delivers more bass than one would expect from a small speaker. You can see from the family photo that the BLAST is not quite the same size as the BOOM. My guess is that UE needed just a little more room to house the Alexa-enabling hardware. Regardless, we are still looking at cup-holder portability. The BLAST will have an easy ride along in your golf cart, or in the drink holder on your pushcart. The on-unit controls are just like those found on the other UE speakers. You control volume with the larger + and â€“ buttons, with power and pairing controlled by the buttons on the top. The BLAST charges with the included USB cable and outlet adapter. Additionally, keeping with the BOOM design, the BLAST is equipped with a carabiner-friendly D-Ring on its base. That D-Ring allows you to attach the BLAST to just about anything, but it also can be removed to enable a new way to charge the speaker. UE Power-Up The UE Power-Up system is new to the UE BLAST (and MEGABLAST) line. Once you swap out the original D-Ring for the one included in the Power-Up package, you can now charge the BLAST by setting it on the Power-Up base. This will allow the UE BLAST to become a more permanent digital appliance, though it can be moved off of the base easily enough. This does ensure that the BLAST will always be charged and available, and charging no longer requires flipping open the charging port and attaching the cable. Plus, it's pretty hard to forget to charge the speaker if you have a charging base to put it away on. All in all, the BLAST audio is just like BOOM audio, and for me, that's a really good thing. The only real negative sound-wise with the UE BLAST is that it cannot pair with the other UE speakers in the PartyUp section of the UE BOOM app. Sadly, the BLAST must party solo. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed with a software/firmware update down the road, allowing the BLAST to join the party too. Getting to the Point: The BLAST is SMART If all we had to look at was the audio of the BLAST, I can see where one would wonder about why UE would release the BLAST when we already have the BOOM. To put it simply, the UE BLAST is smarter than the BOOM. Smart speakers are really starting to take hold in the marketplace. I think that Apple's iPhone Siri function is likely responsible for introducing consumers to the concept of voice control. Now, two of the tech biggies, Google and Amazon, are pushing the voice-control envelope, ideally pushing it right into your living room. The UE BLAST gets its â€œsmartsâ€ through Amazon, thus making your new digital assistant Alexa just a spoken â€œAlexaâ€ away. When it comes to voice command, I'm kind of old school. I don't use Siri much, and I definitely did not have a smart speaker in the house before the BLAST arrived. As such, I went into the whole smart speaker thing bright-eyed and blank-slated. As a long-time Amazon Prime user, I was most excited about using the BLAST to access Prime Music without the necessity of a cell phone intermediate. â€œAlexa play...â€ was the first command issued to the BLAST, and then the music began to play. If you use Amazon Music, the Alexa interaction is very seamless. IHeartRadio and Tunein are also supported over wifi, but the real killer app is Amazon Music. They even hook you up with three months of Amazon Unlimited when you sign-in with the BLAST app. Yes, you will need to download an app on your phone to get everything connected and the BLAST running, but after that, BLAST can fly solo. You can use the voice control to play specific songs, artists, and Amazon Music Stations (my favorite). Communication is easy, and Alexa does a pretty good job of understanding you, though when I ask for The Smiths, she always sends me to Sam Smith. What's wrong with The Smiths, Alexa? You can also adjust volume, skip songs, repeat songs, play, and pause all just by asking Alexa to do so. It's actually more convenient than I expected, especially when doing something that is occupying your hands, like typing. As for what else Alexa can do for me, that I'm still exploring, and I think that it's expanding as well. Here is a LINK to the Alexa part of Amazon. If you scroll to the bottom, you can see more of the things that you can do with Alexa, from ordering an Uber, to controlling the lights and thermostat in your house (add on products required). As I mentioned before, I'm new to smart speaker land, and I don't know exactly what Alexa's job description will ultimately look like. I think that it will take some time to move from a phone-based wireless interface to the voice-based one from Alexa. It is cool though to see the technology, and capabilities develop. Check that link above. You really can do a lot of stuff with Alexa! BLAST vs. BOOM vs. Amazon â€œOtherâ€ The MSRP on the UE BLAST is $229.99, coming in at $30 over the BOOM 2's MSRP and more than that when you check the BOOM 2 prices on Amazon and Best Buy. Alexa hardware can be had for as low as $30 for an Echo Dot. So is the BLAST worth it? That's really up to you and what you want to use it for. If you have neither speaker, nor Alexa hardware, the BLAST is right there price-wise. Remember too that the speaker will work just like the other UE speakers too. That's a huge plus if you don't have one yet. If you are on the fence about the whole smart speaker thing, maybe saving the money to just get a BOOM 2 is the way to go. If you just want to chat with Alexa and hear music through her tiny speaker, go with the cheap Amazon device. Anyway, the UE BLAST is a solid marriage of the UE high-quality audio and Amazon Alexa's smart-speaker platform. I'm curious to see if the whole smart-speaker thing really becomes an integral part of our daily lives or not. If not, you'll still be left with a great speaker. Specifications: UE BLAST Smart Speaker 360 SOUND Â· Maximum Sound Level: 90 dBC Â· Frequency Range: 90Hz - 20kHz Â· Drivers: Two 35mm active drivers and two 81mm x 39mm passive radiators. HANDS-FREE VOICE CONTROL Â· Amazon Alexa built-in for hands-free voice on Wi-Fi, both at home or on-the-go. BLAST / MEGABLAST is a standalone Alexa enabled device and does not require an Echo or Dot. FAR-FIELD VOICE RECOGNITION Â· Multiple microphones with beam forming technology and noise cancellation enable a smooth far field voice recognition and control experience. POWER Â· Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery for up to 12 hours of battery life.* COMPATIBILITY Â· Requires a Wi-Fi router with 802.11 a,b,g, or n for first time setup. Audio Playback supported for BluetoothÂ® devices with advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP). WIRELESS CAPABILITIES Â· Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks Â· Bluetooth - Pair up to 8 BluetoothÂ® enabled source devices. Â· Wi-Fi range: 100m / 330ft Â· Bluetooth range: 45m / 150ft SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Â· Wi-Fi network and a compatible Android or iOS mobile device required. Minimum OS requirements are iOS 10.2 or Android 5.0. Certain skills and services may require subscription or other fees. When tethering to a mobile device hotspot, standard data rates may apply. WATERPROOF Â· IP67 waterproof and dustproof. BLAST can be immersed in liquid up to 1m for up to 30 minutes.
The Golden Age of Wireless Those of you who join me on the front tees may know that The Golden Age of Wireless was the name of Thomas Dolby's breakthrough 1982 album. You remember the song, She Blinded Me With Science? That was Thomas Dolby. As I write this thirty-five years after that album was released, I would argue that we are actually in the Golden Age of Wireless right now. I know that Mr. Dolby was referencing radio with wireless, but think about how that term has grown in usage. Everything is wireless now. Internet, phones, phone charging, car starting, game controllers, speakers, and the list grows daily. There are probably three or more wireless things within ten feet of you right now. Now is truly the Golden Age of Wireless, and the Jaybird RUN headphones I'm reviewing for you today definitely adds to that golden glow. Jaybird RUN Wireless Headphones Bluetooth headphones have been on the scene for a few years now. Though it was super cool to finally detach from the music player, many of those headphones had issues with size, connectivity, and overall quality of both sound and design. These areas have definitely improved in recent years though, with size in particular growing ever smaller, until finally reaching the wireless ear bud level. Though other headphones were on the market prior, Apple releasing the AirPods really changed the Bluetooth bud landscape. That's what Apple often does. No longer was it chic to have the white headphone cord showing, now the cool kids needed to have little white hooks in their ears. Apple made the Bluetooth ear buds desirable; prompting other companies to make ones that are as good, or better. A few months back, I put the Jaybird X3 wireless headphones through the paces, and they were my go to headphones for everything (gym, golf, tablet, and so on), until I first opened and installed the Jaybird RUN headphones in my ears. Without a doubt, these are the best wireless headphones I have ever used. Let's take a quick look at the specs, and then I'll share with you why I am so high on the Jaybird RUN headphones. Jaybird RUN Specs 4 hour play time + 8 hour charge case Fast charge - 5 minute charge = 1 hour play time Secure + Comfort-Fit with interchangeable tips and fins Customize your sound with the Jaybird app Sweat-proof and water resistant Music + Calls $179.99 Complete specs can be found HERE Charging the RUN I want to start with the coolest thing about the Jaybird RUN, the case/charging system. While the Jaybird X3 had excellent battery longevity, I still forgot to charge them, and was left without tunes at the range. With the RUN, the case has a battery too, and so your headphones are always charged. Sure, the AirPods do this too, but it is such a huge benefit to the headphones that it's worth mentioning, even if it's not unique to the RUN. This feature alone pushes the RUN well past other wireless headphones in my arsenal. They always have juice! If for some reason you don't put them in the case when done, putting them in there as you drive to the course/gym should give you plenty of charge for the range session. The case also has multiple lights to let you know the charge state of the headphones, and also the case itself. Any USB connection can be used to charge the case. This is another advantage over the X3 where a proprietary cable was needed for charging. Testing the RUN Connecting When you open up the case the first time, the Jaybird RUN headphones immediately look to pair with something. Quick press of the Bluetooth connect button in your phone's preferences, and you are ready to rock. From that point on, every time you open the case, the headphones turn on and pair almost immediately. Putting them back in the case and closing the lid also turns them off. So seamless and easy. Fit Like the Jaybird X3, the Jaybird RUN package includes multiple fins and ear socks to dial them in for your ears. This is a huge benefit vs. the AirPods where you are far more fit-limited. This time around, the stock fins and socks fit my ears perfectly, keeping the RUN secure no matter what my activity. These stayed in place on the range, on the course, at the gym, walking the neighborhood, and even when I got the body up to run speed. I figured I needed to run a bit since that's their true target after all. Even for a guy whose run is more of a rumble, the Jaybird RUN headphones never even wiggled. Performance As I said above, the Jaybird RUN stayed in place regardless of my activity. The ear tips made an excellent seal, blocking out much of the environmental noise. I like this a ton because that means you can play the music at a lower volume, and still not hear the 50 cap in the next hitting bay giving lessons. They also do a pretty good job of staying connected to the phone. With the phone close by, sound never dropped out, though I could get them to drop by moving away from the phone in the house. During all of the activities where I used the RUN headphones, my phone was always near me, so this was not an issue. If you leave your phone in the gym locker and just take the headphones to the weight room, there may be some connection problems. Controls are similar to the Jaybird X3. The left bud button controls power and Siri; play/pause and skip are controlled on the right. My only real control gripe is that there is no way to adjust volume on the RUN. To do that, you'll need to use the buttons on the phone. If all of your music is at the same recorded volume, this is not an issue, but I hit some louder and softer tracks during my shuffle. If the sound volume was not ideal, I typically just double clicked to skip. Phone call performance was excellent, though their level of noise canceling makes it a bit awkward for me. I don't want to be the guy that yells into the earpiece during the phone call. The person on the other end could hear me just fine. Those of you who want to tweak the various bass and treble levels can do so on the Jaybird phone app, though I found the stock settings to be perfect for my tastes. Value At $179, the Jaybird RUN represents no small investment. That price is actually $20 higher than the AirPods. Are these better than the AirPods? Truth be told, I can't really answer that because I don't own the AirPods, but that may actually be the answer. I'm one of those all-in Apple guys. My first computer in college was as Mac Plus, and I've probably had twenty or more Apple computers, iPods, iPhones, and so on since then. I loved the look and the features of the AirPods when they came out, but didn't buy them because I was worried about one falling out and getting damaged or lost. I know I'm not the only one who felt this way about the AirPods. I have no fears of losing one of these RUN headphones. They stay in place, even though they are so light that you forget you are wearing them. Maybe I didn't give the Apple headphones a fair chance, but I just can't see how they could fit better than the RUN. Dave's Take: Running with the RUN So far, I'm definitely gushing over the Jaybird RUN. These are so close to being the perfect wireless headphones. I just wish that I could adjust volume from the speaker. That's really my only complaint, and it is totally overshadowed by the other awesome aspects of the RUN. If you are a dedicated runner, or just if you feel like losing a few pounds, eating healthier, and making a few friends in the process, then the Jaybird RUN are for you. Now I just wish that Apple (or someone) would make an iPod Shuffle with Bluetooth connectivity. Leaving the big phone behind and playing music on lightweight wireless headphones from a lightweight wireless player would truly be my Golden Age of Wireless.
Follow the links below to the various wireless audio products that I have reviewed. Feel free to ask any questions about the products in this thread, or in the original product threads. HEADPHONES Jaybird Vista Headphones Jaybird Tarah Headphones Jaybird RUN Headphones Jaybird X3 Wireless Headphones RedFox EDGE Wireless Headset SPEAKERS UE myBOOM 3 Speaker UE MEGABOOM 3 Speaker UE BLAST Wireless Smart-Speaker UE Wonderboom Wireless Speaker UE Megaboom Wireless Speaker UE Boom Wireless Speaker UE Roll Wireless Speaker RedFox FoxBox Wireless Speaker