JBL’s new “true wireless” earbuds are the JBL Free X earphones. What sets them apart from the competition is that with their charge case, these earphones give you up to 24 hours of freedom away from power.
24 hours of battery
It’s kind of surprising that others aren’t doing this. Yes, there are lots of wireless earbuds. They are earphones where the two buds connect wirelessly. And, yes, it’s standard that these come in a case with a built-in battery that charges them up.
But why is the built-in battery typically so small? Cost savings? Anyway, most will charge up the buds three more times, giving perhaps nine or twelve hours of total playback. JBL has designed this system with a four-hour battery life for the buds (each has an 85mAh battery built in) and five additional charges in the case (it has a 1,500mAh battery). Total? Up to 24 hours.
The reality? I don’t know. But it’s a long time.
I’ve been using these buds for a couple of weeks, typically listening for about three hours a day – and I’ve charged up the case twice in that time. In each case, according to the built-in battery meter, it has still been well above fifty per cent in capacity.
I know, I know, I should have run it down, assiduously timing every session with my stopwatch. But remember, your usage will vary from mine, which will vary from JBL’s. Battery life depends on things a number of things, not least the volume at which you play back music. And the degree to which you’re using the hands-free, and not just listening.
What I can say is that these earphones have easily the longest buds plus case battery life of the many that I’ve reviewed.
JBL Free X or Free
A note, before I go on, about naming. If you like what you read in this review you might decided to go to a store to buy the JBL Free X buds, or you might decide to go online to the Australian JBL store to buy them there. But you then might be confused. I’ve been calling these the JBL Free X earphones. That’s what the original press release called them. That’s what they’re shown as on the JBL website.
But if you go to a bricks and mortar store, you’ll probably search for them in vain. Because on the box they’re simply called JBL Free, not Free X. Likewise on the specification sheet. I mention this because as far as I can tell, they are all one and the same product.
Well, two really, because they’re available in black and white.
As I’ve suggested, the JBL Free X earbuds conform to the conventions of these things. There are two buds and a case. Open up the sprung lid of the case and you’ll see two sculpted spaces in which the buds lodge. They snap into place magnetically, their charge terminals aligned with two gold-plated prongs in each of those spaces. The lid, when closed, holds them in place.
As I say, that’s the convention. But there are a few extras, even beyond the number of charges available. When you pop the buds into place, a ring around the control button on each glows. Because of that, you know that the connection has been made and that they are charging.
Furthermore, there are four small LEDs on the leading edge of the case. These indicate the case’s current state of charge. That state-of-charge indicator is both very useful and very unusual.
The charge port uses a Micro-B USB socket and it’s covered by a rubber plug. I don’t think the charge case is waterproof rated, but I guess that this would offer you a chance if you were to accidently drop it in some water and were to quickly retrieve it. The buds themselves are IPX5 rated. JBL says that they’re fine in the rain.
The lid is translucent so that you can see what all these lights are doing, except under strong sunlight. That washes out the relatively feeble glow of the indicator lights. The charge case weighs 87.8 grams when it’s empty. It’s a touch under 34mm thick when closed and sits comfortably in a pocket.