Each bud weighs 7.2 grams, according to my scales. That’s with the largest of the three sizes of silicon tips and the smaller of the two “gel sleeves”. I confess, I’m not one hundred per cent certain of the purpose of these gel sleeves. They slip over the hard plastic bodies of the buds. They may be intended to add a bit of friction to help the buds lock into the whorls of one’s ears.
The JBL Free X buds use 5.6mm dynamic drivers. JBL rates their frequency response at 10 to 22,000 hertz. They use Bluetooth version 4.2 with the usual Bluetooth protocols. JBL doesn’t mention the use of any advanced codecs and my Pixel 2 phone doesn’t indicate any, so we can safely assume that music is delivered via the standard SBC codec.
The face of each of the buds is a large button. The one on the left bud is for skipping tracks forward (one press) or backwards (two presses). The one on the right is for:
- call answer/hang up.
- pairing (press and hold for eight seconds).
- invoking Google Assistant or Siri (double press).
Using the JBL Free X earphones
As is usually the case with earbuds, the JBL Free X buds switch on automatically when you take them from the charge case and switch off again when you put them back. You can manually switch them on and off with a 5 second press.
On a couple of occasions, I must have failed to seat one or other of the buds properly because it failed to switch on again. I learned to check that the connection light was properly lit before closing the lid.
I soon learned the sequence of beeps – there is no spoken feedback – as the JBL Free X buds connected with each other and the phone.
Connection with the phone was quite good. Using my usual front yard test, I found that I could easily go ten metres from the phone while retaining a solid connection. Much beyond that and turning my head so that the left earbud was pointed in the direction of the phone caused the signal to drop out.
Very occasionally there’d be a dropout with the JBL Free X earphones when I had my phone in my pocket, especially if I was carrying a plastic bag or other largish object near to it. Sometimes, appliances in the vicinity which generate significant electrical or magnetic fields could interfere with the buds. In particular, things got pretty dicky when I was cooking over my inductive hotplates, or when I switched off my wife’s hair straightener. Sometimes when things went awry, after reconnection there’d be a slight timing mismatch. I don’t think it was a phase reversal on one or the other, but a small group delay in one of the buds. That made the sound somewhat disembodied. Usually there’d be a brief hitch within a minute or two and normal in-sync sound would resume.
When you’re taking calls or using a voice assistant, the JBL Free X buds adopt a mono mode, with all sound coming only from the right bud. They go stereo again, or course, when they go back to music mode.
The sound quality was up near JBL’s customary high standards. The first and most important hurdle to be cleared by the JBL Free X earphones was that they sounded comfortable. That is, they didn’t unduly emphasis or make harsh the upper frequencies. I could enjoy both spoken word and music with the JBL Free X earphones.
They did seem to offer a fairly extended upper range. There was plenty of detail in music, and good clarity in podcasts. There was also plenty of volume.
The mid and upper bass was well balanced with the rest of the range. Right now I’m listening to the closing track of Santana’s fourth album, Caravanserai. The frenetic percussion and flute is well represented, clear and coherent. The bass line is at the right level.
But this isn’t a particularly bass-strong recording. Which brought to mind Janis Joplin’s I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! The second track of the CD has a deep spurious noise about two minutes in, mostly a mixture of 50 hertz and 27.6 hertz. It comes across as a deep grunt … if your equipment reproduces it. The JBL Find X earphones did indeed reproduce it. They also delivered the music on this album with dynamism, all the bass in all its glory. It was an exciting delivery.
One of the best things about the JBL Free X earphones is the price. At just under $200, they are truly a bargain.