Thanks very much, Apple. Due to the success of Airpods, everyone’s releasing wireless bluetooth earbuds these days.
The latest company to throw its hat into this tiny, easily lost ring is Jabees. It has successfully raised $161,003 in funds on Indiegogo for its Firefly headphones and we got to try them out.
Now, there are two things that Jabees believes separates them from the pack of other earbud manufacturers: the price and a situational awareness feature.
Hold on – a what-now awareness feature?
So, according to “studies” that appear to exist nowhere on the internet and are cited on Firefly’s Indiegogo page, “8% of pedestrians’ accidents in urban cities are caused by the usage of electronics.”
Colloquially, this makes a certain amount of sense, and I did find this collection of studies that links accidents and use of tech, so I’ll give Jabees a pass. But, companies and crowdfunders – please link the research you cite!
So, this situational awareness feature amplifies the noise from your surroundings and pumps it over your music, helping, the theory goes, to save your life while out and about.
You activate and deactivate with a double push of the button on the right earbud. The plus of this feature is that it makes you aware of the environment. The negative is that all the music is drowned in a walkie-talkie style hiss.
So, a win-lose situation really.
Right, what about this price thing?
The full retail price of the earbuds are $99, which is not cheap, so I was surprised to see this championed as a selling point.
They come in a case that functions as an extra battery pack, with the earbuds lasting about three hours in my experience, with the case supposedly giving them an extra 16 hours of juice.
There’s also a fast charge feature I was impressed with, as the Firefly went from zero charge to about three quarters full in around fifteen minutes. On top of this, they’re also IPX5 waterproof, which means they can withstand water jets being sprayed at them for 15 minutes, according to the official classification at least.
The rest of the features though? They range from good to poor. The bluetooth connection (using 5.0 of the technology) appeared stable and the Firefly synced up to my phone without a hitch when taken out of the case.
I was also impressed by the way the earbuds fit. They were comfortable and stayed attached while I was moving around, as this GIF from the company helpfully displays:
The comfort of the fit, the battery life, and the waterproofness would make the headphones ideal for people looking for a sporting pair of earbuds, so are worth considering for that.
Despite this, there are some howlers in the Jabees Firefly design, especially when it comes to the controls. Some of the features – such as a single press to pause a track or the aforementioned ambient sound feature – work fine. But others, like activating Siri or changing the volume, just didn’t really operate properly. Which, you know, isn’t really on in this day and age – especially when these things cost one hundred dollars.
Features are fine and all, but how do they handle sound?
Generally, fine. For earbuds of this size they don’t do anything spectacular, but neither do entirely they let the team down.
Let’s take Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” as an example. The song starts off stripped back, with the bass providing an anchor, and the drums and piano taking a backseat to Wonder’s vocals. Then, as the track builds, the instruments play a greater role and get looser until all the sounds soar over one another. This intermingling and evolution is what you should be hearing throughout.
Now, this doesn’t sound quite the same with the Jabees Firefly. There’s a tinniness to some of the hi-hat work in the upper register. And at the crescendo, where the individual instruments should be pure and clear, there’s a murkiness to the proceedings. To their benefit though, the bass does retain clarity throughout.
Across a range of genres, the same issue reared its head; a balanced sound that veered into muddiness. They struggled with the upper register on trebly tracks, but tended to have a clear low end, albeit one unlikely to satisfy the serious bassheads out there.
Are they worth it then?
For $99? Not really. When you can get yourself a pair of Apple AirPods – which are far superior – for only $59 more, I’d suggest saving up.
For the more budget-conscious consumer, SoundPeats’ wireless earbuds have almost as many features – apart from the situational awareness mode and the waterproofness – and deliver comparable sound. For about half the price.
Jabees Firefly are in no way a bad product, they’re just not a great one. What I will say is that due to their comfortable fit, the ambient sound feature, and the sweat resistance, these would work well as a workout pair of headphones. Aside from that, I might look elsewhere.