Powerbeats2 - $200
This second time I killed my Powerbeats2 I decided to try something new. It’s been over a year since I had done some serious research on headphones, and I was wondering if there was something new that might be better. I had been hearing good things about the Jaybird X2s, so I decided to get a pair along with my replacement Beats.
This turned out to be a mistake, because the Beats Powerbeats2s are significantly better in a number of ways.
I kept reading in reviews how the Jaybirds had better sound quality than the Beats. However, what every reviewer did was compare the X2s with the Comply foam tips to the Powerbeats2 with the included silicone tips. In that scenario, yes, I would agree that the X2s sound slightly better due to better bass but at the expense of the mid-range.
But I never listen to my Beats with the sorry silicone tips that are included. So I decided to make this a fair fight and put the same Comply foam tips on the Beats and then do my back-to-back sound comparison. The result? The Powerbeats2 have a much fuller sound than the X2s. They have the same if not more bass than the X2s but with a clearer mid-range. It’s not even close as to how much better the Beats sound. The X2s sound muffled and muddy in comparison.
Also, not only do the Beats have a richer audio spectrum, they sound louder. At the same volume level on my iPhone 6s Plus, the music was always about 10% louder on the Beats. This can come in handy in a loud gym or when listening to a weaker recording.
Each set of earphones have a wire that hangs on the back of your neck. However, the wire that the Jaybirds use is much stiffer than the one on the Beats. Therefore, it makes its presence known more conspicuously because touching the wire can shift the earbud. I hate that. If I hadn’t been going back and forth between the two different pairs, I might have missed this detail, but I grew to hate the wire band on the X2s. The wire on the Beats was much softer and more flexible. Touching it won't disturb the position of the earbud.
Another drawback is that there is no power button on the X2s! As a result, the three-button remote on the X2s becomes much more complicated. The buttons all have alternate purposes depending on whether you do a quick press, one-second press, or three-second press. It gets confusing, and I kept getting the quick press and one-second press mixed up by either pressing too quickly or too long. Whereas on the Beats, there is a dedicated power button, so the volume and pause/play buttons don’t need any kind of long-press logic.
Each pair stayed on my ears equally well. In fact, due to the way the foam tips fill your ears, I found I could even run in the X2s without any help from the ear stabilizer wings. The Jaybirds are more flexible in this regard because you have the choice of going over your ears like the Beats for running or simply letting them hang for sitting on the couch.
Looks and Case
The Powerbeats2 have a much more appealing design. They just look awesome. The X2s by comparison could pass for cheap $15 eBay specials. I wanted white X2s to match my Apple Watch white sport band, and when you get white Jaybirds, only the earbuds are white. The wire remains black. What's up with that? A cost-savings measure?
I would never pick one pair of headphones over another due to the carrying case, but the case that comes with the X2s is so bad that I have to mention it. First, it's the same kind of rubber that you would make a rubber ducky out of. You install and remove the cover by strategically squeezing the case walls. Weird. Second, the cover isn’t connected so you have to be very careful that you don’t lose it. If you lose the top, the case become useless. The Beats case is two halves connected by a seam that zips open and shut. You’ll never lose any part of it, and it works ok. There’s nothing special about it, but compared to the Jaybird case it seemed awesome.
I’ve been using Beats Powerbeats2s for over a year so I can say with certainty that they really do stand up to heavy summer sweating. I did have an issue with my first pair at the nine-month mark where the remote volume stopped working. Since it was under a year old, Apple promptly replaced them with a new pair (which I later destroyed in the washing machine). I can’t vouch for the Jaybirds because I’ve only used them for about two weeks. However, one of those weeks was in hot summer conditions while I was on a cruise in the Bahamas over Christmas break. I’ve had lesser headphones give up the ghost in less than a week in those kind of conditions, and the X2s performed just fine. Another point in the Jaybirds’ favor is that they are warranted for a lifetime against sweat damage. Beats only gives you one year.
The Beats sound so much better than the Jaybirds that it outweighs the difference in warranty. The key is to use the Comply foam tips and bend the over-the-ear hooks so that they don’t interfere with your in-ear seal. Any reviewer who didn’t take the time to compare each set with like tips did their readers an injustice. I really wanted to like the Jaybirds. They were less money and had a lifetime warranty. But sorry, I just can’t recommend them unless you absolutely can’t spend the extra money for the Powerbeats2s. But even then, it still boils down to “you get what you pay for.”