Jaybird’s New Fitness-Focused Earbuds Would Survive the Apocalypse

Jaybird’s New Fitness-Focused Earbuds Would Survive the Apocalypse
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

I’ve destroyed my fair share of earbuds over the years. Some were accidentally thrown in the wash. Others tumbled out my ears during a run, skidding across concrete into a puddle of mud. A few just couldn’t stand up to the sweaty rigour of day-in/day-out workouts. So when I say that it would take a lot to destroy the Jaybird Vista 2, I mean it. These are by far the most durable earbuds I’ve ever tested, and probably the best suited for hardcore athletes — so long as super-premium audio quality isn’t the No. 1thing you’re looking for in workout buds.

What’s Different With the Vista 2?

The original Vista earbuds were also nigh-indestructible. That hasn’t changed. The Vista 2 have an IP68 rating, making them more dust, sweat, and water-resistant than your average pair of earbuds. They’ve also got a higher military durability standard than the previous Vista. This time around, Jaybird has also extended that to the case, which is now rated IP54.

Jaybird Vista 2

WHAT ARE THEY?

Extremely durable wireless earbuds for fitness

PRICE

$US200 ($257)

LIKE

Durable IP68 earbuds and IP54 case. Easy to switch between modes. Survived a thunderstorm and my cat. Very lightweight. Adds ANC. Long battery life. You can track the case via the Find My Buds feature. Supports wireless charging.

NO LIKE

Ambient mode isn't great against wind. Audio isn't as good as similar wireless earbuds.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.

But durability isn’t the only thing Jaybird’s updated. For starters, these have active noise cancellation, as well as an ambient mode that Jaybird dubs “SurroundSense.” There’s also 33% more battery, wireless charging via the case, and a new quick charge feature that gets you an hour’s worth of battery in five minutes. This version also has a new “WindDefense fabric” that, in tandem with beamforming tech, is supposed to get you clearer voice pickup.

Jaybird’s also added accelerometers to each bud, which expands the available touch controls from the original Vistas. Like AirPods, the Vista 2 also supports in-ear detection, meaning your music will automatically pause if you take an earbud out and restart when you put it back in. If you’re someone who loses things easily, Jaybird has also expanded its Find My Buds feature in its app to include the case, which now has a low-power Bluetooth chip.

AirPods Pro vs. Jaybird Vista 2 (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo) AirPods Pro vs. Jaybird Vista 2 (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

Design-wise, not too much has changed here — and that’s a good thing. These buds and the case are super light, and I appreciate the unobtrusive fit. I sometimes feel the pressure build up when I run with earbuds, but I never had that issue with the Vista 2. And, in this age of pandemic running, I appreciate that they never caught on my mask. (I’ve lost count of how many times my AirPods have fallen out of my ear while pulling my mask up or down mid-run.)

That’s a lot of updates, and it also means the Vista 2 are now about $30 more expensive than their predecessors at $US200 ($257). That puts them on par with the Jabra Elite Active 68 T, but they’re cheaper than the Jabra Elite 77 T and the AirPods Pro. Whether the lower price tag is worth it, however, depends on your priorities.

The Definition of Durable

Over the past week, I’ve done my best to put these earbuds through the ringer. I sweat buckets running a few kilometres in humid 30-degree weather. I chucked the case across the room and let my cat bat it off tables, counters, and shelves. I dropped them in some mud, and then dunked them in a bowl of water to clean them. For funsies, I dropped them in a pool. Basically, I subjected these buds to every imaginable test within reason, and they still work, which is pretty impressive.

However, the biggest test was when I got caught in a downpour right in the middle of a 6 km run. I don’t mean a drizzle or even the type of rain that makes you duck under an awning. I mean, an actual thunderstorm where you can’t see two feet in front of you and you’re soaked to the bone. It wasn’t intentional — I am infamous among my friends for never checking the weather — but it turned out to be a decent testing scenario.

For the 20 minutes or so it took me to run the two miles back to my apartment, the Vista 2 held up like nothing had changed. I might’ve been a drenched mess, but the buds never fell out of my ears, lost connection, or stopped working. I took one bud out to really drench it, and lo, it paused my audio. When I stuck it back in my ear, my music started up again. I can’t say I’d be confident my AirPods Pro, which are IPX4, would hold up as well. (Though my husband swears his survived the wash once, I’ve heard one too many stories of AirPods that died after lesser rainstorms.)

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

I don’t recommend that anyone purposefully go out and run in a thunderstorm. Though, I do know some runners out there refuse to let a little rain interfere with training. I’m also not saying you can take these into the pool for a swim sesh. Jaybird says that while the Vista 2 wouldn’t break, Bluetooth just doesn’t transmit well underwater. All I’m just saying is if you were caught in torrential rain like I was, these buds would survive.

As far as battery goes, the Vista 2 has an estimated battery life of 24 hours altogether and 8 hours of straight playtime. I haven’t had quite as much time to test the limits of its battery life, but it’s been excellent thus far in my testing. A 30-minute workout session drained the battery about 10%, and after a 50-minute run, I still had 82% left. I’ve had these for a little over a week at this point, and aside from my initial charge, I haven’t had to top up the case at all. Last I checked, it still has about 90% left and I’ve worked out close to 3 hours with the Vista 2 in the past week.

Decent, but Not Amazing Audio

The original Vista’s audio was fine, but nothing to write home about. That’s true this time around too.

The Vista 2 have 6mm milled drivers, and they aren’t too shabby. Do they sound as good as the AirPods Pro, my husband’s old Bose SoundSport, or even my outdated Jabra Elite 59 T? Nope. My workout playlist hasn’t changed too much over the years, and the Vista 2 aren’t the best-sounding earbuds I’ve ever used. Songs like BlackPink’s “Playing With Fire” or Billie Eilish’s “Therefore I Am” sounded flat, even on a more bass-forward EQ setting. If you’re someone who really needs excellent audio when working out, you’ll get better sound quality from the AirPods Pro or any of Jabra’s earbuds. That said, the Vista 2 aren’t the worst-quality earbuds I’ve ever tested either. I personally use music in workouts to blot out my intense desire to quit. All I need is a distraction from physical discomfort, and on that front, the Vista 2 gets the job done.

ANC is also decent. During a strength-training session at my gym, it blocked out the sound of other people grunting and the TV. While working at my desk, it dampened my cat’s yowling and the sound of the washing machine. Again, is it better than the AirPods Pro or my over-ear ANC headphones? No. But it’s good enough to help you focus, and that’s all you really need.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Less impressive was the ambient mode. I live by the water and wind is a real pain in the arse when I run — on most days it’s somewhere between 8-13 mph. It wasn’t so noticeable with ANC on and the volume on medium (though I did notice a little wind noise when the volume was on low). In ambient mode? Woof. It’s pretty dang loud, to the point where I had some difficulty hearing cars behind me when I had to run in the road. During my thunderstorm run, it was impossible to ignore and I had to switch to ANC to block out the noise. This might not be as much of an issue if you’re running in less windy locales or plan to use these primarily at the gym. It’s just something to consider.

I did, however, appreciate how easy it is to switch between modes. You can customise the controls for each earbud in the Jaybird app, but the default to switch between ANC and ambient mode is tapping twice on either bud. You don’t even have to tap too hard, which I appreciated because my regular route has several sections where I have to duck out into the road for a stretch, and I have no desire to be flattened into a pancake by cars, kids on scooters, or buses. It’s also infinitely easier than squeezing on my AirPod Pro’s stems, which I have never managed to do successfully mid-stride.

Call quality is decent, so long as you’re not in a super noisy environment. I accidentally butt-dialed a friend in the middle of my thunderstorm run. While I could hear her fine, she thought I was being chased by a murderer and asked if she should call 911. I had to stop running and yell a bit for her to understand that I was OK. My husband also called to check on me during that storm, and in his words, I “sounded like shit” and he couldn’t hear me over the wind. Granted, this is an extreme scenario. In my quiet office? A friend said I sounded just fine.

While the Vista 2 don’t have the best audio, you can improve it by futzing with EQ. The Jaybird app also lets you browse through community-created presets, some of which were better than I expected. There’s also a feature where you can create a personalised EQ based on your own hearing, but I wasn’t too big of a fan of mine.

Lastly, this isn’t quite audio-related, but I was initially stoked to test the Find My Buds feature. I’m always misplacing my AirPods Pro case, and it drives me nuts because Find My doesn’t work unless the AirPods are out of the case. The thing is Jaybird’s version is a little half-baked. It’s awesome that you can find the case. It’s less awesome that you can only trigger flashing LED lights and not audio, which for me, isn’t that useful when I’ve lost it somewhere in my house. (It’d be more useful if you lost the case outside the home.) The individual buds are easier to find because you can trigger audio — but I found it wasn’t quite as reliable as Apple’s Find My feature. It was a little disappointing, but I still appreciate the feature, even if it wasn’t perfect.

Who Should Buy the Vista 2?

There are a lot of wireless earbuds to choose from these days, and frankly speaking, the Vista 2 comes with some tradeoffs. On the one hand, $US200 ($257) is competitively priced and you get a lot for that price, including ANC and excellent battery life. On the other hand, there are better-sounding earbuds out there with ANC and better quality ambient modes.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

If you’re looking for pristine audio or primarily stick to the gym, you’re better off shelling out a bit extra for the Jabra Elite 77 T or even the AirPods Pro. They also do a great job outside of fitness and sound better on calls. And if ANC isn’t a huge deal, you could also consider the Jabra Elite Active 68 T. Those don’t have true ANC, as Jabra added it via a firmware update, but they do offer a really great fit, a better ambient mode, and good audio. I’d also probably recommend the Active 68 T for outdoor cyclists, as the Vista 2 isn’t the best at blocking out wind in ambient mode.

However, if you’re someone who goes hard on outdoor fitness, the Jaybird Vista 2 is the better bet. They’re extremely lightweight, they won’t fall out of your ear, and even if they do, they’ll survive the tumble. Sure, audio could be better, but the audio quality is frankly good enough for walks, commutes, and workouts. If you’ve got enough dough to have one pair of headphones for work, and another for the gym, the Vista 2 is a good investment.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend these for people who only work out occasionally or even those who primarily exercise indoors. But personally speaking, these will be my new go-to for workouts. I’m not precious about audio, I run most days of the week, my ears are unfortunately very sweaty, and I’ve had one-too-many close calls with my AirPods Pro. I’m also someone who’s always had separate headphones for different situations. For someone like me, the Vista 2 is basically perfect.