There are two schools of thought regarding wireless headphones. There’s the AirPods camp, which believes true wireless is the only wireless, and the best way to listen to music is with two individual buds shoved into your ear canals. To the other crew, wires going behind your head or around your neck aren’t so bad; in fact, they might be better, since they’re harder to lose and easier to manage. To them, the only cord that must be severed is the one between phone and ear.
For the last year or so, I’ve told anyone who asks to buy the $200 Jaybird Freedom. They sound great, fit comfortably enough to wear all day, and last at least through an afternoon of jams. They’re usable workout headphones, and great for casual listening too. Most of the Freedom’s electronics hide in the in-line remote, not in the buds themselves, which makes for a lighter, more wearable package. When you’re not listening, you don’t need a charging case; just drape them around your neck.
Jaybird didn’t mess with a good thing for the second version of Freedom. The brand new Freedom 2 comes with a redesigned cord-management system, which helps you remove slack from the cable to fit snugly wherever you put it. And Jaybird redesigned the tips, integrating them with the wings that nestle into the cartilage above your ear canal to keep the buds in place. Some changes work better than others, but the Freedom 2 deserves a place at the top of your shopping list.
The same natural, rich, impressive sound as the previous model—for real, the fit is the only thing that’s changed. Once you find the right tip / wing combo (and it takes some testing), it fits snugly and comfortably, and does a decent job blocking surrounding noise. The new cable-sizing system works perfectly: just put on the headphones, grab both plastic rectangles, and either push them together or pull them apart to change the size. I lost the clip for my original Freedom pair almost immediately, so building the system into the headphones makes life much better.
As with most headphones, your Bluetooth connection depends mostly on your phone. A good rule of thumb: Android Bluetooth is bad, iPhone Bluetooth is good. Using a Galaxy Note 8 caused dropouts galore, but an iPhone was nearly rock-solid. Your phone choice can even affect battery life—without all the dropping and reconnecting, I got more than an hour extra battery connected to an iPhone. In either case, the little charging cradle also has a battery inside, which you can clip on and get some extra juice in a pinch.
That charging cradle? You’re going to lose it. It’s the size of a flash drive, and has already disappeared in my bag a dozen times. I’m not fully sold on the new tips, either, which include those stay-put wings whether you want them or not, and are thick and mushy and just feel like a lot of stuff in my ears. Also, I don’t know what Mike managed to do last year to get over six hours in his tests, but I rarely get more than the advertised four hours out of the battery. But that’s enough for most things, and the clip comes through on really long plane rides.
9/10: Excellent, buy it now.