JBL Free X VS Apple Airpods

Before I begin this review just a few things.

The Airpods featured are the first gen Airpods. When the new Airpods came out I was a bit disappointed. The upgrades to the new Airpods aren’t minor but I felt they didn’t affect the outcome of this comparison. In fact if you’re going towards the Airpods I suggest going with the first gen if it’s cheaper. If you already own the first gen then wait and see what the third iteration will bring.

Also in this comparison I wont be covering sound quality. I think comparing sound quality at this price point is pointless. When your spending this much money you can expect good sound. The only thing that makes headphones sound different is the brand they are made by. Each brand has their own sound. But if you must know, I think these two headphones sound very similar.

To keep things simple I will be comparing in them in 5 categories. That I think will impact your decision the most.

Design

In terms of materials. Both are made out of plastic but with great build quality. For the design of the buds I have to give it to the Free X. They don’t stand out as much when worn compared to the Airpods.

But when it comes to the charge case the Airpods win. Its more pocketable and you can open it with one hand. The Free X case is massive in comparison and will require two hands to open.

JBL has more compact buds.

Connectivity

With an iDevice the Airpods win. One of the Airpods biggest strength is how streamlined the connection process is with Apple devices. Initial pairing is super easy. You simple open the case next to your device and click connect. Then there’s the easy switching between different devices just by opening the case near the device you want to use the Airpods with.

Connection with the Free X is your standard affair. Initiate pairing then look for the device in your Bluetooth settings. You can’t easily switch between different device. So it’s best to keep the Free X connected to one device at a time.

For single ear use you can use either AirPods. The Free X does its connecting to your device via the right bud. You won’t be able to use the left by itself. Both headphones have similar range and connection reliability.

Fitting

The fitting for both headphones are mixed. In one hand the Airpods is the most comfortable of the two. You can wear them all day and forget they are there. Surprisingly the Airpods stay in without hooks or wings.

In the other hand you have the plug-in buds with the Free X. Not everyone including me will find them comfortable and will have fitting issues. The Free X need some adjusting each time you put them on.  They have to be jammed into your ears correctly for them to stay in place.

To help with fitting JBL includes three tip sizes and two sleeves for you to mix and match to your ears. For me none of them worked. I ended up swapping the silicone tips with foams ones which helped considerably. So if fitting and comfort is an issue than those could be a solution for you.

JBL fitting options.

Usability

This part they are both very different but I’m going to lean towards the Free X; simply because of the buttons. On the right bud you get controls for Play, Pause, calls and assistant Siri/Google. The left bud is for skipping or rewinding tracks. You can turn off each bud on its own or initiate Bluetooth pairing.

With the Airpods the controls are simpler. To pause a track you take an Airpods out of your ear. To continue you just put it back in. Then a double tap on either side will call up Siri for the rest of the controls.

After using both I found JBL’s buttons to be better than calling up Siri to skip or rewind tracks. Especially while listening to a podcast or audio book where you forward and rewind tracks often. The new Airpods have the ability to change tracks via taps but JBLs tactile buttons feel better.

For watching videos I found some noticeable lag with the Free X vs the Airpods. For me it wasn’t a big deal and your experience my differ. But this is something to take into account.

Battery

The Free X clearly has the larger footprint.

You can’t go wrong with either. Though the AirPods win by a margin. You get 5 hours per charge on the buds and over 24 hours in total with the case. The Free X is similar at 4 hours per bud and 24 hours in total with the case. For recharging you get 3 hours on a 15min charge with the AirPods. With the Free X it’s 1 hour over a 15 min charge.

With the AirPods you can get away with one cable to charge both your iPhone and the case. The free x still uses Micro USB. Its not much of an issue since most people will have heaps of spares lying around. But USB-C would have been better since most Android phones are coming out with it.

Battery info is better on the AirPods each time you connect your get a clear and aesthetically pleasing battery status. With the Free X its four lights on the charger and no way of knowing how much charge is on the buds. But I didn’t find this much of an issue. My uses were only an hour or two at a time anyways.

Micro USB VS Lightning

Conclusion

So which headphones is right for you?
Both headphones are a good option each with their own pros and cons. no headphone is better than the other. The real question is what do you want and how you will be using your headphones.

The Airpods is a much more cleaner design.

If you own an iPhone and just want everyday headphones. Then go with the AirPods straight up. I don’t see AirPods as headphones but more of an extension of the phone. Instead of the sound coming from your phone it’s projected straight into your ears. Comfort combined with a longer battery life, you can wear the AirPods for as long as you want. You won’t notice them on. Also the case is very pocketable so you can take the AirPods anywhere. You don’t get any noise cancelling and they sort of look funny but they just work. Price wise I don’t they are that expensive considering what you get.

I think JBL could of reduced the size of the case significantly.

If you own an Android I recommend the Free X. Though the AirPods will still work but will be limited. As a piece of travel gear the Free X is great. You get some noise cancelling and they have a smaller footprint compared to full sized can. The only caveat is they don’t have an AUX cable to connect to plane infotainment system. The Free X can be found for much cheaper than the Airpods. I am yet to find a more comparable option at this price point.

Video below to my Youtube.

Video below to my Airpods Review

Video below to my JBL Free X review.

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