Convenience and great sound don’t always come in the same package. This is especially true for new Bluetooth technology. But truly wireless earphones are fun to have, and I’ve been looking for a pair to satisfy my desire for reasonably good sound. So, let’s see if the JBL Free make the cut.
IN the BOX
JBL Free in-ear headphones
2 sets of silicone ear tips
3 sets of silicone ear tips
1 micro USB charging cable
Quick start guide
The earbuds comes in three different sizes. Once I found the right size, the earphones fit pretty securely in my ears. I’m not used to wearing truly wireless earphones, so I was a little scared of losing them. But I shook my head around wildly for a few seconds, and surprisingly, they stayed in. So, feel free to dance. These earbuds are advertised as sweat resistant and splash proof. I didn’t go for a run in them, so I can’t confirm whether they stay in during sweaty workouts.
DESIGN and BLUETOOTH
A little disclaimer. There have been a lot of negative user reviews about the JBL Free, some of which have to do with the actual functioning of the earphones themselves. I will say that the first box I opened had malfunctioning earphones, so I had to open a second box. The second pair worked great. If you live in the U.S., these earphones come with a one year warranty, so if you do happen to buy duds, you can always replace them with a new pair.
With a working pair, there is something beautiful about the simplicity of the JBL Free. What’s nice about the true wireless is that the earphone case is actually a charger. So you can charge them on the go. The portable charger offers 20 hours of backup power, and it takes 15 minutes of charging time to yield one hour of playback. The JBL Free give continuous playback for 4 hours. All functions are controlled by a single button, except for volume, which needs to be controlled by your phone. I didn’t really mind this because I’m constantly fiddling around with my phone anyway. But if you’re a runner, this might interrupt your flow. Pairing the JBL Free with your phone is easy. You simply take the right earphone out of the charging case and then find the JBL Free on your Bluetooth. Then you take out the left, and voila.
Unfortunately, the sound is my least favorite aspect of the JBL Free. JBL usually makes decent earphones, but these sounded like a cheap pair. The first and most significant problem is that the volume just isn’t loud enough. These earphones will work great for podcasts or as background music, but if you really want to listen to a song at a high volume, the JBL Free might not do. I also found the bass on these earphones to be lacking; if you’re looking for that bassy JBL sound, you might be disappointed. The same can be said for the mids, while the treble is a little to bright. There’s an overall muddiness to the sound, which is a downer. In headphone reviews, I usually delve into which instruments and genres of music excel, but I’m not moved to do that with this pair. If I had to point out the best aspect of the sound, I might say that the drums and guitars sound okay. Maybe rock sounds the best on the JBL Free. But again, that’s not saying much.
The compromised sound on truly wireless headphones isn’t that surprising. The technology just isn’t there yet. But there is something liberating about wearing buds that are completely free from any wires. In this aspect, the JBL Free are a fun purchase.
Bluetooth® version 4.2
Charging time: <2 hours
Compatibility: Use with phones, tablets, computers
Product weight: 99g
Frequency response: 10Hz – 22kHz
Earbud battery life: 4 hours
Dynamic drivers: 5.6 mm