It’s been documented that music helps athletes perform better. Unfortunately, it is also well-documented that sweat kills headphones. JBL’s Yurbuds brand aims to solve that problem with a line of sweatproof headphones designed to fit securely in the ear, backed by a strong warranty. Yurbuds Liberty Wireless Earphones ($100) mostly deliver on this promise, but suffer from some design choices that will detract from the experience for some users. The earphones come with two pairs of eartips, a travel pouch, and a micro-USB cable for charging.
Liberty Wireless is a set of in-ear Bluetooth headphones that use silicone “sound tunnels” to keep sweat from damaging the drivers while directing sound into your ear canal. Thick over-ear cable guides keep the headphones firmly in place, while a short but substantial sleeved cable runs behind your head. Just under the right headphone is a control module that appears to have only two buttons (volume, previous, next), but actually has a hidden middle button that controls power, pairing, play, pause, and call functions. Our unit was able to last the promised six hours, though your mileage may vary depending on listening volume.
While in the gym, on the bike, or out on a run, we found Liberty Wireless’ sound quality and output to be adequate. Beats hit hard, and weren’t stopped by sweat — that’s exactly what we’re looking for in a sport-oriented headphone. But music of various genres sounded veiled and muffled, probably due to the silicone sitting directly over the driver. Liberty Wireless doesn’t have the resolution to be your primary, general-listening headphones, but that’s not really the intent. Like your gym shoes, these headphones are designed for a specific purpose, and compromises are to be expected.
Yurbuds says that these earphones are “Guaranteed never to hurt or fall out.” This is half true. Liberty Wireless is sturdy, and the fit is secure. Comfort, however, is a different story. The fabric sleeve surrounding the cable makes it less likely to snag, but it also absorbs sweat and is just stiff enough to be annoying. Both sizes of the included “sound tunnels” felt too large. The earpieces are very thick, and cable guides are stiff, making these headphones a chore to get positioned on your ears. Even when the earphones were sitting securely on our ears, we found them impossible to forget — and not in a good way. While most electronics have benefited from amazing miniaturization over the years, you can only get more out of batteries and speakers if you make them bigger. Yurbuds used relatively large 15mm drivers and, presumably, large batteries to match. The question is – did they choose wisely?
Jaybird’s Bluebuds X, which we first reviewed in late 2012, are also guaranteed to be sweatproof. They do everything else better, as well — the Bluebuds sound better, they’re lighter, their cable is more pliable, and they are significantly smaller than Yurbuds’ Liberty Wireless. We found that Liberty Wireless is a mostly capable set of sports earphones that do one job well — but there’s no getting around the lack of comfort. Whether you can adapt to the fit will be highly personal, but you may have a better experience if you’re willing to spend a little more.
Company and Price
Model: Liberty Wireless
Compatible: Bluetooth iPhones