My office at AWT HQ is beginning to look like a specialty store for earbuds. While most are AirPod wannabes or typical Bluetooth earbuds, the Jabees Firefly wireless earbuds I recently received for testing have some features that make them a standout in a crowded market.
The buds are in the last stages of a Kickstarter funding drive that’s already almost 10 times past its goal. You can still grab a pre-order reward for as little as $64, with delivery expected next month.
The design of the Firefly earbuds follows a common theme: these are buds that interchangeable ear tips for a perfect fit, while the electronics are in a shell this sits outside the ear. They really stay in your ears and use Liquipel for sweat resistance during intense exercise.
So what makes the Firefly earbuds unique? Several factors: they can be charged in just 10 minutes for more than 2 hours of sound playback. They use Bluetooth 5.0 for an unbreakable wireless connection with devices like the iPhone X and iPhone 8/8 Plus that also use Bluetooth 5.0.
One thing that is totally unique about the Firefly buds is that they provide a way to listen to ambient sound, which can be important in keeping yourself safe on the streets. With a double-tap on the multi-function button on the right earbud, you can enable a “situational awareness” mode that brings in ambient sounds while still letting you listen to music or make phone calls.
The buds have a charging case that can provide up to 12 hours of charges. It has a magnetic “lock” on one end to keep the charger closed, and a gentle tug on that end opens a sliding door attached to a charging tray.
Fireflies come in two models — piano black and crystal clear. The clear model looks cool as you can see the circuitry inside the earbuds. Regardless of the model, the Firefly earbuds have IPX5 water resistance; they’re not waterproof, but can survive sweat and rain.
In the ear, the Firefly earbuds are almost impossible to feel. I found that I could wear them for hours without discomfort; your mileage may vary depending on the size of your ear canal. You can, of course, try any of the three ear tips to get the best possible combination of good fit and comfort.
The buds don’t have an on/off switch or tap sequence. Instead, they turn on when you take them out of the charging case and turn off when you put them back into the case. Up to three devices can be connected to the Firefly buds at once, and reconnection is almost instantaneous. Seriously, there’s no lag at all, and you’ll hear the voice announcing “device connected” or “second device connected” as you’re putting the buds into your ears.
Sound quality and Bluetooth connection strength were both excellent with the Fireflies. I listened to a variety of music genres and found the audio range to be good both on the low and high end of the spectrum.
How well does that situational awareness feature work? Very well. With the double-tap, you can start hearing what’s around you. With other earbuds it drives me nuts when my wife starts talking to me while listening to music; here, I just did the double-tap and I was able to hear her speak.
Starting and stopping music is also instantaneous; you can just tap either of the multifunction buttons once and the music stops or starts up again. I like the positive feedback you get with the multifunction buttons — they give a haptic “click” when you push them. That’s something I wish Apple’s AirPods had instead of relying on taps…
Speaking of pushing buttons, you can easily access Siri with a double-push of the button on the left earbud. You’ll hear the familiar “dink-dink” of Siri, can ask it a question, and you’ll get your answer. It’s useful for making calls, too!
When the Jabees Firefly earbuds make it to market, they’ll be available at a MSRP of $99. That’s $60 less than Apple AirPods, and for earbuds that provide excellent sound and long battery life. If you’re not a fan of AirPods, I think you’ve found a new pair of earbuds to fall in love with.