I have lusted after wireless earbuds ever since I started running. I run along narrow country roads so can’t listen to music in both ears whilst safely paying attention to what may be coming up behind me or zooming round a blind corner. So I have long dreamed of not having to worry about a cable flapping around my neck or a wire running from my phone sticking to my sweaty body in gross and uncomfortable ways until it gets caught and wretches the music from my ears.
If you talk to most runners who accompany their miles with music they will recommend two pairs of wireless earbuds; the Jaybird Vistas and Beats Powerbeats Pro. Both are truly wireless earbuds with incredible sound, incredible functionality, are sweat and waterproof and crucially, for distance runners, boast a long battery life.
I have tested both of these headphones in a variety of different conditions for the past four months; from race day to everyday life, rainy and windy walks to sun-soaked sweaty tempo runs and everything in-between. I have taken this long before talking about them so I can talk confidently about my views and so you can understand why one accompanies me on every run now.
I should say from the off that while I purchased the Beats, Jaybird kindly gifted me the Vista. They have had no preview or influence on this review which you’ll understand once you start reading this review…
So, let’s kick things off with some quick-fire comparisons on some of the key factors that might make you choose one of these music makers over the other.
Price: Both of these are not cheap; as of writing the Powerbeats Pro are £219 on Amazon compared to £150 for the Vista.
The Case: The housing for the earbuds keep them safe but they are also how they are charged. There is a vast, slightly comical difference in size here: Powerbeats Pro 7x7x4cm, Vista 7×3.5x2cm. That may not read like a lot but the Beats’s case feels like a mobile phone from the 90s compared to the sleek and lightweight design of the Jaybirds’ case.
Battery Life: The Powerbeats Pro features 9 hours of listening time, which can be extended to more than 24 hours with the included charging capacity of the case. With their fast fuel charging, you can get up to 1.5 hours of playback with just 5 minutes of charge. The Vista boast 6 hours of playback, with 10 additional hours from the case. 5 minutes in their charging case will give you about 1 hour of playback. Now you can see why that case so is much larger. It’s important to bear the playback times when it comes to running a marathon or ultra as you might find your music fading before you reach the finish line.
I am an audiophile, so even though these earbuds are aimed at exercising I still wanted them to sound great. Honestly, I always expected wireless earbuds to have awful sound quality so I have been completely blown away by both of these two models. They both deliver clear and crisp sound with mind boggling definition from such small systems and bass that is astounding. Honestly there isn’t much to tell them apart in terms of quality of sound in regular listening but the place that the Vistas sound quality lacks is at low volume and high volume. It is where they lose their gravitas and the Beats come into their own, especially at high volume where the clarity of the Vistas becomes fogged. I wore the Beats during the Dead Sea Marathon (review of that coming shortly) and in the final mile I needed that extra kick up of volume that the Vistas just can’t stretch to. Jaybird has got an incredible app that links to the Vistas where you can edit the EQ which is phenomenal but as my music taste is so eclectic and I often listen to podcasts I felt that I had to constantly pop into the app to edit to make the most of them.
The fit is the main reason I use the Powerbeats Pro everyday over the Vistas. Beats have used the over the ear hook system for many years in their Powerbeats wired line up. The secure hook means that not only are they not going to fall out during your run or workout but they do not have to be wedged in your ear to stay put. This results in a considerably more comfortable fit in the ear canal than the smaller in ear designs like the Vistas. There is definitely a knack to getting them on and a few clumsy attempts early on resulted in me dropping them while trying to hook them around my ear, but once you get used to it, it becomes like muscle memory. I won’t comment too much on the looks of these as I know looks are subjective but I have had people say that the Powerbeats Pro do look like the handsfree ear pieces that people used to use in the early 2000s.
The reason I don’t enjoy wearing the Vistas is because of how they have to sit much deeper in the ear canal to be secure. The seal this creates acts as a noise cancelling but crucially, for me anyway, it creates internal pressure. For those who have worn ear plugs will know what I am talking about; you can hear your breathing and when you move your head. It is a strange and unsettling experience.
My issue with the fit also affects how I view the buttons on the Vista, as the buds are so small there is one button on each bud covering the whole external surface. So when you press it you are pushing the earbud deeper into your ear which I found not just uncomfortable but also painful. Because there is no volume rocker they have the buttons as customisable via the app so I had a long press on the left ear turned the volume up and the same on the right to bring it down. As I adjust the volume a lot during runs dependent on if I need a push or taking a break, I found I was doing this a lot and it became a real nuisance.
Because the Beats are larger thanks to its hook system means they have more real estate for buttons so they have a single button and a volume rocker. The controls are incredibly easy to find, even without being able to see them. This is helpful mid run. Just run your fingers over the earbud, and feel for the B logo. Press once to pause or resume playback, twice to skip a track and three times to reverse, and long-press to activate Siri. The volume rocker is located on top of each bud.
One very cool feature in the Powerbeats is automatic stop/starting. The sensor clocks that you’ve taken the earbud out of your ear and pauses your music and will automatically start playing the music you were just listening to when you pop it back in.
As I said at the start the cases are massively different in size and the Vista case has style and a clear design to it whereas the Beats one is pig ugly and thanks to the larger earbuds absolutely massive in comparison. The Beats boast the much larger battery life from its case, however, and using it for multi-day ultras means that extra chunkiness is worth it to have the additional 8 hours of playback compared to the Vista.
I think my favourite is pretty clear when it comes to these two, the main sticking points that might stop you from buying the Beats Powerbeats Pro instead of the Jaybird Vista is the 70 extra pounds you need to shell out for an already expensive bit of kit and the bulkiness of the case. If those two factors aren’t an issue, go and buy the Powerbeats Pro and thank me later.