Running and Rocking with the Jaybird Tarah

Jaybird’s Tarah wireless headphones, in “Nimbus Gray – Jade”

I love music and I love running. Ironically, though, I rarely combine the two. While I often listen to my iPod in the car on the way to and from races, I hardly ever listen to music during a run. I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to running, and the less equipment I have to keep track of, the better.

But I do love music, and when I recently filled my 2007 iPod Classic to capacity, my wife gave me a new iPod Touch to take on the overflow of tunes. The thing about iPods is it’s a little tricky to actually play music from them. Unless you want to be anchored to headphones or earbuds, you need some extra equipment to get the sound from the iPod to a music delivery system. In the case of my iPod Classic, I bought a tiny FM transmitter for $30 at Radio Shack that transmits to any nearby radio set to an unused frequency on the dial. It works great in the car. But the new iPod Touch has a different connector that isn’t compatible with the transmitter, so the only way to listen to music with the Touch is through earphones or earbuds, not my preferred method.

The Tarah comes with three sizes of removable ear gels for a custom fit.

The iPod Touch has Bluetooth though, something my older iPod lacks. So when I got a chance to try Jaybird’s new Tarah wireless Bluetooth enabled headphones, my ears perked up. The Tarah comes with three sizes of “ear gels” for an adjustable fit and a tiny charger that plugs into a USB port on your computer. The system is water and sweat proof, and includes a small controller on the cord with an on/off button and volume controls that also serve to skip to the next song or go back to the previous track. Bluetooth allows you to listen to music or receive calls from a nearby device.

The Jaybird app allows you to customize the sound with a touch activated equalizer, although I’m not sure it’s working for me yet, as I haven’t noticed any resulting difference in sound quality yet when I’ve fiddled with it. But the default sound on my trial runs so far has been excellent, with no reason to change the settings.

I have other high-quality earbuds that I like, but there are ongoing problems and irritations with all of them. The earbuds tend to fall out at some point, no matter how much I adjust them and stuff them back in, and because of that, even when they are behaving I’m still on edge, wondering when one will pop out of my ear right before the classic guitar solo. Also, there always seems to be some friction from the cords and a feeling of tugging, no matter how much slack I give them, and this adds to the paranoia that an earbud will come loose.

The Tarah mitigates these concerns to some extent. For starters, there’s a nicely designed flexible “anchor” that fits behind the flap above your ear hole to stabilize the earbud. The default size 2 left earbud did come out a couple times on my first run, but the different sizes of ear gels allowed me to experiment with the fit (trying the larger size 3, and then the smaller size 1), and I think I settled on a size that works. The ear gels are very easy to remove and replace. I still felt some friction from the short cord rubbing on my shoulders and neck, which pulled a little on the earbud itself. The slight asymmetry of the weight due to the controller made the Tarah feel as if it was pulling subtly to one side. Neither of these is a huge problem, and they settled down as my test runs went on, but they remained a niggling concern.

The controller is small, simple, and easy to reach and use.

The waterproof texture of the earbuds and cord is very pleasant and it’s reassuring to know that the Tarah is built to be worry-free when it comes to the elements. The control buttons are easy to reach, and it’s not hard to identify each of the three buttons by feel. You hold down the middle button for 10 seconds to turn the Tarah on and off. A tiny white light appears to indicate the headphones are on; a red light appears when you turn them off. The controller is small enough that it’s easy to cover the light with your thumb or finger, so a delicate placement of your digit is important. Also, why do so many headphones and earbuds display “L” and “R” so faintly? There’s no shame in boldly and clearly distinguishing left from right. It’s not politics! But again, this is just a minor quibble.

The charging station is small and unobtrusive, and the Tarah’s “plug” attaches with a satisfying snap. Charging doesn’t seem to take long, and Jaybird claims a six-hour battery life. When the Tarah are synced with my iPod, a little headphone icon and the words “Jaybird Tarah” appear on my Touch’s screen, indicating the Kaiser Chiefs (and many others) are ready to join me on the run.

Despite some very minor gripes (that apply universally to all earbuds I’ve tried), the Jaybird Tarah are excellent sounding, high quality, and well-designed headphones.

My Tarah are “Nimbus Gray – Jade”, and they also come in “Black Metallic – Flash” (greenish yellow), and “Solstice Blue – Glacier” (two tone blue).

Price: $99.99

Thank you to Jaybird for providing us with a sample pair. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.

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