Jaybird Tarah Pro Review by Engadget

  • Feb 12, 2019

OUR VERDICT

Jaybird is onto a winner with the first of its premium ‘Pro’ range of wireless sport headphones. The Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds aren’t cheap, but go all-out on the kind of durability and quality materials needed for truly intensive exercise or harsh weather conditions.

FOR

  • Tactile rope cabling
  • Three-point charging connector
  • Jaybird app is easy to use

AGAINST

  • Fiddly ear tips
  • AI could be more precise

The Jaybird Tarah Pro headphones are wireless sport headphones for the endurance runners, athletes and fitness nuts out there. With a neck cable to keep the earbuds together, they aren’t quite ‘true wireless’, but will be practical for those concerned about dropping and losing a costly earbud in the heat of a race or training session.

It’s been a big year for Jaybird devices, with launches for the budget Jaybird Tarah, more mid-range Jaybird X4, and now the Tarah Pro to boot. As the first in Jaybird’s new ‘Pro’ range of earbuds, aimed at offering higher quality audio and materials – with a corresponding price hike – all eyes are on whether Jaybird can up its game for the big league.

So do Jaybird’s new premium sport earbuds pass the test? We tried out the Jaybird Tarah Pro in the gym, and out in the streets, to see if they might be a winner.

Jaybird Tarah Pro review

Design

The Jaybird Tarah Pros are smart, if not particularly flashy Bluetooth earphones. You’re here to exercise, after all, not get on a catwalk. 

While there are three color options – Black/Flash, Mineral Blue/Jade, and Titanium/Glacier – they keep things pretty one-tone, aside from a small splash of color on the ends of the drivers, which will mostly be kept out of view in your ears.

Up close, though, the Tarah Pro earbuds are clearly thoughtfully crafted, striking a balance between quality materials and the realities of harsh outdoor exercise conditions.

The cabling is what immediately caught our eye, and is made of a woven material similar to climbing rope: tactile and certainly weather appropriate, but unlike anything we've seen on a pair of headphones before. It's also made of a reflective thread for visibility, though the colors are still too subtle for it to stand out in a meaningful way in night-time conditions (you’ll need something more garish or neon for that).

Jaybird Tarah Pro review

The cabling and plastic both come with a ‘hydrophobic’ coating for repelling moisture, with an IPX7 rating that should fend off rain, snow, sweat, and even a brief swim (up to 1m depth for 30 minutes). You’ll come out of a fitness class or long run with the earbuds as dry as a bone, even if you’ve been sweating throughout.

The rest of the hardware sticks to plastic to keep its weight down to a slight 20g, excluding the rubber wing tips. You get a selection of three tip sizes out of the box – with the medium fit attached to start – along with a proprietary three-point charger that’s less fearful of water or moisture than your traditional microUSB port.

While the rubber ear tips bundled in may seem basic at first glance – and aren’t that easy to slip on and off the earbuds – they stay firmly in place throughout rigorous exercise, while remaining comfortable even after all-day use. They’re never in danger of falling out, and the neat Switch Fit feature allows you to simply twist the earbuds into an over-ear position – if that’s your preference – while loosening or tightening the rope cable with ease.

The button remote is straightforward, too, with a power/pause button, and the two volume buttons intelligently doubling up for playback (single press for volume, or hold to skip forward/back).

 

Performance

The Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds are certainly quick off the mark. Charging for a mere five minutes will grant you near two hours of use, while half an hour will get you to around seven or eight hours of battery life.

The earbuds are light either on your neck or around your head, with tactile materials and a magnetic lock feature – which pauses the music to save battery life – proving a joy to use. We never found them in danger of falling out of jostling out of position, even in high-intensity workouts that would many similar headphones could have struggled with.

Perhaps most importantly, the audio is incredibly natural to the ear. When shopping for sport-minded earphones, you might not think that the sound is high on the list of priorities, and any audio manufacturer needs to balance the cost of hardier materials and water resistance against expectations of sound quality.

Jaybird Tarah Pro review

Of course, these are Bluetooth headphones, and you’re having to accept some audio compression to get audio transmitted over the air rather than through a trusty cable connection, but the audio never drops out unexpectedly or feels lacking. The one mid-range driver in each earbud is capable of reaching a substantial amount of bass, though not enough to entirely block out outside noise or overpower the rest of the frequencies.

The vocals, too, come across clearly. Jaybird has had to strike a tricky balance between sound isolation (to hear the audio clearly) and hearing enough to be aware of your surroundings: crucial in a race, gym, or other training environment. But the clarity Jaybird’s earbuds have achieved means you’ll be able to make out a huge amount of audio detail even at a low volume, or with outside sounds vying for your attention.

You’ll get higher quality audio in earphones like the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, and nothing miles beyond the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 – sport earbuds that undercut Jaybird on price by a good margin – but not in this kind of all-weather, long-lasting, athlete-appropriate package. (The BE Sport 4 also lag behind on battery life, durability, and lower IPX5 water resistance rating.)

The choice EQ settings in the app are also wonderfully intuitive, gently bringing certain frequencies in and out of earshot and feeling far more precise than some EQ tools out there. 

While you can go through a personalized audio test, there are a range of preset EQ options to switch between at the push of a finger. Any user of the Jaybird app can also make their own EQ setting and share with the wider community, meaning you’re building on the expertise of many an athlete before you.

With a long-lasting 14h battery life – verified by our tests – the Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds can also last a full day of extensive use, or several days worth of commutes and fitness classes. 

When switching on the earbuds you’ll get a brief reminder of how much battery you have left, though the voice AI is limited to 10% markers, meaning you might think you have a roomy 10% or one-hour charge left, right until it hits 0%. As long as you know what to expect though, you shouldn’t be caught unawares.

Jaybird Tarah Pro review

Our verdict

The Jaybird Tarah pro earbuds are well-crafted earbuds that truly cater to the needs of endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts, and will suit anyone not willing to sacrifice audio quality in harsher outdoor conditions or indoor workouts, where you normally need earphones that are a bit hardier and more durable.

There are small niggles over the limited voice AI, and some sudden jumps or drops in volume when switching from playback on your phone to the Tarah Pro’s remote. But the overall ease of use and of the Jaybird app, and impressive clarity of the audio, makes these a fantastic choice of earphones, even for the high $159 (£139/AU$229) price. For something a bit cheaper, though, or that won’t be exposed to overly harsh conditions, you may be swayed by the Optoma BE Sport4 instead.

Both in style and functionality, the Tarah Pros are high-performing but unobtrusive earbuds, letting you get on with the important work of running, cycling, weight-lifting, or working out in the gym.