With a 14-hour battery, these new sports earbuds go the distance [Review]

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Tarah Pro sports earbuds are up to almost any adventure.
Tarah Pro sports earbuds are up to almost any adventure.
Photo: Jaybird

Tarah Pro earbuds, the latest wireless sports headphones from Jaybird, take adventure audio to new extremes. With smart new features and an astonishing 14 hours of battery life, these sweat-proof earbuds can go the distance — even if you’re a marathoner.

If you’re a fitness fanatic who constantly crushes your Activity goals during epic outdoor adventures, these might be the perfect Bluetooth earbuds for you.

If you’re familiar with Jaybird, a sports-centric company company based in Park City, Utah (and owned by Logitech), you know it makes quality Bluetooth earbuds.

Just like Apple, Jaybird relentlessly improves its products with every iteration. That’s certainly true with Tarah Pro, which ups the ante on previous Jaybird models like the regular ol’ (amateur?) Tarah and the X4.

Jaybird Tarah Pro vs. AirPods

Tarah Pro earbuds look more like BeatsX than AirPods.
Tarah Pro earbuds look more like BeatsX than my beloved AirPods.
Photo: Jaybird

Since Apple’s AirPods are currently the Bluetooth earbuds to beat, that’s what I’ll compare Tarah Pro to in this speed test of a review. I haven’t had a ton of time to test these new earbuds, but right out of the gate, it’s clear they have a ton to offer outdoor adventurers.

Cutting the cord — sort of

Unlike AirPods, a thin, braided cord runs between the Tarah Pro earbuds (just like BeatsX, which I’ve never tried). The design is not as carefree as totally wireless models (like AirPods or Jaybird’s Run), but it’s more comfortable and fuss-free than the rubbery connector on Jaybird’s previous wired models like the X4.

The cord can be worn either over your ears or under, depending on your needs and preference. And, since the ear nozzles swivel, you can switch this out quickly on the fly. An extremely welcome Speed Cinch feature lets you easily adjust the length of the connector, too. (Bonus for late-night or early morning runners: The fabric cord is reflective for better visibility in the dark.)

Silicone tips, with wings that tuck into your conchae (the hollows next to your ear canals), hold Tarah Pro tightly in place. (Three included sizes of silicone tip let you pick the most comfortable option.)

A small, curved, three-button control on the connecting cable hugs the back of your skull and gives you easy access to controls for playing/pausing music and triggering your phone’s voice assistant. You can customize the buttons’ function, too.

Tarah Pro battery life and advanced features

Made of premium materials, these new sports earbuds pack plenty of advanced features at a competitive price of $159.99.

Amazing battery life

Did I mention you get 14 hours of battery life on a single charge with Tarah Pros? That means they last longer than an iPhone XS Max. And, if you somehow manage to burn through those 14 hours of play time, a five-minute charge on the included (proprietary) USB magnetic charger gives you two more hours of audio.

Battery-saving features give Tarah Pro a boost, too. A motion sensor tells the earbuds to shut down after 15 minutes of inactivity. Plus, magnets in the earbuds — which hold them together securely around your neck when they’re not plugged into your ears — also shut off your tunes automatically when they connect. Separate the earbuds and your audio resumes.

Durable and waterproof

Tarah Pro earbuds can withstand water and sweat, thanks to an iPX7-rated build and a hydrophobic nano coating. You can’t go swimming with them, but don’t worry about running in the rain or mud.

Customizable EQ

The free JayBird MySound app (available for iOS and Android) lets you create and share custom EQ settings that you store directly on Jaybird earbuds. With Tarah Pro, Jaybird goes the extra mile, adding a quick hearing test so you can come up with a setting that’s (supposedly) just right for you. (More on that later.)

Tarah Pro hands-on: Extreme earbuds

In this situation, you might not want AirPods dangling precariously from your ears.
In this situation, you might not want AirPods dangling precariously from your ears.
Photo: Jaybird

I’m no jogger, but I took the Tarah Pro earbuds for a test run (in my house). The battery life proved phenomenal. Out of the box, the earbuds came charged at 80 percent. After seven hours, they fell to only 40 percent. After 10.5 hours of constant racket, they still boasted 20 percent.

Jaybird’s mind-boggling claim of 14 hours seems totally legit. After years of using my beloved AirPods, and typically charging them several times throughout a day of use, the Tarah Pro’s extreme battery life seemed like some kind of miracle.

Tarah Pro audio quality

Tarah Pro audio quality was great, too. They sound punchier than AirPods, at least partly because they effectively seal out ambient noise from your environment. This is good and bad — and largely a matter of personal preference.

Do you want to hear your surroundings? Or do you want to immerse yourself fully in audio? The experience with Tarah Pro proves far different from what you get with AirPods’ airy design.

When my wife walked up and said something while I had the Tarah Pros in, I could barely hear her. The music in my ears came through loud and clear, but her voice sounded like the swirly sonics you hear when swimming.

That could be awesome — or terrifying. It all depends on your environment (and maybe what exactly your wife is saying at the time).

About that Personal EQ

As mentioned, the Jaybird MySound app lets you select (and share) equalizer presets to shape the sound to your liking. With Tarah Pro, Jaybird takes customization to an extremely personal level. A new customization feature evaluates your hearing, using a test similar to what you might experience in an audiologist’s office, to come up with a personalized EQ setting just for you.

You’re free to use the test (and the Personal EQ preset it generates) or ignore the whole shebang. In my experience, the Personal EQ boosted the bass and muddied the highs more than I like. But then I can’t stand hearing tests — after years of abuse, I’ve sustained some hearing damage. Hearing tests always remind me of the tinge of tinnitus that afflicts me.

Things AirPods lovers might not like

If you love AirPods as much as I do, some other things might bug you about Tarah Pro aside from the ear-plugging (and ambient-noise-obliterating) design.

Best with Spotify Premium, not Apple Music

Obviously, since Jaybird earbuds aren’t made by Apple, they can’t fit into the Apple ecosystem as seamlessly as AirPods. For example, the Tarah Pro’s music features work best with Spotify Premium. A free Spotify account gets you part way there, but your playlist experience won’t be as good as with a a paid Spotify account. Apple Music isn’t in the mix.

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber and you ask Siri politely to play a track using the Tarah Pro control, the experience is not great. Maybe you could figure out a way to make this seamless, but that’s beyond the scope of this down-and-dirty review. (Using my iPhone XS to fire up an Apple Music playlist worked fine, as you would expect.)

Wire woes

Because of the wire that connects the earbuds, you obviously can’t wear one at a time. You can put one in and let the other dangle, but it’s not as elegant as Apple’s dainty white wireless earbuds. And leaving one ear free while pumping a podcast into the other is one of my favorite AirPods features.

Also, that wire can cause noise as it flops around on your neck. I can hear it clearly as I walk around, although cinching it tightly reduces the noise. However, that can mean the earbuds tug on your ears when you turn your head.

I’m sure this is something you’d get used to quickly — and in fact I did during an elliptical workout, with the Tarah Pros connected to my Apple TV. But after the utter weightless freedom of AirPods, I find the connecting wire a bit annoying. (Again, I only tested the Tarah Pro earbuds for a day.)

Siri is stupider

You can trigger Siri by double-tapping the Tarah Pro controller, but honestly it’s disappointing. Siri actually seems dumber (if you can believe that) when summoned this way. For one thing, there’s a serious lag. For another, Siri struggles with simple tasks like calling the right person from your contact list. I didn’t think Siri could get worse, but .. yeah.

Jaybird Tarah Pro review: The verdict

All told, Tarah Pro seems like a great fit for fitness freaks looking to take their music or podcasts on a long ridgeline run or some other intensely challenging outdoor activity.

Obviously, they’re no AirPods — for good or ill.

But they sound great. They will outlast an ultra-marathoner. And even weekend warriors won’t face that nagging fear that an AirPod might pop out and disappear off a cliff or into a creek.

Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds will ship this month at a suggested retail price of $159.99. Jaybird provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more stuff we recommend.