I just had a chance to test the Jam Ultra true wireless earbuds. With these you get a pair of futuristic earbuds that completely lack wires, but at an affordable price.
True wireless earbuds (called “true” because they are both Bluetooth and lack a wire connecting the buds themselves) are a relatively new development. The first models to come out were very expensive, but the technology is now trickling down to more budget-friendly options. With the iPhone 7 and more smartphones beginning to ditch the traditional headphone jack, Bluetooth headphones are going mainstream.
I’ve tested a number of true wireless earbuds lately and the worst part of the process for every one has been setup. The challenge with these earbuds is that they not only have to be connected by Bluetooth to your smartphone (or whatever device will be your music source), they also need to be wirelessly connected to each other, and in perfect sync.
Removing the buds from their charge case automatically powers them up and is also supposed to automatically sync them to each other. That sync didn’t always happen (and occasionally one would drop out) so I’d have to force a manual sync. The first time used, they also had to be connected to my iPhone via Bluetooth, a process that was smooth.
Each Ultra earbud has a multifunction button that’s easy to find and activate. They control a range of functions including music playback, pairing and taking a voice call. Each is also equipped with LED status lights.
I’m not a huge earbud fan because I have a hard time finding buds that fit properly and are comfortable to wear. That being said, the Jam Ultra earbuds fit quite well and stayed in place, as long as I wasn’t jumping around. Despite the added weight of a battery in each unit, they were quite comfortable. They are covered in a mesh fabric instead of the usual plastic that gives them a matte look and makes them less slippery.
Jam says the Ultra earbuds are sweat-proof, but doesn’t supply a specific water resistance rating.
It worth noting you can wear a single earbud if you want to keep one ear free to listen for ambient noise.
Earbuds usually mean an audio compromise compared to on-ear and over-ear headphones. That difference is more noticeable if you can’t get the buds to fit perfectly. A good seal is required, or the low end in particular suffers.
So your experience with Jam Ultra earbuds is going to depend to a certain extent on how well they fit, so make sure you try the different ear tips. And don’t be afraid to use different sized ear tips on the left and right buds — your ear canals are not necessarily identical.
That being said, the Jam Ultra earbuds delivered what I would describe as decent audio for casual listening. Highs were a little muted and the bass weaker than I would like. You won’t get a lot of detail out of classical music or folk music. But for listening to pop or rock on the go, they were fine.
Battery Life and Charge Case
One downside to true wireless earbuds is battery life. This is a universal challenge — it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, there is only so much battery that can be crammed in a device small enough to sit in your ear. Jam says the Ultra is good for about three hours of play time, which about lines up with my experience. If you like your music loud, that may be cut as low as two hours on a charge, though.
All true wireless earbuds come with a charge case. This accessory does double duty. It keeps the earbuds safe when not in use (they are pretty tiny and losing them if left rolling around is a definite possibility), while also serving as a charger. The charge case actually has its own battery, and uses that to charge the buds.
The Jam Ultra charge case is rather unique compared to others I’ve tried. That mesh black finish used on the Ultra earbuds is also employed for the case and gives it a very premium look. The Jam Ultra’s charge case has a bigger battery than most, holding 10 charges for the earbuds. It also has a USB-A port so you can use the case to top up your smartphone battery if needed. The buds pop into place easily, with magnets guiding them to the charger connectors.
Jam Ultra Specs
You can find full specifications on the Jam Ultra product page.
So, What Am I Giving Up?
Jam seems to be offering a solid experience with its Ultra true wireless earbuds, but they are priced significantly lower than many options. The Ultra are half the price (or less!) of some true wireless earbuds. So what are you giving up compared to the pricier alternatives?
Battery life is one area where the Jam Ultra earbuds don’t match the competition, with a three hour rating versus the usual four hours. But on the other hand, the Jam Ultra charge case holds 10 charges — which is considerably more than average — and also acts as a USB charger for mobile devices. Audio may not have quite the same energy as more expensive earbuds. Connecting the earbuds (and keeping them connected) can be a little fussy. While they stay in place quite well with light motion, they don’t lock into place as well as earbuds aimed at the fitness crowd. You also don’t get the same variety of ear tips included with the Jam Ultra earbuds that more expensive sets might offer, although you can always buy premium ear tips separately if you wish.
Siri or Google Assistant support? Nope … Finally, while some other true wireless earbuds offer companion apps that let you do things like tailor the audio or track a missing earbud (these things can be quite easy to misplace), Jam Ultra doesn’t offer these extras.
Jam Audio’s Ultra true wireless earbuds were a bit of a surprise. Despite the affordable price, they performed quite well across the board, with decent audio, comfortable fit and a carrying case that will keep you away from a wall outlet for 30 hours or more.
If you’re looking for a premium experience, with high performance audio, long battery life, memory foam ear tips and extras like Siri support, these aren’t the earbuds you want.
But to enjoy true wireless earbuds without blowing your budget, Jam Ultra is a solid option. Check them out, along with hundreds of other earbuds and in-ear headphones at Best Buy.