With features such as wireless charging and ambient awareness, this true wireless earbud from Jabees looks like it does it all for a very reasonable price, but does it live up to expectations?
The past two years have represented a push towards budget level true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds that have features rivaling those by mainstream brands. The Jabees Firefly Pro is an improved version of the Jabees Firefly released last year, which offered features such as USB Type C charging and ambient awareness mode. It retails for 80$ USD but Jabees was offering a 20% coupon so I purchased it for 64 USD from Jabees’ online store. Shipping to Canada used ePacket which took approximately 10 days.
I had previously tried the original Firefly briefly at a store while travelling and was not particularly impressed, but to be fair it was a brief session. Although I have been told by Jabees that the Firefly Pro sounds mostly the same as the original, it offers improvements in battery life and has a different charging case design that supports Qi wireless charging.
The Jabees come in a plastic rectangular charging case that is a tad bulky, with a similar girth to the Earfun Free – battery life is rated at an additional 18 hours on top of 6 hours of the earbuds. The earbuds snap on magnetically and remain securely in place. The plastic lid is a tad flimsy, but overall the case seems quite durable. There is a large power button in the case used only for doing a factory reset for the earbuds. Some odd quirks are the fact that it has 2 charging LEDs only light up turquoise and red when they are charging (see photo below), and you have no telling what the charging progress (green-yellow-red) is until the turquoise left light turns off or you stop charging. I am thus perplexed by why there is a red light on the right in the first place. This is not a huge issue on its own, but it would have been nice if the lights accurately reflected battery life while they were charging, both for the earbuds and the case. Additionally, the yellow light that denotes medium battery life from 25-75% still has a greenish tint, which can be confusing under certain conditions.
The Firefly Pro supports Qi wireless charging and has a USB Type-C port, so it seems to be quite future-proof. Unfortunately the Type-C port only charges with a Type C to A connection, not with USB power delivery via a Type-C to Type-C cable. This seems to be a common issue with many budget Type-C TWS, and many original Firefly users had already complained about this issue on the original Firefly, so it is unfortunate it has not been improved. As most of my mobile accessories are currently Type C to A, this is not a huge issue for me, but is not as future-proof as it could be.
Wireless charging is a nice addition to the case, but takes 3 hours to fully charge. Like other budget TWS with this feature, these are best used with a 5W charger, but from my experience they still work fine with 10W chargers under ideal conditions. While it readily charges with my 10W ADATA charger, my 10W wireless power bank sometimes has problems initiating the charge. It is tall enough that it can be charged with my leaning Samsung Fast Charging stand, as long as it’s plugged into either a Samsung Fast Adaptive or Qualcomm QC2.0 power brick, but not with a QC3.0 power brick.
Battery life is excellent. These are rated at 24 hours total playback (6 hour single use + 18 hours from the case) and last me 4-5 days with heavy usage, roughly equating these numbers in total play time. However, I have noticed what seems to be a calibration issue with the case, as it sometimes stops charging the earbuds when the LED indicator is still yellow (which designates anywhere from 25-75%). Sometimes repeatedly opening and closing the case will show red or yellow. I had one occasion where the earbuds kept showing 40-70% and powering off despite the case having a yellow light.
Unlike some other TWS, these power on and attempt to connect the moment the case is opened. Pairing is reasonably quick, but isn’t much faster than TWS where they power on when taken out of the case. The music actually plays pretty early upon opening the case, but you still hear the sound to say it’s “connected” for a few seconds after your music plays. The case must be snapped shut to turn off the buds. Although this is fine in practice, if the lid was to break you’d probably have trouble shutting down the earbuds, as they do not have a power-off function via the buttons. They will, however, turn off after 5 minutes of being unpaired.
Connectivity with AAC codec is rock solid – among the best I’ve experienced so far. I very rarely ever get hiccups/skips/cut-outs, although there is occasionally a faint crackle at higher volumes. Latency is not an issue for video players, but is noticeable with games as with many other TWS. SBC sounds nearly as good with the bass being slightly more boomy, but is prone to crackling and distortion unless either absolute volume or media volume sync is disabled. See this link for how to do this on Windows 10. Unfortunately its SBC implementation is also prone to latency with YouTube videos and games on Windows 10, as well as occasional disconnects when the system is under a heavy load (though, to be fair, this could be a problem of my PC which has similar issues with other TWS). Disabling absolute volume also causes some other audio devices dip in volume unless the option is re-enabled, which makes it a less desirable solution.
Unfortunately, call quality is rather poor. It sounds as if the noise reduction is too excessive with some distortion nad static. When I’m commuting on a bus or train, or when a vehicle passes by, recipients have trouble hearing me.
The Jabees use physical buttons which are rather small, and overall I found the controls rather finicky. On my unit at least the right MFB button being far less clicky than the left one. After a few days, this becomes less cumbersome, but I wish the buttons were more consistent. Changing volume, which requires a button hold for several seconds, is particularly cumbersome as if you hold it too briefly it also pause your music, but if you hold it too long, the volume will continuously increase or decrease too much. Playing and pausing can be done on both sides with a single tap, while a double tap will switch tracks. Triple-pressing the right earbud quicky will activate your device’s voice assistant.
You can use these in mono mode with either bud, but your controls will be restricted to what that bud has to function. If you’re using the left bud, for example, you can only play/pause, go to the previous track or activate ambient sound. You can, however, open the case and push the button of the docked bud if you wish to use that function (the audio feed will temporarily cut back to stereo while you do this).
Ambient Sound Mode
Ambient sound awareness/hear-through is activated with a fast triple-press on the left. Budget TWS with this feature are few and far, so it is a nice addition to have, but you’re really getting what you pay for in terms of quality and reliability. The mic feed has some hissing and a very slight delay, but is nonetheless usable for conversations and hearing your surroundings. I find its audio quality worse than the Jabra Elite 65t, especially for wind noise. There is a slight “sucking” sound heard when vehicles pass by or certain static noise, perhaps due to the slight delay in the mic feed and added/removed phase inversion artifacts. On a positive note it offers a more constant audio stream without affecting audio playback. However, one very odd issue I experienced is that the right earbud’s mic feed cuts when exposed to direct sunlight, with an odd clunking sound heard each time I turn towards the sun and the mic feed turns on and off. As there is a narrow window that allows light to pass through, I suspect there is some interference going on since some of the internal components are visible. Another issue I’ve experienced is that the ambient sound is too loud after ending a call, if I had been using it before the call. The only solution is to re-activate ambient sound again. It remains to be seen if this occurs on other units or just mine – I have since notified Jabees about this issue but have not received an update.
Comfort and Isolation
I found these to fit quite securely in my ears. Ergonomics are good but could be a bit better. Isolation with the wide-bore stock tips is mediocre. Small-bore tips can improve isolation, but even so the isolation is only average – I could still hear people talking or making coffee at the coffee shop. They also alter the sound quality such that it the bass becomes thicker. This leads me to suspect the drivers are vented just behind the nozzle. On the plus side, the Firefly Pro appears to be devoid of driver flex/ear pressure issues present in some other dynamic driver TWS, and the bass retains its clarity even in noisy conditions.
The Firefly Pro has a bass-heavy V-shaped sound. The sub-bass is quite deep with a further emphasis on the midbass. Although it is mostly well-controlled, the midbass can be overwhelming and bleed into the lower mids which sound recessed. As a result, vocals can sound distant in certain tracks. The treble has good presence and detail without sounding sibilant. However, there is a slight artificial, metallic tone to it, sometimes amplifying pre-existing distortion in a track, making them unforgiving of poorly mastered music, including LoFi tracks that intentionally add distortion effects. The soundstage is slightly above average, and the instrument separation is excellent outside of the lower-mid region.
Channel imbalance appears to be a fairly common issue with TWS I have tried so far, and the Firefly Pro has a bit although not as severe as others I’ve tried recently. Out of the box, I thought there was a bit more bass on the right bud out of the box, but it was not too big of a deal. However, after a week of use I started noticing the left bud seemed to have clearer mids and treble – this seems to be in part due to the nozzle filter is wearing out and becoming misaligned. It is made of a stringy felt material, and thus difficult to realign without further damaging it.
For a basshead TWS, the Firefly Pro definitely hold their ground, while retaining good treble detail and soundstage. However, look elsewhere if you want a balanced or mid-forward sound.
For only 80$, the Jabees Firefly Pro fulfills much of my criteria to be a daily driver – USB-C to A charging, wireless charging and ambient awareness. These features make it seem like a “giant-killer” that stack up against far more expensive TWS earbuds. However, you get what you pay for in terms of quality/execution, and thus I can only recommend them with a number of reservations. They have a borderline boomy bass response, so look elsewhere if you want a more neutral sound and better noise isolation. The ambient sound feature is a great addition, but it is not a perfect implementation, and the call quality is poor.
Case design 8.5/10
Call quality 4/10
Sound quality 7.8/10
- Deep bass response, good treble detail
- Solid Bluetooth connection using AAC
- Ambient sound feature does well for most uses
- Wireless charging and Type C port
- Great battery life
- Boomy midbass and recessed mids
- Requires tweaks on Windows 10 to sound good via SBC
- Sloppy button controls
- Poor call quality and multiple issues with ambient sound
- Battery case indicator is inconsistent
- No USB Type-C to Type-C charging support
Comparisons to other TWS
vs. UFO TWS (Air/ST-BE30/Anbes 359/Kissral R18)
These are a compact TWS that come in a UFO-shaped case that has a Type C port. They only have around 3.5-4 hours of battery life with up to 15 hours in total with the case. They offer very good sound for their price -more neutral than the Jabees, with a slight bass and treble emphasis. Isolation is also above average with a very secure fit, but they are prone to driver flex. They also have larger buttons that are easier to press, but depending on the variant, controls can be quite poorly executed. On one rebrand, there are no volume controls and excessive voice messages.
vs. Astrotec S60 (BT 4.2)
I currently do not have this for direct comparison, but these are another option that has a Type C port and wireless charging. The case they come with is more durable and compact, but in total these only offer 12 hours of battery life (3 per charge). This has been improved in the newer Bluetooth 5.0 version to 16 hours (4 per charge), but still falls short compared to the Jabees. They use Knowles BA drivers, tuned with a warm, slightly bassy sound that has good resolution and soundstage. Although both the Astrotecs and the Jabees have good detail retrieval, the Astrotec sounds more natural, with no exaggerated bass or treble. Connection with AAC on the Bluetooth 4.2 version is rather unreliable, cutting every 5 minutes or so. The BT5.0 version appears to be an ideal alternative although it is priced higher than the Jabees at regular price.
vs. Earfun Free
This is another TWS that features wireless charging and USB Type C (which supports PD charging). Isolation is excellent but like the BE30 UFO there is considerable driver flex and ear pressure. Although these are tuned more neutral than the Firefly Pro (particularly the Oluv special edition which I had), the bass is more sloppy and loose. The soundstage and treble detail are both poor in comparison. With the battery case, it is rated a total of 30 hours of battery life, compared to 24 on the Jabees, but I found this number to be inaccurate and the case to be not calibrated correctly. Unfortunately I find it hard to recommend these due to several reliability issues – my special edition Oluv pair broke within a week.
vs. Jabra 65t
The venerable Jabras were heavily recommended last year and my longtime daily driver, but has definitely shown signs of age. Their case charges with microUSB and only offer 15 hours of battery life in total. Call quality and ambient hearthrough sound far better than the Jabees, although the ambient feed has a tendency to disconnect occasionally. The Jabra also suffers from issues like distortion and channel imbalance, with the left bud hissing and sounding louder than the right bud. Their sound is treble- and mid-forward but, the bass response is unreliable and heavily dependent on the seal, as isolation tends to be poor. The Jabees has more reliable bass response, but does lose out in the midrange.