Jaybird RUN XT hands-on: Improved water resistance, customizable buttons, and video playback failure
Music motivates me to run faster and further so I rarely run without something playing from a connected smartphone or music-enabled watch. Jaybird was one of the first fitness-focused audio brands I tested nine years ago. Since then, I have tested several Jaybird products and been pleased with the performance of the brand, until now.
Jaybird released its first fully wireless earbuds with the Jaybird RUN in late 2017. The Jaybird Tarah Pro was released in late 2018 and as the last step in ensuring all of its products meet the IPX7 level of water resistance Jaybird recently released the Jaybird RUN XT. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with a pair of these new earbuds and they are not going to replace my favorites, the Jabra Elite Active 65t.
Compared to the Jaybird RUN, the RUN XT improves with a higher level of water resistance, new color options, and refined design. The two available colors are black/flash and storm/gray. Storm is light blue and the storm/gray color is the model sent to me for evaluation.
Also: Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users
- Microphone: Omni-directional MEMS on the right earbud
- Water resistance: IPX7 rating
- Battery life: 80 mAh for each earbud for up to four hours of battery life. The charging case provides another eight hours of run time.
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
- Earbud dimensions: 14.3 x 19.5 x 19mm and about 7 grams (depends on your selected fin and tip)
For $180, wireless headsets today should have the latest technology and that means Bluetooth 5.0, or at the least 4.2 Low Energy, with a charging case incorporating a USB-C port and not the old microUSB standard. aptX support would also be nice to see at this price.
One reason I discovered Jaybird many years ago was its ability to create headsets with sweat resistance and a warranty to match my usage. I only run outside so am often running in rain and other inclement weather conditions. The new Jaybird RUN XT has an IPX7 water-resistant rating, which means it can handle submersion down to one meter for up to 30 minutes. There is also double hydrophobic nano coating to protect the headset. In other words, you can wear these in just about any weather condition
Fit has always been something you could customize with a Jaybird headset through the use of different tips and fins. The new Jaybird RUN XT model includes four pairs of fins and silicone tips. The fins are integrated with a silicone oblong piece that fits around the earbud. An opening in the fin piece with labeling for the size ensures accurate installation on the earbud. There are also four sizes of silicone tips to help you find just the right fit. We typically see three sizes of tips with most headsets.
Jaybird advertises four hours of playback time and so far that is about what I am seeing. It states that you can get up to an hour of playback with just five minutes of charging. Callers confirmed that I sound good on my end through the Jaybird RUN XT, with the omni-directional mic located on the right earbud. All calls are handled through just the right earbud and you can use this earbud in mono configuration too if you want one ear open for safety.
There is a one button on each earbud, located towards the bottom of the Jaybird logo and towards your face when inserted. There are also indicator lights at the top of each earbud so you know if an earbud is turned on or not. By default, the button on the left is used to activate your selected assistant while the right side is used to play/pause music and answer a call with a single press. A double press of either earbud skips forward or declines a call while a long press on either (more than 3 seconds) turns on or off each earbud.
Also: Jaybird Tarah Pro wireless sport headphones, hands-on: 14-hour battery life powers endurance workouts
I prefer to use wireless headsets where I can control volume so at first I didn’t think the Jaybird RUN XT would fit my usage habits. I then launched the Jaybird smartphone app and discovered that you can switch the single button press to an alternate set of controls. I now have the right bud increasing volume while the left bud lowers volume. A double press of either still jumps ahead one song.
A charging case, colored to match the earbuds, is provided with two formed compartments to store and charge the RUN XT. Indicator lights are present on the front, one for each earbud so you can view the charging state after inserting the earbuds. Unfortunately, the old microUSB standard is used for charging up the battery case. It’s time to move to the USB-C standard folks.
While you do not need the Jaybird iOS/Android app to use the earbuds, I highly recommend you install it for an optimal experience. With the app installed, you can switch the functionality of the buttons, as I detailed above.
The app lets you customize your equalizer settings, manage the headphones, and even choose and share playlists. Spotify integration is present, which is perfect since I am a Spotify subscriber and have been looking for more playlists for running. Jaybird also recently added some recommended podcasts so it is another way to discover podcasts related to exercise.
How-to guides, fit guides, and support is also provided through the app. You also need the app to use the find my buds function, which will show the last known location of your connected Jaybird RUN XTs.
Price and competition
High end wireless earbuds currently range in price from $150 to $180 so the Jaybird RUN XT is priced about right, if some of the specs were a bit higher. It is the same price as the first version of the Jaybird RUN as well.
The 2018 Samsung Gear IconX has a MSRP of $179.99. However, the Samsung website currently has a $30 reduction in price so you can pick up a pair for $149.99.
RHA recently released the TrueConnect earbuds with a price of $169.95. The Jabra Elite Active 65t headset, one of my faves, is priced at $179. Bose also has the SoundSport wireless headphones for $149.95.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The Jaybird headphones I’ve used over the years have always sounded great since sound quality is one of the four pillars of the company’s design philosophy. Music plays loud and clear with the RUN XT and I actually cannot pump them up to the highest volume level or my ears get blown out.
I also have not experienced any connectivity issues with the RUN XTs. I’ve tested them with multiple phones and watches with seamless playback. Despite using an older version of Bluetooth with no aptX support, the earbuds have performed well for music and podcasts.
Calls are handled just through the right earbud with audio limited to just the right side. The left earbud actually allows in ambient sound when a call comes in to help you hear your own voice so you don’t have to take it out to have a decent call. Callers sounded good in the right earbud and they told me I sounded fine as well.
However, there is one fatal flaw that may prevent you from wanting to spend $180 on this headset. On my daily Sounder train commute, I see about half the people watching video content on their smartphones with headsets and I can often been seen streaming the latest Netflix or HBO show. You will not want to use the Jaybird RUN XT for streaming the audio from a video. If you do, you will notice there is a consistent lag between the mouth movement of characters and the audio playback on the RUN XT. I tested several video streaming, and offline, services with the Jaybird RUN XT and the Jabra Elite Active 65t and there was lag on the RUN XT with none present in the Jabra headset. We should not see such poor performance from a $180 headset. It would be great if Jaybird could fix this with an update, but I read through the forums and this was also a problem with the previous Jaybird RUN headset so I’m not optimistic for a fix here either.
The Jaybird RUN XT never slipped out of my ears and were comfortable for hours of wear. The audio sounded excellent and the ability to customize the equalizer is something we don’t see in many of these wireless earbuds. I know that video is not really the focus of wireless sport headphones, but given the fact that mobile devices today require wireless earbuds, other earbuds don’t have this issue, and the RUN XT is priced at $180 this functionality should work perfectly.
The high level of water resistance is great and these earbuds should last you for years with your workouts in various conditions. If an update can fix the video problem then maybe I’ll try them again, but until then it’s back to the Jabra Elite Active 65t headset.
Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch
The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.
The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).
Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.
“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on] all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)
The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.
The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.
Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.
Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.
“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”
Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.
These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)
Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.
Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.
If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.
“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”
Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch
Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.
Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.
In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.
Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.
On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.
It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.
Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.
“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”
downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch
As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).
Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital.
Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.
The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.
The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.
Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories. and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.
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