When you hear the term gaming earbuds, do you immediately think of black, angular earbuds with RGB lighting? I wouldn’t blame you. Historically the only thing that classified buds like the Jabees Firefly Vintage as gaming earbuds was honestly just the marketing spiel. They were otherwise identical in performance to any other buds which meant horrendous latency that was all but unusable for any sort of serious mobile gaming.
The roughly $55 Firefly Vintage bucks that logic in every way. For starters, they don’t look anything like gaming earbuds but rather, refined premium earbuds. Secondly, they actually have the right tech like low latency Gaming mode and Qualcomm aptX that makes your gaming experience much more present.
Not only that, but they also come with features like Environmental Noise Cancellation, transparency mode and unique touch-and-push button controls. Given the price, the Jabees Firefly Vintage is certainly nothing to scoff about.
Jabees Firefly Vintage Review
The first thing you notice about the Firefly Vintage is its stunning design. They come in black or copper and I got the latter. The charging case has a copper lid and black base that supports wireless QI charging as well as USB Type-C. Open the lid to reveal the buds nestled safely inside.
The chunky buds have a short stem that I believe houses the microphones. Jabees say there are two microphones on each bud which allows you to use just one bud for chat and the other for listening if you so choose. These microphones are also important for the Ambient or Transparency mode which allows you to hear the environment without taking off the buds.
On the outside of each bud is the unique button that responds to both tap and press. I did find that pressing the button could often shift the buds out of my carefully placed ear position which prompted some re-fiddling. I’m not a huge fan of earbud controls and in spite of Jabees clever attempts, I generally avoid touching my buds.
Speaking of fit, while I found the Firefly Vintage comfortable, I couldn’t get a solid sound seal even after trying several of the broader silicon tips. This meant that I could still clearly hear the environment around me and my overall audio experience was quite lacking in bass. I do commend Jabees for putting a whopping six pairs of silicone tips in the box. Not sure why none of them worked for me but it’s good that you have such a wide option.
Immediately I knew that the lack of right ear tips compromised my overall listening experience. If you’ve ever used earbuds, you know how critical a good seal is. That said, the overall sound signature of the Firefly Vintage is clean, crisp and punchy. Bass levels depend on the aforementioned fit and in my case was quite weak leading to a less warm sound tone.
But regardless, I found the Firefly Vintage accurately reproduces audio with good clarity which makes picking out cues in games easy. You’ll want to play games using Game mode of course which drops the latency to below 80ms. That might not seem like a lot but the average person won’t detect audio latency below 100ms anyway. The Blackshark buds I reviewed last year boasted sub 60ms though so bear that in mind.
To activate the game mode, you simply press the button on the right earbud for a second or two. One downside to Game mode is a severe loss in range. You need to stay quite close to your device – at least within 5m. The problem though was I never found the Game mode to make much of an improvement on the gaming experience. The Firefly Vintage already exhibits very low latency without the game mode so the difference in the games I played was practically imperceptible. Perhaps it’s my aging ears and you kids will notice the difference more than me.
Now, if you love to play team games with mates, I have bad news for you. The microphones on the Firefly Vintage aren’t great – in fact, they are downright bad. The volume is quite low and distorted with the audio crackling while fading in and out. You will likely have to shout just to be heard on calls. I was surprised how bad it sounded after making a recording with the voice app on my phone which you can listen to below. Jabees uses some of the microphones to capture environmental noise, then cancels it out but I wish they focused all the mics on capturing my voice. I can live with the background noise.
Transparency mode on the Firefly Vintage is a rather interesting feature. It uses microphones to capture and playback ambient sounds through the buds. I never found this to be a useful feature for two reasons; first, it only works when you aren’t listening to music or on a call and secondly, I could already hear pretty well given the soft seal from the tips.
Despite those missteps, one area the Firefly Vintage excels at is battery life. Jabees claims 10 hours in the earbuds alone, which is an achievement in itself. Even when I used the buds for my entire workday, I never ran out of battery. Additionally, the case holds an extra 30-hrs, resulting in a total of 40 hours of battery life. That’s basically three to four 8-hour days and that’s just phenomenal.
Even better is that the buds support quick charge – giving you 2-hrs of battery with just 10min of charge. The case can also be charged wirelessly which is great for people who have phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with reverse wireless charging. Basically, battery life is a non-issue with these buds and I was confident using them without fear.
The Jabees Firefly Vintage are not the best gaming earbuds I’ve ever used but they are tremendous value for money. The combination of excellent design, features and great battery life makes it very hard to pass up. Few buds can pack all this in less than $100. Unfortunately, the poor microphone quality disappoints so you can’t rely on them for good phone calls or game chat. Additionally, features like transparency mode and ENC sound good on paper but don’t really add value in my experience. I hope Jabees doubles down on the things that do work and improve in the next iteration because this has serious potential.