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We salute you if you can exercise with nothing but random huffs and grunts as your backdrop, but for most people, a heavy workout requires a pair of headphones that will get you to the finish line.
After researching and testing a whole bunch of these sports headphones, we can say that a handful stand out from the rest.
Below are our nine current favourites — each has their flaws, but they should all feel good, survive your sweat, and make your playlists sound better to boot.
The last thing you want to think about while exercising is what's in your ears, and Anker's Sportsbuds were designed with that in mind.
Their volume controls, power button, and battery all fit in the earbuds themselves instead of on a dongle that hangs off of the wire connecting them. This gives the Sportsbuds the advantage of being evenly weighted; instead of feeling plastic bumping against your shirt or skin, you can focus on the next lap or set.
You have to learn to love the neckband. If you can tolerate its collar-style design, the wireless Samsung Level U will reward you with an impressively strong, balanced sound, a good 10 or so hours of battery life, and freedom from any sort of cord tangling. Its ear gels are secure, but just know that its unsealed, or open, so you'll hear ambient noises while you're moving around. (Though that's not much of a negative for exercise headphones anyway.)
The MEE Audio M7P are a well-rounded, budget-friendly option on the sealed side of the market. Its relatively clear, bass-boosted sound is solid for what it is, and while its over-ear hooks don't feel totally necessary, the whole thing fits very tightly in the ear without feeling like a nuisance. It, too, is sweat-resistant, and the bundle of included accessories is a nice touch.
Emphasising the bass is fairly common among workout headphones -- it tends to get people energised -- but the Sol Republic Relays Sport do an especially solid job (for the money) of putting out deep, brawny lows without destroying the rest of the profile. It's a fun sound.
They're an easy fit on top of that -- you'll notice some complaints about that on Amazon, but I can only speak to my experience -- and Sol Republic's free eartip replacement policy is good to have in your back pocket. Giving the iOS model a superior remote is odd, however.
Noise-cancelling cans aside, most Bose headphones follow the same template: Good looks, great feel, but just ok sound with a premium for the brand name. The SoundSport doesn't change that. It's about as comfy as open, winged earphones get, it's sweat-resistant, and it comes in a variety of colours. It doesn't sound $150 good, but it should be smooth enough to satisfy most uncritical listeners.
Maybe you've already dropped hundreds on a
pair of high-end cans, but they just won't work for the gym. If you don't want to sink much more into something you'll only use for a couple hours at a time, try the Koss Fitclips.
They go for as little as $A32, and while you're never going to get much fidelity from something that cheap, they're clearer and louder than what'd you expect for the money. They're also built well, with a lightweight, bendy, and sweat-resistant frame that stays in place and blocks out a nice amount of ambient noise.
Like Anker, iFrogz designed its earbuds to cut out the annoyance that comes with using Bluetooth earbuds while exercising.
It built all of its technology into a magnetic clip-on dongle that stays surprisingly stable while you're active. That dongle was also designed to hold the coiled cables from the earbuds when not in use, which came in handy while I tested them.
They're not the best-sounding headphones I've tested, but if I'm going to go out to meet someone and want to listen to music on the way, they're the first pair I grab.
I haven't tried them myself, but the over 12,000 people who gave Senso's headphones a 5-star review seem to think they're a great pick.
For under $A52, they have many of the features you'd want in a pair of exercise headphones: waterproofing, 8-hour battery life, multiple eartips in different sizes, and a carrying case.
People generally seem to like their sound, and the ear clips will come in handy if you've had trouble with gummy eartips in the past. If you've always been of the opinion that the majority rules, this is the pair of headphones you should get.
There aren't many worthwhile choices among open, wireless headphones, but even if there were, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit would be tough to top. It's light, rugged, and easy to slip on, It lasts for a solid 8 hours per charge, and while the plethora of built-in controls may take some time to get used to, they're helpful once you do.
Sound wise, this kind of design naturally results in some bass loss, but the balance and clarity here is still very good. That the whole package includes a smartphone armband only adds to an already solid value.
Note: Currently only available through third party sellers
This article was originally published on 1/8/2016 and has been updated.
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