Anyone who has had to listen to stock music over your gym’s radio for more than a few minutes has surely come to the same realization: headphones are an essential piece of workout equipment. A good pair of headphones puts YOU in control of your workout, not Jenny at the front desk.
Wireless headphones are an additional step up as they increase your ability to move freely, without the hassle of a dangling cord following you around. But with literally of hundreds of models on the market, selecting the best wireless headphones for working out can be a chore. That’s why we’re taking a look at what it takes to make a great pair of wireless headphones, then counting down from #5 to #1.
What Makes A Good Pair of Wireless Headphones for Working Out?
Unlike traditional headphones, wireless models require additional battery power to receive a wireless signal, and therefore must be recharged periodically in order to be used. The size and style of your wireless headphones will determine how long you can go before recharging. Generally speaking, the larger the headphones are, the longer the battery will last.
A good pair of headphones for working out should last at least 5 hours, while some models are capable of delivering up to 8 or 9 hours of performance before recharge.
Headphones aren’t just about sound anymore. Nowadays they’re as ‘smart’ as any other piece of technology in your life. Most wireless headphones have their own apps allowing you to integrate with iPhone or Android. For some models this is an essential part of staying on top of firmware updates. Other models feature apps with incredible degrees of customization in terms of EQ and noise cancellation. Most models feature built in microphone for hands free calling. More deluxe models may even offer advanced features like motion tracking and workout assistance.
Fit / Ability to Stay in Place
There are essentially three different kinds of wireless headphones: ear-buds, over-ear, and ear-wraps. Ear buds like those popularized by the iPod are designed to rest inside the ear canal. Over-ear models are designed to envelop the entire ear, leading to greater degrees of comfort noise cancellation. Ear-wraps are more specifically tailored to an active lifestyle, where sudden and/or constant movement is more likely to knock the phones out of place.
All three styles of headphone come with their own advantages and drawbacks as far as how well they are going to fit and what kind of sound they are going to deliver. In addition, the incredible variety in human ear shapes means that a style that’s comfortable for one person may not work so well with someone else.
Selecting the best wireless headphones for working out is all about balancing fit with sound quality, and as it is with any other purchase, cost is always going to be a factor. Fortunately we’ve done the legwork and taken the hassle out of making a selection. Without further delay, here is out list of the 5 best wireless headphones for working out:
It seems the style in the gym these days is smaller and lighter, but there’s no better way to send the message that you are not available for conversation than a solid pair of over-ear headphones. Mpow’s 059 Over-Ear Headphones are the perfect option. The added bonuses of this style over earbuds is the significantly increased battery time and improved sound quality, and Mpow offers both in spades. These are sleek, easily adjustable, and one of the most affordable Bluetooth headsets on the market. They boast an impressive 20 hour battery life, and if you manage to blast through that, there is a very convenient wired backup slot.
If there is one problem with the Mpow over-ear models, it’s noise pollution. If you crank the volume to high there is a good chance you will end up labeled as “that guy”, whose beats are escaping out into the world and possibly disturbing other people’s workouts.
Still, for the price, you won’t find anything comparable.
Bone conduction specialists AfterShokz received a lot of good feedback on their previous wired models, so we naturally were eager to try out the wireless editions. As far as bone conduction headphones are concerned, the TREKZ TITANIUM is at the of of its class, offering pretty good sound considering the technology, and allowing plenty of ambient sound to get through. While this is often more important for runners and cyclists who need to pay attention to traffic, they are also effective at providing tunes for indoor activities where it is helpful to hear a workout partner or class instructor.
The added bonus of this model is that you aren’t actually sticking anything inside your ear, meaning that canal fatigue is can be a thing of the past. There is of course a certain degree of temple sweating and fatigue that can happen after a few hours of use. In addition, the TREKZ headphones lack any kind of adjustability, so unless your head is the perfect fit, you might experience some slight jostling during heavy use.
Tech giant Sony has a slew of headphones on the market, so many in fact that it can become difficult to choose the pair that’s right for you. The XB950N1 model has made the list primarily because of the impressively practical and intuitive control system. The built-in controller makes hands free calling a breeze and the volume control is quite snappy. Like other Sony models, the XB950N1 utilize the Headphones Connect app which lets you customize EQ and noise cancelation settings from your smartphone. You’re going to want to do that first thing, as the factory EQ settings are probably not going to give you the best sound possible from these things.
The in-ear buds can be a nice tight fit if you are using the right size. If it’s not the right size they will be falling out all over the place, to take the time before you hit the gym to make sure they are staying snug. The noise cancelling feature on these is about as good as you can expect for bud-style phones, but don’t count on it to perform anything like more expensive NC providers like Bose.
Props to the XB950N1 for the battery life. I got 6.5 hours of music out of these before a recharge, which is better than any other wireless earbuds in their class.
Jabra’s ELITE ACTIVE series offers some pretty incredible sound considering the teeny tiny size of these things. For a pair of TRULY wireless ear buds, it’s actually quite impressive. Noise reduction works better than even some of the larger over-ear models, and the sound quality is always crisp. A 5 hour battery life isn’t the best out there, but not bad considering that these are about the size of nickels. They also come with a carrying case that doubles as a charger, so they can actually be used for traveling as well as quick workouts.
Jabra has done a great job engineering a snug fit, making the Elite series one of the best fitting wireless bud sets out there. This does however lead to some canal fatigue after 2 to 3 hours. In addition the built-in buttons can be somewhat stubborn so pushing them only causes the bud to be jammed further into your ear. Hands-free calling is really easy to engage, but the microphone leaves a little something to be desired. Honestly I can’t imagine how they even fit a microphone into these things.
The included app is important, as the Elite series requires firmware updates to function properly. If you just got these or have had them for a while, be sure to update the firmware to make sure you’re getting the best performance possible.
Relative newcomer to the game Plantronics offers a more secure fit with their ear-loop style BACKBEAT FIT series. More so than ear buds or over-ear varieties, ear wraps are the only thing I can get to stay on my ears for an extended period of time without periodic adjustment. They are also completely waterproof which makes them one of the best indoor / outdoor hybrid phones, perfect for leg day in the gym or a long run in unsteady weather.
The Plantronic BackBeat App is a necessity for updating the firmware on the headphones themselves, but lags somewhat behind the EQ customization settings of its competitors. In addition, there is a small amount of white noise that can be heard when listening to softer music or talking on the phones. It’s not ideal, but hopefully something that will be fixed via firmware update sometime in 2019.