Resident fit-tech expert Kieran Alger rounds up the best sports headphones to soundtrack your sessions.
MF BEST BUY:
Jaybird specialises in sports headphones, and it shows. The Vista not only make most other true wireless sport headphones – including the brand’s own RUN range – look bulky and dated, but they’re full of clever tricks that cater perfectly for hitting the road or the gym floor.
For a start, they’re extremely light. Each minimal Jaybird Vista bud weighs just 6g, without any protruding control unit clunkiness to get in the way. They also fit well, with ear gels in three sizes for a lock-tight fit to suit most ears.
A full battery charge takes just two hours and there’s enough juice for 16 hours of sweat (six hours in each bud and ten hours in the portable case). In the unlikely event that you get caught short of power, you can also get enough battery for an hour’s run or gym session from a quick-fix five-minute charge.
When it comes to sound quality, the Vista’s 6mm drivers deliver some of the best audio you’ll find in a set of sport buds this compact. A quick hearing test lets you customise the audio so it’s tuned to your ears, and you can create different sound profiles, for example adding heavier bass in the gym or bigging up the vocals for spin sessions. However, if we had one complaint it’s that the top volume could be louder.
The buds automatically power off if they aren’t being used, as well as when they snap back into their magnetic seats in the charging case. And there’s a handy Find My Buds feature in the Jaybird app that shows you on a map the last place you used your pair should they go walkies.
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A slight twist on the classic true wireless buds, the sweatproof, water-resistant Powerbeats over-ear hooks make them more bulky, but the design also means these headphones simply won’t budge, no matter what you get up to during your workout.
They’re also brilliant at isolating outside noise and annoying gym music, delivering top-notch sound for up to nine hours – with a further 15 in the charging case.
You get a Vista-beating 1.5 hours of music from a five-minute rapid charge, too, and they pack Apple’s H1 chip for fewer frustrating connection drop-outs.
Open-ear bone conduction headphones are ideal for fitness enthusiasts who exercise in busy urban environments, as they don’t obstruct the ear canal, making them great for situational awareness. But that has meant a trade-off for sound.
AfterShokz has gone some way to remedying that by re-engineering its bone-conducting tech for higher fidelity audio and improved bass. The new design also offers far greater comfort, and a smaller and lighter design compared to the existing Air model.
JBL Endurance Peak
A cheaper true wireless option with a secure fit, solid protection against the elements and good sound quality with minimal audio leakage.
However, continuous battery life is only four hours for the buds (24 with the charging case) and comfort level isn’t on par with the Jaybird Vista, for example. They also use an older Bluetooth standard, which means you won’t be able to stray very far from your audio device.
Fitbit’s attempt to muscle in on the fitness earphones market offers a highly customisable in-ear fit, good audio quality and six hours of wireless battery life.
The durable design is sweatproof and boasts quick connectivity with Fitbit smartwatches for easy hands-free music, minus the need for a smartphone. If you’re bringing your phone along for the run, walk or ride then there’s handy voice-based controls as well.
Jaybird Tarah Pro
While the Jaybird Vista promises true wireless freedom, the Tarah Pro is designed for athletes seeking maximum endurance. There’s an incredible 14 hours of battery life, full IP67 water and dustproofing, and a rugged fabric cord to negate potential cable damage.
The innovative switch-fit design offers comfort and security, plus an almost true-wireless feel. Sound is rich and bold, with a customisable EQ via the mobile app.
BOSE Soundsport Free
The pick for audiophile fitness enthusiasts, the SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds offer full-bodied and well-rounded sound, five hours of battery life (plus ten more from the wireless charging case) and a secure, sweatproof fit.
They’re a little chunky and pricey, but the premium audio experience is well worth the slight protrusion from your ears.
Amazon Echo Buds
Amazon’s new Alexa-powered earbuds come loaded with Bose active noise reduction technology and a very enticing price point.
If you love using the Alexa voice assistant in the home, the full functionality can now join you for a workout, whether it’s starting your running playlist, checking the weather, reading aloud your latest audiobook, or just cranking up the volume hands-free.
Under Armour True Wireless Flash by JBL
JBL’s UA-branded buds pack full IP67 waterproofing, a small but snug design and up to 24-hours battery life. They sound great, and impressive sound isolation will block out that annoying gym music.
For outdoor use, the custom Ambient Aware tech can smartly integrate outside noise into your audio soundscape, allowing you to stay cognizant of your surroundings.
Vi builds an AI-based personal trainer into a pair of earphones, promising real-time coaching info based upon a built-in heart-rate monitor and an array of motion sensors. The coach gets to know you and helps to produce a personalised programme.
More recently, LifeBeam has built its technology into a subscription-based running app that will also work with your existing headphones.