The Best Workout Headphones for Every Budget Leave a comment



© Photographer: Matt Martin; Stylist: Simon Abranowicz

Even if Apple hadn’t 86’ed the headphone jack, we’d suggest that wireless workout earbuds are the only way to go: the phrase “Bluetooth audio quality” is no longer an oxymoron, and even masochists don’t enjoy routing cords through sweat-saturated shirts. Having solved that problem, the best wireless workout earbuds then need to do three things: stay in your ears, pump enough quality sound to drown out your the gym’s Jock Jams playlist, and stay alive through a long run, lest you be left alone with your thoughts [shudder].

In the last few years, the audio quality produced by these wireless earbuds has improved drastically, which means sound quality is no longer the best way to separate the good from the great. Instead, you get the luxury of wading through nuance. How do they feel in your ears, and how many options are there for improving that fit? How much sweat can they put up with before they go kaput? How do they charge, and how annoying is it to connect them on Bluetooth?

Additionally, there are now plenty of fully wireless earbuds that sound great and stay in your ears. No wires at all. Wonderful. But for working out, only the best-fitting are worth considering. While at the gym or on a run, you’re less worried about the aesthetics of the neck wire, and more worried about fully wireless headphones falling out of your ears mid-run into a sewer grate. So, while your fully wireless AirPods are great for the commute, they will probably annoy you on a run. (Some people run in them and have no problems. They must have ears designed by Jony Ive.) Long story short: the best workout headphones stay in your ears so you don’t have to think about them at all.

Below, our favorite workout headphones, both wireless and truly wireless.

The Best Fully Wireless Workout Earbud

From our review of the best true wireless headphones:

Beats has always made great wireless earbuds, and now, they make the fully wireless earbuds to beat. They’re simply the best workout earbuds out there, and, if you’re okay with the over-ear hooks, they work great as your everyday work and commute buds, too. Bonus: in addition to black, they also come in Ivory, Moss, and Navy. The sound is great—clear and balanced, with more than enough power to turn things up a notch for that last sprint. Four eartip options make for a secure fit, and the adjustable over-ear hook succeeds in making you slightly less anxious that they’ll fall out on your beach run and succumb to the powers of the tide. They feel comfortable for long periods, and often, like they’re not even there at all. Like all earbuds, you should play around with each of the tips to see what works best. You might not even use the same eartip in both ears.

The earbuds have a volume button, which is super useful mid-run, and you can also summon Siri with a ‘Hey Siri,’ which is super helpful when your phone is across the room…the buds [also] have a promised 9-hour battery life, with 24 hours of battery life packed into the case as well. You couldn’t exactly pocket the case, which can be frustrating since you need it to pair with the phone, but that’s less of an issue for earbuds mostly designed for working out. And you know, you can always throw them in your backpack. For $250, you get a great-sounding pair of fully wireless buds with a secure, comfortable fit and easy pairing options.

The Best “I Just Want a Pair of Workout Headphones” headphones

Although fully wireless headphones are great, most people get along fine with a wire in the back. And in the context of working out, this wire is actually pretty helpful, lest one of the earbuds fall out of your ears. Jaybird makes some of our favorite workout earbuds—you could do worse than picking your budget and going with whatever Jaybird model is in it. The Tarah Pros sound great, connect easily, and come with plenty of silicone tips for the perfect fit. (Pro tip: don’t be afraid to experiment with different sized tips in each ear.)

You can customize the sound in the Jaybird app, though they sound great out of the box. An IPX7 waterproof rating means pretty much anything short of swimming is safe, and being able to swap out both the eartips and the little fins (which stick in your ears) make them some of the most solidly-fitting earbuds that don’t have an over-ear wrap. (Some people hate that over-ear wrap.) The buttons are straightforward and easy to use, and the battery lasts 14 hours, which, depending on how many hours you’re clocking at the gym, should be more than enough for a few workouts. The only real downside is that Jaybirds have their own charging cable, which is annoying. But hey, we’re in the weeds there. Whether you’re an ultra marathoner or just like to listen to audiobooks while you climb the Stairmaster, this pair checks all the boxes at a pretty good price.

The Best Mid-Priced Fit Champion

From our review of the best true wireless headphones:

JLab makes some of the best-valued earbuds out there. The Epic Air Elite sound good for the price, but where they really rule is the fit. The overear hook keeps the earbuds snugly in your ear, while the customizable tips—including a foam one, our favorite—ensures a comfortable, snug fit that needs minimal adjustment throughout your workout.

While working out, you want earbuds that can deliver a powerful, distortion-less sound without needing any attention from you at all. Jam these in your ears, and you’ll forget about them until you take them out. And that’s a good thing. Also nice: the case carries 24 hours of charge—you can use its USB port to charge your phone, which is handy during an emergency.

The Best Sounding Wireless Workout Earbud

From our review of the best true wireless headphones:

These are the best-sounding earbuds at $200 and below. They’re almost great workout earbuds, but after a while, they feel a little clunky and uncomfortable in your ear…. The silicone wingtips help, but the bulky frame sticks out a little bit, which tugs on your ears and looks a little dweeby. If you’re spending three hours at the gym, you might have better luck with the Jabra or JLab pair, which don’t sound quite as good but are more comfortable. That being said, they’re fine workout earbuds, but there are better-fitting pairs for the price. Where these shine is the sound—just as good as our favorite Beats pair, and for $50 less.

The Best Workout Headphones for Anyone Without an iPhone

From our review of the best true wireless headphones:

These Jabras were one of our favorite items of 2018, and they’re still great. They don’t have over-ear hooks, but they always stay in your ears comfortably and securely on long runs. The app allows you to customize the earbuds for both working out and regular wear. You can tap on the “Bass Booster” mode for working out, but then change the equalizer for your work playlist later. Also helpful: you can adjust the amount of ambient sound that comes in—tap your earbuds, and you can more easily hear the sounds around you, perfect for crossing the street during a run.

With a five-hour battery and a pocketable 10-hour case, these earbuds are a great option for someone who wants something that fits discreetly in their ears and works great for working out, your commute, and everything in-between.

Solid Sound at a Reasonable Price

This pair is the wired brother of the SoundSport Free, and, if you don’t mind the lone wire, you can save $70. The sound is terrific, and the fit is pretty solid. They could sit in the ears a bit lighter, but unless you’re wearing them for hours and hours on end, you probably won’t notice. (Both Bose headphones feel like they stick out of your ears just a bit.)

Of all the non-fully wireless pairs here, this pair is the best for people who just want one pair of headphones for everything and don’t want to spend more than $150. They’ll hold up to your workout and your subway podcast routine with equal aplomb.

The Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Option

From our review of the best true wireless headphones:

These headphones have a neckband, which is a non-starter for some people and doesn’t bother others at all. It actually works pretty well to sit the components directly on your neck—less annoying than having them whip around and hit your back while you run. But they are 30 bucks. They sound a little thinner than their competition, but like how $100 wireless headphones sounded two years ago. And did we mention that they’re $30? Buy two. Give them to your aunt who is starting to go on morning walks. Give them as gifts and everyone will think you violated the price limit of White Elephant. You can’t beat the bang-for-buck here, and for a lot of people, they pass the basic requirements: they stay in your ears, and they play music.

Another Sub-$150 Wired Option

Like the Bose pairs, Sennheiser’s earbuds sound great—clear and full, without the thuddy bass that accompanies other pairs in the same price range. The two control pads on the neckband are a little clunkier than we’d like, but the option to pick both from ear tips and ear fins means you can get a pretty solid fit in your ears with just a little tinkering. Added bonus: a little clip for pinning the neckband to your shirt, which works surprisingly well. At $130, you get a great-sounding pair of headphones that holds up to most moderate types of exercise. The equally-priced Bose pair sounds a little better, but we like the Sennheiser pair for its multiple tips and more comfortable design. If you’re doing that thing where you throw a medicine ball into the ground until everyone else leaves the gym, you probably will want to jump up to the JLab Epic Air or another pair that loops over your ears. But this pair does the most to mitigate the annoyance of a neck wire, and you’re able to get an hour of battery life with just a 10-minute charge—perfect for when you’re ready to head to the gym and forgot that you haven’t charged your buds in a week.

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