The search for the best wireless headphones for working out used to be immensely fraught. Wireless headphones sounded like crap, refused to pair with your phone, and fell apart if you so much as looked at them the wrong way. Thankfully, the technology has improved immensely. “Bluetooth audio quality” is no longer an oxymoron. Headphones actually hold charge for longer than an hour. Most good pairs are actually capable of staying connected to your phone (some cheaper models still, admittedly, struggle here). And most importantly, these headphones actually fit and stay in your ears, no matter how much or how fast you’re moving. The upshot of these improvements is that most wireless headphones make totally adequate workout headphones, especially since some measure of water and sweat resistance has become standard. But there are some workout headphones that do these things so well you’ll find yourself wearing them even when you aren't working out.
To find these truly superlative pairs, we’ve spent the past couple of years (yes, years!) running, biking, lifting, and...walking briskly, with a couple dozen different pairs of Bluetooth headphones. Our overall favorites either offer a combination of features that never makes us want to take them off (like the Jabra Elite Active 75ts), or work so much better in one specific context (like the Jaybird Tarah Pros or AfterShokz Aeropex) than anything else available that its limitations won’t bother you. These are the workout headphones that function so well you won’t really have to think about them at all.
The Best Wireless Headphones for Working Out and Everything Else
The Jabra Elite Active 75t headphones, winner of our 2020 Fitness Awards, are as close to perfect as wireless headphones can get. Thanks to their in-ear design, diminutive size, and the multiple silicone ear tip options, they stay securely in your ears and are extremely comfortable to wear. The headphones will play music for just over seven hours between stints in their charging case, which holds enough juice for three full charges. That means, unless you’re preparing for the Olympics, you only have to plug them in every few days. Plus, they’re about as water and sweat resistant as any fully wireless headphones we’ve tested. You could dunk them in a bucket of water for 30 minutes, dry them off with a paper towel, and put them back in your ears. On top of that, Jabra backs these buds with a two-year warranty. The fact that they’re also some of the best sounding headphones we’ve tested is an extra bonus.
The Jabra Elite Active 75ts opt for a more neutral sound profile than a lot of other workout-oriented headphones—the kinds with skulls on the side and names like “CRUSHER X”. That means whatever you need to get you through your last set of burpees, whether bass-forward hip hop or a treble-forward talky-podcast, will sound great in your ears. And on the off-chance you want a different sound-profile, you can use the Jabra app to fiddle with the EQ settings. The app also allows you to adjust the amount of ambient noise in “hear through” mode, activated by pressing the left earbud, which is extremely useful for working out in a crowded city, where you want to be able to hear the sound of a car heading in your direction, but where too much of that noise could be a grating distraction.
As of a late 2020 software update, the Active 75ts also gained active noise cancellation. This probably won’t make a difference to your workouts. But eating ambient sound is just another ability that makes the Active 75ts not just excellent workout headphones, but actually just some of the best headphones available right now. Also a big check in the “pros” column: The charging case is about as small and sleek as an AirPods case, so they fit easily in your pocket.
The Best Wireless Headphones For Apple Users Who Like to Run
The Beats PowerBeats Pro are true wireless headphones, just like the Jabra Elite 75ts. This is where the similarities end. The most consequential difference you’ll notice is in the physical design. The PowerBeats employ ear hooks, which loop around the top of your ear and provide an immovable secure fit. While few people report fit issues with the in-ear Jabras, the security offered by ear hooks might understandably be preferred by runners and bikers, whose workouts involve a lot of movement. The second difference you’ll notice, if you’re an Apple user, is how the headphones pair. While the Jabra headphones use Bluetooth, the PowerBeats Pro employs Apple’s own H1 chip. That means as soon as you open the charging case, your PowerBeats will automatically connect to your iPhone, no need to spend any time in the very frustrating Bluetooth menu. And once you’ve connected the PowerBeats to one Apple device, they’re connected to all of your devices, which means you can easily use them with your iPad or Mac laptop. You will, however, pay a pretty penny for these seamless integrations. PowerBeats typically cost at least $50 more than the Jabras.
Then comes the sound quality. Beats headphones and speakers have a reputation for a specific kind of bass-heavy sound and the PowerBeats are no exception, though we’d say they are more bass-forward than bass-heavy. It’s not the kind of sound profile you’ll get much out of when you’re waiting for the train listening to This American Life, but it’s perfect for the new Playboi Carti.
Thanks to the size of the headphones, the PowerBeats Pro employs a charging case that’s much bigger than that of pretty much any other True Wireless headphone we’ve tested. Even if you’ve embraced looser fitting pants, the clenched-fist-size case is difficult to squeeze into a pocket. This isn’t a huge deal if you’re just using the headphones on workouts or usually carry a bag, especially since the case gives the headphones a decent 24 hours of total battery life (nine full hours between charges) and has support for a type of quick charge (5-minutes in the case gets you an hour and a half of playback). The headphones don’t have as much water resistance as the Active 75ts, but they’ll certainly hold up through the sweatiest of workouts.
The Best Mid-Priced Wireless Headphones for the Sweatiest Workouts
$130.00, B&H Photo
If you’re looking to save a little bit of money on your workout headphones, we recommend you look beyond fully true wireless headphones. Decent true wireless headphones exist in this price range, but they’re outclassed in sound quality, comfort level, connectivity, durability, and ease-of-use by semi-wireless headphones like the Jaybird Tarah Pro, which have a cord connecting the two ear buds. The Tarah Pro running headphones have generally excellent sound quality, a lengthy 14-hour battery life, a ton of included ear tips, and a hearty construction that can handle anything in your workout plan.
The design is completely sealed off, with no open ports or little slits that could let in dust, water, or sweat. You’re not supposed to swim in them, but if you could almost certainly run with them through a refreshing spring rain without any issue. The only downside of the sealed off design is that the Tarah Pro charges with a short proprietary snap-on charging cable. Of course, thanks to the lengthy battery life, unless you’re hitting multiple marathons a week (really bad for you!), you shouldn’t need to charge them more than once a week.
The Tarah Pro’s feature a relatively neutral sound-profile, like the Jabra Elite Active 75ts. Head-to-head the Active 75ts sound a little bit better. Occasionally, the Tarah Pros struggle with any frequencies that are a little too low or a little too high. Listening to something like “Love Lockdown” is illustrative: on the Jabra headphones, you can kind of hear how the cleanly synth slides up and down through the musical motif. On the Tarah Pros, it sounds a little muddier.
Minus the charging cable caveat, the Tarah Pros are just about as easy to live with and use as any true wireless headphones. That’s partially because of the design of the cord itself, which is relatively thick (so it won’t fray) and wrapped in a fabric that feels nice against your skin. Jaybird also built-in a small cinch to the cord, so that you can corral the extra wire that might otherwise bunch and bounce as you move. The ear buds are also magnetic, so if you need to take them off, they clip securely together to create a necklace. Speaking of ear buds, Jaybird designs its eartips (which it calls...“Eargels”) with little wings, so they’re more likely to stay in place.
The Best Cheap Headphones for Working Out
There is very little in this category under $50 that’s sweatproof, sounds decent, and actually connects easily with your phone. But after testing some real stinkers, we found one actually kinda good pair under $50: the Anker Soundcore Spirit X.
Soundcore kind of owns the universe of super cheap, beater headphones. The sound quality won’t win any awards, you’ll notice some issues with distortion, especially with stuff like snare drums and vocals on the higher end of the frequency spectrum. But for $30, they sound fuller and clearer than you’d expect. Water-resistant headphones aren’t super common at this price, but the Spirit X are IP68 rated, which means they’re protected extremely well against water and dust. Their adjustable ear loop design ensures they won’t fall off and, impressively, they offer a whopping 18-hours of battery life. We’ve never tried to workout for 18-hours straight, but rest assured these are not headphones that are going to die on your way to the gym. They’re the perfect headphones for tossing at the bottom of your gym bag at the end of a workout and completely forgetting about until you start your next circuit.
The Best Workout Headphones for Biking
If you’re a city biker, you know that using any pair of headphones while you’re riding can be dangerous. You need a ton of spatial awareness to safely navigate all the trucks, cars, pedestrians, and other bikers zooming around the streets. The simplest way to address the problem of quiet commutes while biking is with a portable Bluetooth speaker. But if you don’t want your entire neighborhood to know you’re still listening to the Carly Rae Jepsen album from 2019, you have other options.
The best option we’ve tried is AfterShokz Aeropex. AfterShokz is a proponent of bone-conduction headphones, which have speaker pads that rest on your temples instead of in or around your ears. You pick up some of the sound through your outer ear, but the majority of the sound travels through the bones of your jaw in the form of vibrations to your inner ear. The result is a pretty hollow sound, leagues away from the high-fidelity experience of something like the Jabra Elite Active 75ts, but it’s plenty good enough for listening to talk-y podcasts. And, more importantly, you can listen to those podcasts while also hearing literally everything else around you. Other advantages? The Aeropex headphones are light, have a decent 8-hour battery life, are fully waterproof, and come with a two-year warranty. If you’re looking for headphones for your bike workouts and commutes, this is your safest and best option.
6 Other Wireless Headphones for Working Out We Like
Jaybird was late to the true wireless game—by the time it announced the Jaybird Vista in 2019, Jabra was set to release the third version of its own true wireless headphone—but the headphones are decent enough to be worth the wait. The Jaybird Vista has a great sound profile, not as good as the Elite Active 75ts, but much better than the AirPods you’re likely comparing them to. They connect to your phone easily and have a battery life of six hours. The real advantage is in their more rectangular design that supports the use of a bunch of different kinds of ear tips. All the provided options mean that there’s a zero percent chance these workout earbuds won’t fit and stay in your ears. And if any five hour ultra-marathons are in your future, that’s all you need to hear.
Beats’ new cheap workout headphones, one of our favorite things released in 2020, offer a slightly better sound quality and pairing experience than the Soundcore Spirit X headphones, for a bit more money. They offer sound quality that’s about as good as the Apple AirPods most people are perfectly happy with—a little hollow but not distorted—and feature the new Apple W1 chip that allows for the same seamless pairing and connectivity experience as AirPods. The in-ear Flex also features a solid 12-hour battery life, a comfortable fit, and little magnetics on the wireless earphones so that they’ll rest around your neck when not in use. They aren’t rated for sweat-resistance or water-resistance though, which makes these more ideal for casual workouts than for the kind of runs that leave you soaked.
We’re only just starting to reach a point where the true wireless earbuds available under $100 aren’t frustratingly bad. The Skullcandy Sesh Evo isn’t nearly as good as other in-ear headphones, like the Jabra Elite Active 75ts or Jaybird Vistas, but it offers a decent fit, good sweat, water, and dust resistance, and 24 total hours of battery life with the charging case (each single charge gets you five hours). The connection quality and pairing process isn’t as good as that from other budget headsets like the Spirit X and Beats Flex, and the sound quality is similarly inoffensive. But if you need the completely cordless experience, this is the only one in the price range worth considering.
The Bose SoundSport headphones look visually similar to the Jaybird Tarah Pro, but come with the fuller sound profile you’ve come to expect from Bose. Unfortunately, they only have six hours of battery life and chunky ear tips. The latter of these is the real kicker—not only do these headphones stick out of your ears, which looks weird, but they’re also pretty heavy. Even though you can work out in them, it won’t be nearly as comfortable as using the Tarah Pro. But if you want the higher-fidelity experience of a slightly wired headphone, with plenty of weather resistance, the SoundSports will do the trick.
Like the Bose SoundSport, 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. 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.
Apple AirPods are not good workout headphones for most people, thanks to their extremely specific fit and lack of water or sweat resistance. But! If you’ve found that Apple headphones really work for you, then they do most things that people expect workout headphones to do. They sound fine, but more importantly, the pair easily and they stay paired, and have a long enough battery life to last through any reasonable workout (5 hours).
Originally Appeared on GQ