Sweatproof, slip-free personal sound systems for rocking your fitness routine.
When you're working out solo, good music is the perfect partner. It can motivate you, inspire you, and carry you through pain to new personal bests. But it's hard to find headphones that can stay on through—or survive—a solid sweat session. After all, sweat can ruin more delicate headphones.
Not to worry, though. Several companies are taking note, making water-resistant, sweatproof headphones that can handle a marathon or a brutal CrossFit regimen, and even rinse clean when the work is done.
There are a few important considerations when choosing fitness headphones, namely fit, sound quality and where you'll use them.
For indoor workouts, like the gym, in-ear headphones are the best. You want them to block out all the ambient noise—grunting, weights clanking, the incessant whir of stationary bikes and treadmills—to focus on the task at hand. In-ear headphones fit snugly into the ear canal, like earplugs, preventing those outside noises from interrupting your flow. Because they better seal off the ear, you can keep the volume lower on your mp3, iPod or smartphone, allowing you richer sound without blasting your tunes.
If you’re running or cycling outside, open-back earphones—especially earbuds, clip-ons and some neckband designs—that sit just outside the ear canal allow you to hear some ambient sounds, like traffic and other potential hazards (a bear on the trail, perhaps) to keep you out of harm’s way.
For workout headphones to be good, they need to sound great—deep and clear bass notes, tonal clarity and rich, sharp highs—and be stable during exercise, otherwise you’re wasting time fiddling with gear, the workout suffers, and you’re frustrated. Almost all headphones are sold with several pairs of ear tips—many with antimicrobial treatments to reduce the buildup of bacteria—that allow the user to dial in the best fit, no matter the activity. Add the structural back up of an ear clip, hook or neckband, and those personal speakers aren’t going anywhere.
These are 8 of the best workout headphones available. We ranked them based on sound quality, apparent durability, online consumer reviews and price. When you add it all up, it comes down to value. Where two different headphones had comparably good sound and one cost twice as much, we ruled in favor of the cheaper pair. Where the price was in the same range, the better-performing pair takes the cake. It's that simple. We believe that all will stand up to sweat, stay in your ears and deliver top-notch sound through workout after workout. So queue up your playlist, and get ready to rock out on your workout.
For $70, the CX685 provide exceptional sound quality. The in-ear design creates an acoustically closed environment, ideal for a busy gym when you need to focus on your program. The small adjustable ear fin design hooks comfortably under the contour of the outer ear to keep a comfy fit, and the sound even and clear. In-line volume control allows for on-the-fly adjustment. Sennheiser was a head above the competition in terms of overall performance and price.
Currently $66.50; amazon.com
(See also: Are Beats by Dr. Dre worth the price tag?)
X-1 Surge Sportswrap Waterproof
Fully waterproof up to 12 feet, the Surge headphones are designed for kayaking, swimming, SUPing or any other water-based adventure. The neckband design and watertight earplugs ensure fit and functionality, even in stormy waters. On the sonic side of things, strong neodymium drivers deliver superior clarity and tonal fullness. Of course, be sure to buy a waterproof mp3 player or smartphone case before you hit the high seas.
Like running in the rain? Good. So does the Image S4i Rugged. All-weather ready, the S4i takes the award-winning acoustics of its sister S4 and gives it a raincoat. The in-line control uses oversize buttons for easier use when on the go, plus rubber reinforcements in key areas enhance its overall durability for more rigorous activities and a longer lifespan.
Starting at $99; Yahoo! Shopping
Bose teamed with Reebok to create a total athletic headphone package with the SIE2i. They put Bose’s renowned sound quality into a stable, sweat- and water-resistant chassis that features a hydrophobic cloth cord and a Reebok Fitness armband to keep your smartphone or mp3 player out of the way. The result is a high-end, fully functional sound system so you can rock out on your workout. The three-button in-line remote makes calls and track changes easy, so you can keep the momentum—and motivation—going. The SIE2i had sound quality to match some of its higher-ranked competition, but its heavy price tag dragged it down our list.
Starting at $150; Yahoo! Shopping
Built for serious wear and tear, the unique Inspire Duro headphones twist into place in the outer reaches of your ear canal for a comfortable fit that won’t fall out. Because of the ergonomic shape, they stay put but also pull out easily when you need to hear outside sounds. The sweatproof nature of the headphones extends from the speaker covering to the soft, tangle-free cloth cord that wears well next to skin and rinses off just the same.
Starting at $50; Yahoo! Shopping
Polk Audio UltraFit 3000
The Ultrafit 3000 is Polk Audio’s all-in-one sports machine. Built to stay put during the most vigorous of exercises, the full-spectrum speakers are constructed with adjustable ear clips to eliminate any slippage. The cords—with their Kevlar core and cloth exterior—are tough and don’t get tangled like plastic does. The three-button, in-line control is simple to use, and seven different eartips ensure a custom fit. Completely sweat- and moisture-resistant, the Ultrafit 3000s are happy with a rinse when your workout is done.
Starting at $80; Yahoo! Shopping
Denon Exercise Freak
More geek than freak, the Denon wireless sports headphone is a full-featured exercise tool with integrated amplifier that delivers superior sound for those who like the in-ear experience. The sweatproof earpiece has a swivel arm that allows for maximum adjustment to the ear tips to achieve the fullest sound. There’s even a reflective tab on the band for night runs.
Starting at $150; Yahoo! Shopping
JLab GO 4GB
Swim much? Fully submersible, the JLab GO allows you to take 800 or more of your favorite songs, literally, into the water. Simply plug the mini USB (the port is protected by a watertight, twist-and-lock plug) into your computer to update your playlist and charge the 10-hour battery. These headphones have seven pairs of soft silicone tips for a comfortable fit and a satisfying, tonally-balanced sound.
$100 (on sale now for $30); jlabaudio.com
Click to see More of the Best Headphones for Working Out
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