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To find the best workout headphones and earbuds available today, we bought 7 pairs and spent more than 100 hours using them in the gym, on trails, and in the saddle. After sweating literal buckets in discovering which activities each pair of buds could handle, we conducted controlled, head-to-head listening comparisons to find the best sounding of the bunch. Finally, we tested battery life and judged the user-friendliness of each model. No matter what type of workout you prefer, or the type of playlists you enjoy while working up a sweat, our testing results will help you find a great pair of earbuds.
Our favorite workout headphones are the Jaybird Vista 2, hands down. These buds are super comfortable and stay put, withstanding squat jumps as well as rugged mountain bike trails. The Vista 2 buds sound fantastic listening to anything from the motivating thump of the bass to get you through demanding reps to your favorite podcast while cooling down. They feature some of the top bass power and overall clarity across the board, and the icing on the cake is their IP68 waterproof rating — you don't have to worry about rain or sweat compromising your investment.
We have zero gripes about these earbuds. Some consumers may find the price point isn't within budget, but the expense translates to premium performance. For those who desire fantastic sound quality and a pleasant fit that will stand up to even the most vigorous workout, we think the Jaybird Vista 2 is worth the investment.
If you are trying to stick to a tight budget but still want to jam out to a good quality playlist during your workout, the JBL Reflect Mini 2 is for you. They feature enough thumping bass to motivate you while still sounding clear in the mid and treble ranges, amplifying the bass to a full and engaging sound. Most of our testers found these buds' fit to be more than stable enough for jumping, running, and even mountain biking. These aren't totally waterproof, but the IPX5 rating means that a sweat session or surprise rainstorm won't hinder their performance. You get all of this for just a portion of the cost of the top-of-the-line models' price tags.
The primary pitfall with the lower-costing Reflect Mini 2 is the connecting wire that rests against the back of your neck. It can bounce a bit while running or jumping. Although it's not super noticeable due to the weight of the wire, it can be more apparent if you're accustomed to a true wireless earbud. While the majority of our testers found the fit comfortable, those with larger ears struggled to find a secure fit good enough for running (it's always a good idea to buy earbuds from a retailer with a good return policy). If you can find a stable fit, these earbuds provide a great overall experience at a lower price than the competition.
If you like to be able to huck yourself off big drops on a mountain bike, charge downhill with reckless abandon, or launch off ramps with a skateboard, all while being absolutely certain your earbuds are not going to fall out, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro is where you should start. These buds' unique over-ear hooks make them one of the most stable we have tested, easily shrugging off even the most significant bumps without a hint of discomfort. They also offer an excellent, bass-forward sound that flatters most workout playlists.
The biggest con to these buds is the price — they are some of the most expensive buds on the market. Additionally, depending on what type of sunglasses you wear, the over-ear hooks can sometimes get in the way. Still, if you're looking for unflinchingly stable earbuds for all of your extreme adventures, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro will serve you well.
Since Apple released the original AirPods, many have been clamoring for a more sports-oriented iteration of the revolutionary buds. Those cries have largely been answered with the Apple AirPods Pro. Despite a lack of the ear fins seen in most workout headphones, most of our testers had zero issues with jumping jacks, running, and pushing through hard and sweaty workouts with these buds. The addition of an IPX4 water resistance rating adds confidence to those sweaty summer runs — we had no sweat-induced issues throughout our testing. The active noise cancellation is a nice touch, as it lets you drown out whatever music is playing at the gym and listen to your playlist without cranking the volume uncomfortably high.
The price is likely the most significant thing that may dissuade potential buyers from these buds. However, if you have been searching for a pair of workout headphones and are a big fan of products that seamlessly integrate into the Apple ecosystem, the Apple AirPods Pro will not disappoint.
There are some activities — like trying to sneak in a workout while still paying attention to the baby monitor or running or biking on crowded streets — where leaving your hearing unimpeded is critical. Most workout headphones fit either in or over your ears, limiting your hearing quite a bit. Enter the AfterShokz Air. The "speakers" of these headphones sit on your cheekbones and vibrate sound through the bones into your eardrums — a technology known as bone conduction. This technology allows you to listen to music privately without disturbing anyone else and leave your ears uncovered to hear ambient noises.
Although the AfterShokz Air allows you to listen to music and maintain awareness of your surroundings, the music quality is subpar compared to the competition. While it depends on your facial anatomy, we've failed to find a cheekbone that is as good an instrument as a traditional set of headphones. That said, we still love the AfterShokz Air for its ability to provide a soundtrack to workouts where it otherwise would not have been convenient.