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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.
Authors Max Mutter and Michelle Powell have spent the past four years immersed in the consumer audio market and have tested more than 150 headphones, earbuds, speakers, and soundbars. They live in a mountain town and spend countless hours biking or running on trails and generally recreating outside, often with earbuds in their ears. That mountain town locale provides dozens of natural workout headphones testers, making it easy to aggregate dozens of opinions on all of the models present in this review.
Our testing of workout headphones is divided across four rating metrics:
Athletic Performance (40% of overall score weighting)
Sound Quality (35% weighting)
Battery Life (15% weighting)
Ease of Use (10% of overall score weighting)
In completing this review, we employed more than a dozen testers to get a wide range of opinions on each pair of headphones and earbuds' overall fit, stability, and general athletic prowess. Those testers logged hundreds of miles on the road, on trails, and spent dozens of hours in the gym in that pursuit. We then conducted additional controlled evaluations in the lab. We perform up to 20 different lab tests on each model, including battery life tests and side-by-side sound quality trials.
Analysis and Test Results
We divided our testing and ranking of workout headphones into four weighted metrics. We assigned the most weight to athletic performance, closely followed by the sound quality. We also consider ease of use and battery life to help you find the perfect pair.
High-quality workout headphones often require paying top dollar, but luckily there are some exceptions. Though certainly not cheap, the Jaybird Vista 2 provides exceptional performance for significantly less than many high-priced models currently prominent in the marketplace. The JBL Reflect Mini 2 offers excellent sound quality and a very stable fit for much less than many more expensive true wireless models.
We give the athletic performance a 40% weighting in the overall score. Let's face it, spending your entire run worrying about an expensive earbud falling out and down a storm drain or having to constantly adjust your earbuds in between sets can ruin even the best workout-induced endorphin release. In testing athletic performance, we enlisted more than a dozen runners, mountain bikers, and self-proclaimed gym rats to compare each model's ability to enhance various physical activities head-to-head. While working out, these testers paid close attention to each model's stability and comfort and whether sweat negatively impacted stability. We also considered the water-resistant or waterproof levels of each model.
The clear leader in our athletic performance testing was the Jaybird Vista 2. All of our testers found these buds comfortable and stable, even when they were dripping with sweat. Perhaps most notably, the mountain bikers didn't notice any discomfort in their ears even when hitting large bumps on fast downhill runs. These buds boast IP68 total waterproofness.
Closely following the Jaybird Vista 2 in our athletic performance ranking is the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro. Though this pair is a bit heavier, the over-ear hooks of these buds make them incredibly stable. Though we had no issues with the Jaybird Vista 2's stability, those who participate in exceptionally high-impact activities may appreciate the extra peace of mind offered by the over-ear hooks. The only downside is the hooks can get in the way of sunglasses, depending on the temples' design.
The JBL Reflect Mini 2 provided all of our testers with a stable and secure fit, even while sweating buckets. The IPX5 water resistance offers excellent protection from sweat. The only minor complaint is that the cable that connects the two buds can bounce as you run. However, this isn't a huge annoyance, and most of our testers forgot about it after a couple of miles.
The Apple AirPods Pro is a massive improvement over its predecessors in athletic performance. The silicon earpieces fit tightly into the ears, and the IPX4 water resistance alleviates worries about rain and sweat. The lack of ear fins can make them seem less stable than some competitors, but most of our testers found them plenty stable in practice.
The Jabra Elite 75t and its slightly more waterproof sibling, the Jabra Elite Active 75t, can be hit or miss when it comes to athletic performance. Some of our testers felt discomfort immediately upon putting the buds in their ears, and things only worsened once they moved around in their workouts. However, others found these buds extremely comfortable and likewise found them to provide exceptional athletic performance. You should always buy items like earbuds from a retailer that allows returns. That recommendation goes double for the Jabra models we tested.
Sound quality has a hefty 35% weighting in the overall score. While we feel all the models we've tested sound good enough to motivate you effectively with your favorite workout playlists, there are certainly some that are better than others. We tested sound quality by listening to various music genres with each pair of workout headphones, one after the other. This process allows us to directly compare the expression and clarity of each in the bass, mid, and treble ranges, as well as acoustic separation and overall fullness.
Though polarizing in terms of comfort, the Jabra Elite 75t gained unanimous praise for their impressive clarity, deep and rotund bass, and overall engrossing soundscape. You can rest assured the Jabra Elite 75t will do justice to whatever workout track you choose.
Also above average in our sound quality testing is the Jaybird Vista 2. Though these buds lack some of the Jabra Elite 75t's bass power, they still manage to provide a well-rounded and clearly defined overall sound.
The Powerbeats Pro had an impressive performance in our sound quality testing. Though not field-leading, the pair produces a fair amount of bass power and backs it up with good clarity through the mid and treble ranges.
The Apple AirPods Pro bass is a bit on the weaker side. Still, its relatively good nuance and separation through the mid and treble ranges make for an excellent overall listening experience. We discovered if you engage the active noise cancellation, the bass tends to round out a bit.
The AfterShokz Air selling point is that you can listen to music without covering your ears, but the music will not sound perfect. Sound quality largely depends on your cheekbones' anatomy (as the headphones vibrate the sound to your ears via your cheekbones). Still, all of our testers reported a relatively thin and tinny sound. It is undoubtedly better than nothing if you need to leave your ears unencumbered, but don't expect a nuanced listening experience.
While not the most critical aspect, it can still make a difference in overall useability and battery life has a 15% weighting. The good news is that unless you're an ultramarathoner, all of the buds we tested have batteries that can easily last through your workout. However, some models are better for people who often forget to charge their headphones between activities or want to use the buds while working or traveling. We fully charge each model to test battery life and then play the same playlist on a loop at 75% volume until the battery dies. For the true wireless earbud models, we focused on the amount of battery the individual buds held instead of how much additional extra battery the charging cases had.
The Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro and the JBL Reflect Mini 2 earned leading scores in our battery life testing, both lasting over 11 hours.
The Jaybird Vista 2 did well here, lasting around 9 hours. The lowest measured battery life fell to the Apple AirPods Pro, which lasted about 5 hours in our battery life tests. Though this is shorter than most competitors, it is plenty of juice for getting through most workouts. Both of these models are true wireless and come with charging cases to be recharged on the go.
Ease of Use
At just 10%, ease of use is the metric with the most minor influence on the overall score, but it is still an important aspect to consider. Every pair of workout headphones has some controls that let you perform basic functions, like play/pause or skip tracks, without taking your phone out of your pocket. Some also have associated apps that allow you to access more advanced features and adjust bass, mid, and treble levels. We compared all of these features to assess the easiest to use.
The Apple AirPods Pro offers some of the most intuitive controls of all the tested models. The Apple AirPods Pro pinch gesture is easy and produces a clear 'click' letting you know your command has been registered. This action is in stark opposition to most buds that require you to push the buds sometimes uncomfortably far into your ears to activate a control.
We still prefer the Apple AirPods Pro pinch gesture overall, but the Jaybird Vista 2 is a close second. This pair features large buttons on each bud that are easy to press. Also providing reasonably easy to press buttons are the Jabra Elite 75t and the Jabra Elite Active 75t. The buttons require just enough pressure to push that the buds get pushed into your ears a bit, but not to an uncomfortable degree.
We spent hundreds of hours working out, running, and biking to find the very best model for every activity. The right pair of workout headphones can be a gamechanger, making getting to the gym or out on a run infinitely more enjoyable. We hope our testing results have helped you find the best earbuds to keep you entertained and motivated during your next workout.
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