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To find the best headphones for working out, we researched dozens of models, purchasing and testing the 5 most promising on the market. In our quest to find the perfect way to add a motivating score to sessions at the gym, on the treadmill, or on the trail, we logged untold numbers of jumping jacks, burpees, squats, and deadlifts, as well as hours on various cardio machines. In the end, we found the best pair of headphones for every workout, whether you're lifting heavy to build muscle or busting through high-intensity intervals to burn fat and increase your aerobic capacity.
We have also tested the Jaybird Vista 2 for our wireless earbud review, and we found it to have a longer battery life than the original Vista. Other updates include active noise cancellation and an IP68 waterproof rating.
No matter what kind of workout you throw at it, the Jaybird Vista can handle it. These earbuds are so lightweight that you may not even remember you're wearing them. They stayed secure while doing intense sets of squats and burpees, earning the highest marks in stability and comfort from all of our testers. They also boast an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means they can be submerged entirely and persevere. While we've never experienced sweat-induced issues with the earbuds we tested, this extra waterproofing did add some peace of mind when we excessively perspired during hard intervals on the stationary bike. Despite the Jaybird Vista's diminutive size, they provide exceptional sound quality, delivering thumpy bass and clear articulation through the mid and treble ranges. These earbuds sounded great across many genres of music.
The only downside with the Jaybird Vista is the higher cost. These buds are at the high end of the price range. Notably, they are not the most expensive on the market. Still, if you are looking for the top choice for exercise earbuds, we think these are the best overall. If you don't mind doling out the extra cash for the earbuds that outshine the rest, we think you'll be pleased with the Jaybird Vista 2.
If your preferred workout includes Crossfit or some of the more intense P90X-style programs that include lots of jumping, twisting, and quick changes in direction, and you want to be 100% certain your headphones are not going to fall out, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro are the obvious choice. These true wireless buds use over-ear hooks that essentially plaster them to your ears, making it nearly impossible for them to fall out. No matter how fast we jumped, rolled, and twisted, we failed to elicit a disconcerting tug from these buds, let alone have one fall out (there's a reason they filmed a commercial of Simone Biles flipping while wearing a pair). They also feature the warm, bass-heavy, and clear sound we've come to expect from Beats.
There are some sacrifices for this extra stability. The first is monetary — the Powerbeats Pro price runs significantly higher than the average wireless buds. The second is wearability — if you like to work out outside, there is a good chance the temples of your sunglasses and the hooks of the Powerbeats Pro will be vying for the same real estate. Finally, we found the buds' design not amenable to long periods of wear — we were inevitably itching to take them off around the 2-hour mark. Despite these flaws, we think Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro is the best option for intense and fast-moving workouts.
If your favorite workout location tends to be accompanied by a cacophony of noisy gym-goers, passing cars, or youth soccer practices, the Apple AirPods Pro can create a blissful cone of silence in which you can enjoy your music at a reasonable volume. The effective active noise cancellation can block out most ambient noise, providing you with a quieter and more pleasant listening environment. Upgrading to these buds, we went from blasting our music so loud to drown out the treadmill's noise our ears were left ringing to not even being able to notice the treadmill noise despite our music only playing at a moderate volume. Though certainly not the most stable of the buds we tested, the silicone earpieces allowed most testers to confidently run and do jumping jacks without fear of the AirPods Pro falling out.
That noise cancellation technology does come at a price. The AirPods Pro sport an eye-popping price tag compared to other models tested here. Also, non-iOS users may be disappointed that specific settings and customization options are unavailable. But if you frequently find yourself cranking your music uncomfortably loud to drown out the din during your workout, the Apple AirPods Pro are worth the extra cost.
If maintaining situational awareness during your workout is essential --whether you want to remain attentive to cars or want to be able to hear your kids in the other room while you sneak in a quick cardio session — the AfterShokz Air offers the best solution. These "bone conduction" headphones sit in front of the ear and use vibrations to channel sound from the cheekbone into the eardrum. It allows you to hear and enjoy music while leaving your ears uncovered to be aware of your surroundings. The design is also relatively stable and comfortable.
Expecting cheekbones to function similarly to high-quality audio drivers is a bit optimistic, so the AfterShokz Air sound relatively thin and hollow compared to more traditional earbuds and headphones. Additionally, it can get in the way of eyeglasses and sunglasses. These are small sacrifices to make if you need to exercise without inhibiting your hearing.
The Jabra Elite 75t is one of the most impressive-sounding earbuds we've ever tested, producing great clarity and separation through the treble and mid frequencies balanced by powerful and controlled bass. These buds also offer an impressive 11-hour battery life and IP55 water/dust resistance for extra sweat protection (if you want total waterproofness, you can upgrade to the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but that additional protection muffles the sound quality a bit).
Apart from a high price tag, the fit is the other thing you need to be aware of with these buds. Our testers fell into two camps; half absolutely loved how the buds fit and could wear them all day comfortably, and a little more than half found them unbearably uncomfortable within minutes of wearing them. Those whose ears comfortably fit these headphones considered them the best exercise headphones they tested, while those who were uncomfortable considered them a waste of money. It's certainly worth taking a shot on the Jabra Elite 75t and seeing if they happen to fit your ears. Just be sure to order them from somewhere with a reliable return policy.
Authors Michelle Powell and Max Mutter have been using and testing athletically inclined headphones for the past 5 years. In that time, they've enlisted a team of athletes that have used tester headphones in the gym, on mountain bike trails, during long runs, and in day-to-day life. They've also personally assessed the sound quality of more than 150 consumer audio products, allowing them to accurately compare the listening experience provided by each of these headphones.
Our testing of exercise 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% weighting)
To find the best headphones for every type of exercise, we spent more than 100 total hours lifting weights, doing plyometrics and calisthenics, running on tails and treadmills, and sweating on stationary bikes. Once we'd ascertained each pair's athletic prowess, we then listened to a wide variety of music and podcasts with each model to accurately compare their relative quality and clarity through the bass, mid, and treble ranges, as well as the overall fullness and separation.
In addition to using the headphones in everyday situations, we perform up to 20 different lab tests on each model, giving different weighting depending on the category. We evaluate every aspect of each pair from sound clarity, noise isolation, and battery life tests.
Analysis and Test Results
To find the best exercise headphones, we divided our testing into four separate metrics: athletic performance, sound quality, battery life, and ease of use. Then, we conducted multiple tests within each of these metrics to find the best model for every service and application.
If you are searching for the perfect set of earbuds to accompany your workout, athletic performance is the make-or-break factor to consider. We give this metric a 40% weighting to emphasize its significance in this category. To determine the workout prowess of each of the headphones we tested, we had multiple testers engage in a wide variety of workouts. These included high-intensity and fast-paced programs full of squat jumps and burpees, weightlifting, running, and using various cardio machines. Through it all, we paid attention to the overall stability and comfort of each pair and whether or not sweat negatively impacted those attributes.
The best performers in this metric tended to be the small and light true wireless models, as the lack of wires, and little weight didn't tug at our ears as we moved. The best of these models is the Jaybird Vista, which excelled in all our tests.
Though we had very few problems with earbuds falling out of our ears while exercising, it can still be nice to have some extra support for more intense activities. Models that sport over-ear hooks like the Powerbeats Pro are an excellent choice for those situations.
The importance of sound quality may vary depending on the user. We give it a relatively large portion of the overall score and weigh this metric at 35%. Over the years, we've developed a tried and true sound quality assessment that involves listening to each pair of headphones side-by-side, using a wide variety of musical genres. It allows us to determine each pair's relative quality and clarity through the bass, mid, and treble frequencies. For this review, we made sure to assess sound quality both in an ideal listening environment (a quiet room) and while working out in areas with plenty of ambient noise.
The best-sounding pair of earbuds we've tested is the Jabra Elite 75t. These buds produce surprisingly powerful bass balanced by great clarity and separation through the mid and treble frequencies. This combination results in the most nuanced listening experience of the bunch, equally flattering every type of music from hip hop to acoustic ballads.
Many models fall slightly behind the Jabra Elite 75t when it comes to sound quality, and all have somewhat different sound profiles that lend themselves to different genres. The Jaybird Vista, for example, sports a similarly well-balanced and clear sound, but with just a little less bass power. The Beats model leans into a warmer, bass-forward sound that is perfect for most workout playlists but loses a bit of expression in the higher frequencies. The Apple AirPods Pro is a bit thin in the bass department, but the addition of active noise cancellation substantially elevates the listening experience, particularly in noisy environments.
In a wireless product, battery life significantly contributes to overall useability, and we give it a 15% weighting. To test battery life, we created a 2-hour playlist with a mix of varying types of music. We then fully charged each pair of headphones and played that playlist on loop at 75% volume until the headphones died. For the truly wireless earbuds, we considered the battery life of the buds themselves, not the number of extra charges from the corresponding charging cases. Spoiler alert; every model will last through your workout (unless you're an Olympic endurance athlete or ultra marathoner, then all bets are off).
The best performers in our battery life tests are the Powerbeats Pro and the Jabra Elite 75t, which lasted over 11 hours.
Even the lowest scoring products have a reasonable battery life, allowing you plenty of time to complete your activities and then offering a few recharges while in the case so they are ready to go for the next round. The Jaybird Vista ran for 5.75 hours and can store a few additional charges in the charging case. The Apple AirPods Pro lasted 5 hours and can store a few more charges in their charging case.
Ease of Use
Ease of use makes up a mere 10% of our test results, but it has a major impact on how likely you are to reach for your headphones when it's time to head out for a run. The Jaybird Vista is one of the high scorers in this metric, thanks to the large and easily pressable button on each earbud. You can further customize settings for the perfect listening experience through the app.
We found the AfterShokz Air to be more difficult to use overall due to the wrap-around design. They do not pack down as small as true earbuds, and they may interfere with glasses or sunglasses. They do not have as many customizable features as other models and have a simple two-button volume control on the side.
We love a good jam session, no matter what you're doing, and finding the perfect way to listen to your favorite song can make a world of difference. But if you are on the move or in a public space, external speakers aren't always a viable option. A good pair of exercise headphones can at best make working out fun, and at its worst, make it slightly more bearable. Whether you're looking for the best-sounding pair to amp up your workouts or want a reasonably priced set to add a motivating playlist to your next pump session, we hope our detailed testing results have helped you find the perfect model.
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