While no one actually likes the motivational music they play at the gym, we all have that favourite that spurs us on. But how best to listen to your workout playlist? A new generation of headphones designed specifically for fitness are here. As well as being sweat resistant to survive even the heaviest session, these Bluetooth earbuds pair with your phone so that you don’t have any loose cables flapping about while you’re trying to lift weights. However, while they offer wireless listening, these headphones are connected via a thread so you don’t lose individual buds while out running. Often these cables also allow manufacturers to also install in-line mics so that you can answer calls without interrupting your reps to look at your phone. Battery life is limited to around six hours, which isn’t ideal if you’re using them all the time, but this charge should last one or more workout sessions. We have put four of these fitness-friendly earphones through their paces, ranging from Planatronic’s budget BackBeat Go 2 buds to the high-priced H5’s from audio extraordinaire Beoplay, to help you find the best pair for you.
Plantronics BackBeat Go 2
The design of the BackBeat Go 2 earbud set is minimalist and is available in either all black or all white, making it more discreet. Selling for around £70 the Backbeats are the same price as Philips’ headphones but Backbeats have the slight edge in sound quality. This could be down to them being in-ear devices. The battery of the set lasts around four- and-a-half hours but it also comes with a charging case that adds another ten on top of it. Plantronics say that a 20-minute charge adds an extra hour of use. The volume buttons actually let you use them easily without looking, thanks to their embossed nature – this made controlling the volume without looking easier, a feature not often thought about, but we noticed it. Plantronics has an app that can be used to get tips on using your earbuds as well as finding them if they are lost by showing the last location it was used.
£70 | £100 plantronics.com
The metal housing gives the Freedoms a premium feel but it also helps in the performance by reducing any unwanted vibrations. They sound good out of the box but when paired with Jaybird’s Mysound app they go up a whole level. With EQs from Jaybird, athletes or its community you can pick which you prefer or make your own. We went with the community-made HD Audio and it made everything sounds sharper. Big orchestra pieces felt grander and acoustic tracks sounded more intimate. The only downside to the Freedoms is that they have a start- up and shutdown jingle that gets irritating, and when the battery is low a loud voice will inform you so, and this can’t be disabled. As for comfort, they sit well in the ear when casually listening but when you’re active you will need the winged tips that hook around the inside of the ear or else they will be falling out regularly.
£170 | $180 jaybirdsport.com
Philips ActionFit SHQ7900
Philips ActionFit ‘phones were the most comfortable pair we tested. Though technically also the heaviest buds in our group test, with pads that hook around the ear and a magnetic clip for your collar, we didn’t notice it. Instead we felt like we could do anything and the earbuds would stay on. The pairing process took longer than expected but that was due to a poor explanation from the quickstart guide. The ActionFits sound good, however out of the four in this test they were the weakest – but this doesn’t mean they are bad in any way. This could be down to them being the only ones that aren’t in-ear so they don’t mute the outside world. They were designed this way to help those who exercise outdoors stay aware of their surroundings. Listening to some rock tracks, each instrument can be heard just as well as the vocals and on ska the high-end isn’t drowned out by the low.
£70 | $85 Philips.com
Bang and Olufsen has made its earphones for both casual listening as well as gym freaks. The earphones come with foam ear tips that are sweatproof for when you are keeping fit as well as silicone tips for a more relaxed fit. The Beoplay H5s are the only earbud set we tested that supports aptX Bluetooth, meaning it can play CD-quality audio wirelessly. Using the Beosound app’s tonetouch feature you can play around with the EQ. The H5s have great clarity in their sound with solid mids and highs when playing jazz and classical songs but it also offers enough bass to please low-end lovers. Considering that the Beoplays are meant for day-to-day as well as gym use a five-hour battery life may not be enough if you plan on using them a lot. The H5s are the only set not charged via Micro USB, instead it comes with a stylish charging cube that plugs into a standard USB slot.
£200 | $250 beoplay.com