Everyone has their priorities when picking out headphones for exercising, but most of us can agree that Bluetooth workout headphones are more practical than their wired counterparts. We’ve put together some of the best headphones for athletes, ranging from the over-ear noise cancelling variety to sweat-resistant on-ears. No matter what your sport is, there’s a wireless headset for you.
Editor’s note: this list of the best Bluetooth headphones for working out was updated on September 3, 2020, to address an FAQ about Beats.
The best Bluetooth workout headphones are the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100
The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100 check all requirements for a good pair of workout headphones. These are comfortable, lightweight, and extremely water-resistant (IPX5-rated). The Memory foam earpads evenly distribute weight along the area surrounding the ear, and are plush enough that they’re moderately comfortable with glasses.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100Full Review
Other great features include Bluetooth multipoint support: you can connect two devices to headset simultaneously, and it may remember up to eight devices for fast switching. Standalone battery life is great, too; you get ~27 hours of listening on a single charge. Once the battery dies, all you need is 15 minutes and you’re afforded six hours of playback. One of the greater annoyances is the microUSB, rather than USB-C input, but it’s a forgivable decision considering what a high value these cans are.
Sound quality isn’t the best because auditory masking, which causes bass frequencies to drown out mid-range frequencies, rears its ugly head into nearly all media playback. Normally, we’d really dock a headset for this, but since the BackBeat FIT 6100 are explicitly billed as Bluetooth workout headphones, the emphatic bass response makes sense. In fact, many athletes prefer this type of sound to keep them pumped during their routines.
On the whole, Plantronics’ Bluetooth workout headphones and earbuds are no stranger to success and the same goes for its latest over-ear model. Plus, the tension headband is a neat, yet functional trick that lets you tighten or loosen the headset according to workout intensity. For ~$130, you’ll have a hard time finding a better pair of wireless workout headphones.
What you should know about the best Bluetooth workout headphones
Fit takes precedence
We harp on this when it comes to earbuds, and the same applies to headphones: audio quality and stability are completely dependent on finding a good fit. Sure, there aren’t ear tips for you to swap out with headphones, but some of our picks allow for tension adjustment along the headband in tandem with size adjustments. It’s important to take the time to figure out a proper fit along your noggin, because you don’t want them flying off mid-deadlift. What’s more, if you want to block out other grunting gym rats, you’ll need as strong of a seal to your ear or the area around it as possible.
What about water-resistance?
Durability matters, too; after all, you are going to be sweating while wearing your headphones. If you can, try and find a pair with an official IP rating, which refers to its resistance to water and dust. Then again, I realize this is a rare certification to find for actual on- and over-ear headphones, so an official mention of sweat-resistance will serve you just as well. You just want to make sure your Bluetooth workout headphones don’t short-circuit mid-routine, or if they do, then you want the malfunction to be covered under the company’s warranty.
Quick charging matters more than battery life
Although we’re keen to award headsets with long battery life, the fact of the matter is that most of us don’t spend more than one hour at the gym per visit, or if we do, our time spent is unlikely to exceed the battery life of our headset. Therefore, what you really should pay attention to when picking out Bluetooth workout headphones is quick charging capabilities. Efficiency varies: some headsets afford an hour of playtime after five minutes of charging, while others provide multiple hours after 10 minutes of charging. It all depends, but so long as the feature is supported, you’ll have enough juice to get you through a single workout before docking the headset onto its cable at home.
Bluetooth codecs don’t matter too much
You may have noticed how none of our picks support multiple, if any, high-quality Bluetooth codecs and that’s fine. These are all billed specifically as Bluetooth workout headphones, meaning it’s unlikely any of us are considering them for analytical listening. If that’s the case for you, please, save yourself the time and hop over to one of our appropriate best lists that highlight studio or open-back headphones.
Otherwise, be sure to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to audio quality and latency. The lack of high-quality codec support means that audio-visual lag is a persistent issue plaguing exercise headphones. You may also experience latency when making commands; sometimes it’ll take a full few seconds for a song to skip if operating from the on-board controls. Few manufacturers see it worth the time and money to support AAC or aptX just for latency reduction, seeing as these are intended for gym use and other properties take precedence.
Avoid noise-induced hearing loss
Sometimes when you’re working out, all you want to do is crank up the volume to get you in the zone. While this is unlikely to harm you if seldom performed, it’s something you should refrain from if they want the best shot at preserving your hearing. It doesn’t take much to damage your hearing; according to the CDC, just two hours of exposure to an 85dB sound has the potential to damage your hearing. To put that into perspective, this is about as loud as gas-powered lawnmowers. And if you’re one to listen to music while mowing the lawn, volume levels are something you need to be vigilant about keeping low; the same applies to exercise.
How to use workout headphones and glasses
Glasses (or ear piercings) make wearing headphones painful; fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the pain. We have an in-depth explainer, but if you’re short on time here are the key steps to take in order to workout with glasses and headphones.
Roll with over-ear headphones: on-ear headphones only exacerbate discomfort along common pressure points on and behind the ears. Make sure to get breatheable ear pads if your workout headphones don’t include them. If your headset allows it, reduce clamping force. You’ll have the most success and least pain by getting workout earbuds, though.
Bass-lovers should get the JBL Live 650BTNC
The JBL Live 650BTNC headset may be bulky but that’s because it packs plenty of hardware into its ear cups, including 40mm dynamic drivers for delivering loud bass. Although its noise cancellation isn’t best-in-class, it’s good enough to reduce low-frequency sounds (e.g. air conditioners) by 10db. In other words, these sounds are rendered half as loud compared to headphones sans-ANC.
JBL Live 650BTNCFull Review
If you’re a fan of Beats products but have an aversion to their high price tag, then you’ll enjoy the overall aesthetic of JBL’s over-ear headphones. These serve as a great Beats alternative because of the emphatic bass response: low notes are twice as loud as midrange notes, which are where most vocals and key instruments fall. Clarity isn’t the JBL Live 650BTNC’s strong suit, but that’s fine; the sound is fun regardless. Plus, seeing as you’ll be using these to exercise, the bass amplification will help keep you pumped and in the zone.
Block out the world with the Jabra Elite 85h
If you aren’t satisfied with how the JBL 650BTNC performs, you may be charmed by the Jabra Elite 85h instead. This headset does a great job at attenuating midrange and high-frequency sounds, which may serve you well in a gym setting where people are clinking and dropping weights. Low-end attenuation isn’t as effective as the Sony WH-1000XM3 or AKG N700NC, though.
Jabra Elite 85hFull Review
What makes this headset so unique is its water-resistant treatment. A nano-coating wicks away sweat and water to protect the internals. While I wouldn’t recommend an intense cardio workout in these, they’ll be just fine for your typical visit to the gym or light jog. Another great feature is automatic ear detection: upon removing the headphones, music playback pauses. Donning the headphones automatically resumes playback; pretty neat.
What’s more, you can connect the headphones to two devices at the same time. This is great for when you’re using them at home or in the office and want to keep tabs on incoming calls and notifications while streaming video. If you’re crunched for time but need to charge the battery, you can do so quickly: 15 minutes of charging via the USB-C cable yields about five hours of playback. Standalone battery life is insanely good: our testing yielded nearly 35 hours of playtime with noise cancelling on.
Keep things compact, get the JBL UA Sport Wireless Train
JBL and Under Armour have shown time and time again that they’re a joint force to be reckoned with, and the Sport Wireless Train headphones are a popular workout accessory. These on-ear headphones are compact and lightweight. Even though they place more force on the head than their over-ear counterparts, the breathable earpad material is comfortable enough to get through hour-long workouts.
JBL UA Sport Wireless Train
These sweat-resistant headphones provide 16 hours of playtime on a single charge and supply an hour of playtime after just five minutes of charging via the included microUSB cable. Something Sport Wireless Train headphone users praise is the control build and its layout. The large buttons are easy to operate thoughtlessly, something every athlete needs when concentrating on form and technique. The Bluetooth 4.1 firmware is a bit outdated, but that shouldn’t impact usage too much aside from being less efficient firmware compared to Bluetooth 5.0.
Related: Best running headphones
Although the JBL UA Sport Wireless Train headphones are a bit expensive for what you get, they’ve proven their worth as one of the best on-ear Bluetooth workout headphones around.
Budget bodybuilders should get the JLab Audio Flex Sport
JLab is a company that knows its audience: people aren’t buying JLab headsets for mind-blowing audio quality; rather, this is the brand you go to for high-value, low-cost options that get the job done. The IP44-rated JLab Audio Flex Sport is a solid option for athletes with tight finances.
JLab Audio Flex
These use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and provide 20 hours of listening on a single charge. You get to cycle through JLab’s standard three EQ presets, but the greatest benefit comes from the removable parts. You can deconstruct the headset and wash the earpads. Plus, the plastic material of the tension headbands is easy to clean by taking a Lysol wipe to them.
The company opted for a USB-C input, which is awesome at this price. Plus, you can quickly charge them: 10 minutes of charging yields two hours of listening. To complete a full charge cycle, you’ll need to set aside three hours, something that can easily be done before bed.
You’re afforded two tension headbands and one extra headband padding piece, which can also be washed with the earpads. The tension headbands are a great idea, but may prove inconvenient to carry around with you in the provided drawstring pouch. If you know you’re going to do a particularly rigorous workout, you may want to preinstall the desired headband rather than swapping them out mid-routine.
Best Bluetooth headphones for working out: notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Vortex: These headphones are an excellent bargain because they support aptX, afford more than 20 hours of playtime, and are comfortable. There are drawbacks since they can be had for less than $50, for one, audio reproduction isn’t very clear and the controls are difficult to use.
- Jabra Elite 65t: Ok, these technically aren’t headphones, but if you want a pair of affordable, grade-A workout earbuds, the Jabra Elite 65t are some of the best you can get. Since the 75t model’s release, we’ve seen a huge drop in price, bringing the Elite 65t below $100.
- Motorola Escape 500 ANC: These headphones won’t be winning any awards, but for just $40, they standout from the pack due to their IPX4 water-resistant rating. This means you can break a heavy sweat without damaging the internal components. Sound quality is very good for the price; though, you’ll notice some audible compression especially at louder volumes. Noise cancellation isn’t great, or even very good, but it’s better than nothing.
- Plantronics BackBeat FIT 500: Although these Bluetooth workout headphones are pretty outdated, they stand as a durable, reliable on-ear option for enthusiasts on a budget. The P2i nano-coating effectively protects the components from water and sweat.
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Frequently Asked Questions
While the bass-heavy frequency response of Beats headphones can help energize you during your workout, Beats headphones don't have any official IPX ratings, so if they get sweat on them, you might damage their electronics. If you want to workout with Beats, try their true wireless earbuds, the Beats Powerbeats Pro, which have an IPX4 rating.
It all comes down to ergonomics. Headphones are large and they sit on top of your head. If you're jumping around or running, headphones might slip off. This makes earbuds much more convenient for working out, specifically if they are wireless or truly wireless. In addition, waterproofing is much more common in earbuds, and you'll definitely want some sort of IP rating on your workout headset to protect from flying sweat.
When it comes to workout headphones, your level of comfort is heavily influenced by how well your headphones stay on. The JLab Audio Flex's swappable headbands allow you to switch between a secure and a regular setting. However, the JBL Live 650BTNC have the most comfortable earpads, so you'll be able to wear them for long periods of time.