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Best Bluetooth headphones for working out
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 17, 2021, to add the Adidas RPT-01.
The best Bluetooth workout headphones are the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100
The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100 checks all requirements for a good pair of workout headphones. This is comfortable, lightweight, and extremely water-resistant (IPX5). The memory foam ear pads evenly distribute weight, and are plush enough to be moderately comfortable with glasses.
Other great features include Bluetooth multipoint support: you can connect two devices to the headset simultaneously, and it remembers 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 get 6 hours of playback. One of the greater annoyances is the microUSB, rather than USB-C input.
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 is explicitly billed as a pair of Bluetooth workout headphones, the 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 this 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. You’ll have a hard time finding a better pair of wireless workout headphones.
What should you 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.
Bear in mind that all wireless headphones house lithium-ion batteries that degrade over time. Don’t be shocked if the headset that you use daily struggles to hold beyond an 80% capacity after a couple of years.
Should you care about Bluetooth codecs when looking for workout headphones?
You may have noticed how none of our picks support multiple high-quality Bluetooth codecs, if any, 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.
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 onboard 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.
How can you 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 breathable 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.
The Adidas RPT-01 is a great pair of on-ear workout headphones
Not everyone wants to lug a pair of over-ear headphones to the gym; instead, some of us want a more compact, durable solution, which is where the Adidas RPT-01 comes into play. This set of on-ear headphones features removable cloth padding that’s easy to clean and merit an IPX4 rating, so you can sweat without worry.
As with most on-ear headphones, the RPT-01 doesn’t offer the most comfortable fit, something to be expected with on-ears because they need extra clamping force to stay on your head and provide a good, consistent seal. Listeners can use the RPT-01 for 50 hours before needing to recharge it. Anyone who wants to exercise in style should pick up a pair of the Adidas RPT-01.
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-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort 35 II though.
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 Elite 85h to two devices at the same time. This is great for when you’re using it 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 5 hours of playback. Standalone battery life is insanely good: our testing yielded nearly 35 hours of playtime with noise cancelling on.
The Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL brings the bass and noise cancelling
JBL and Under Armour have shown time and time again that they’re a joint force to be reckoned with, and the UA Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones is bound to be a popular workout companion. Even though the headset has more clamping force than other over-ear headphones, this is expected: it keeps the headset stable during workouts.
The large buttons are easy to operate thoughtlessly, something every athlete needs when concentrating on form and technique. You don’t need to fret about battery life either: you can enjoy well over 40 hours of listening from this headset, and just 5 minutes of USB-C charging provides 120 minutes of playtime.
Related: Best running headphones
Although the UA Project Rock Over-Ear Training is a bit expensive, it has a lot to offer.
Budget bodybuilders should get the JLab Audio Flex Sport
JLab 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.
This uses Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and provides 20 hours of battery life. 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 ear pads. Plus, the plastic material of the tension headbands is easy to clean by taking a Lysol wipe to them.
You get two tension headbands and one extra headband padding piece, which can also be washed with the ear pads. 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
- AfterShokz Aeropex: Although bone conduction headphones may not be for everyone, but outdoor athletes will appreciate the Aeropex. Its non-occluding fit keeps your ears wide open, so you can immediately hear and react to your environment. The technology is also useful for listeners with certain kinds of hearing loss.
- Anker Soundcore Life A1: This set of cheap true wireless earphones costs less than $50 USD and is a solid choice for listeners who don’t want to invest much money into workout buds.
- Bose Sport Open Earbuds: Similar to bone conduction headphones, these earphones leave your ear canals completely open, but they don’t rely on bone conduction technology. Rather, Bose uses precisely angled speakers to drive audio from the earpieces into your ears. It sounds better than bone conduction and is completely free of wires.
- Jabra Elite Active 75t: These technically aren’t headphones, but if you want a pair of grade-A workout earbuds with noise cancelling, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are some of the best you can get. The Elite 85t are a great option too if you need grade-A active noise cancelling.
- JBL UA Sport Wireless Train On-Ear: If you’re interested in the UA Project Rock Over-Ear headset but don’t want to let go of $300 USD, the on-ear sibling is a fine choice (though it lacks ANC).
- JBL 650BTNC: JBL’s noise cancelling over-ear headphones might lack an IP rating but JBL made sure to feature its bass-heavy sound. Listeners who love bass should pick these headphones up.
- Motorola Escape 500 ANC: These headphones won’t be winning any awards, but for just $40, they stand out 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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