Working out without wires is the default for most athletes, and with the rise of true wireless earbuds, there are plenty of viable options to use during your next weight lifting session. Whether you’re a swimmer, runner, or all-around athlete, this list of the best true wireless workout earbuds is bound to improve your next workout session.
Editor’s note: this list of the best true wireless workout earbuds was updated on January 15, 2021, to update information about the Jabra Elite 85t.
For the best all-around pick get the Jabra Elite Active 75t
Listeners who want a pair of true wireless workout earbuds that perform well in every measurable category should get the Jabra Elite Active 75t. The IP57 earbuds are both dust and water-resistant, which means you can take these for a run on the beach without worry. Heck, you can even drop them in the water and they’ll be damage-free.
Jabra Elite Active 75tFull Review
Additionally, if you’re one for taking calls while on the move, the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds are the best bet. There are four microphones which simultaneously relay your voice while reducing ambient noise. Aside from call quality, these earbuds operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC for high-quality streaming on iOS devices. Android users can give AAC a shot but may not be met with the same consistency: the Android operating system struggles with AAC streaming.
You may like: Jabra Elite 75t vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
What’s more, auto-connect is quick and reliable; by just removing the earbuds from the charging case, they immediately pair to the last source device. You can even pair the Active 75t to two devices at a time, thanks to multipoint functionality. Integrated sensors automatically detect your ear, allowing for auto-play and pause functionality.
Jabra Elite Active 75t microphone demo:
Jabra also includes safety features in the way of switchable passthrough listening, which amplifies ambient noise, something we’ve seen in the Galaxy Buds Plus and Sony WF-1000XM3. However, anyone looking for accurate reproduction of sound may want to avoid these earphones; or you can take a few moments to adjust the EQ in Jabra’s MySound+ app. Bass frequencies are heavily emphasized, which make sense in the context of exercise earbuds but can quickly become annoying while casually enjoying music. Although these earphones are expensive, they do everything well and support important things like quick charging.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t, Elite 75t, and Elite 85t support noise cancelling
The Jabra Elite 75t series received free noise cancelling firmware update through the Jabra Sound+ app. This is one of the most noteworthy firmware updates we’ve seen, and is on par with the new features iOS 14 provides to the Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods. Pre-existing Elite 75t series owners can update the firmware for ANC, and the price remains unchanged for new Elite 75t buyers.
This news accompanied Jabra’s announcement of the Jabra Elite 85t noise cancelling true wireless earbuds. It may seem like poor planning for Jabra to release an ANC update alongside a pair of full-fledged noise cancelling earbuds, but the company understands the importance of providing choices to consumers. The Elite 85t have more advanced ANC technology than the other two options as well as HearThru functionality. They also have an IPX4 rating and Bluetooth multipoint. They are more expensive than their alternatives.
What you should know about wireless workout earbuds
When it comes to earbuds of any kind, particularly true wireless workout earbuds, getting a good fit is necessary for the best sound quality. If your earbuds don’t fit properly, sound reproduction is subjected to auditory masking. This is when louder noises mask our perception of quieter ones: our brains only have so much bandwidth to work with as they process stimuli. One of the first aspects of sound to degrade upon masking is bass response and overall clarity. If you value either of those things, as most listeners do, you’ll find it worthwhile to take a few moments and find what ear tips fit you best.
Bluetooth codec compatibility and true wireless connection quality
There are a few to be aware of if you want to avoid audio-visual lag. While every wireless product automatically supports SBC, the lowest common denominator of Bluetooth codecs (the piece of technology that transmits audio from its source to your earbuds), aptX cuts audio-visual lag. If you plan to stream videos from the treadmill, definitely keep an eye out for aptX, or AAC if you have an iPhone. You also benefit from high-quality audio from these codecs. Granted, your ability to discern between the codecs, especially while working out, may be limited.
Learn more: Understanding Bluetooth codecs
As Bluetooth LE Audio technology and the LC3 codec populate the consumer market, we’ll see great improvements in efficiency and connection quality. Aside from assisting the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the LC3 codec is designed to handle packet loss and its ensuing latency with fewer abrupt stutters. This means that connection dropouts will be smoother and more controlled, rather than manifesting as syncopated stutters.
Look out for IP ratings
One thing all true wireless workout earbuds need is to be water-resistant. At the very least, they should have a water-repellent coating; ideally, lookout for something with an official IP rating for ensured water-resistance. The standard for workout specific earbuds trends toward IPX4, which means a product is able to resist virtually any workout except for swimming. If you need your buds to withstand complete submersion, read up on our list of the best waterproof earbuds.
Fast charging may be more important than overall battery life
True wireless battery cells are tiny; after all, they have to fit inside miniscule housings, while also leaving room for other components like DSPs and audio drivers. Physical limitations prohibit this breed of headset from having exceptional battery life, but that’s okay, because most of us only work out for one, maybe two, hours at a time. It’s more important for us athletes to have earbuds with fast charging, rather than earbuds with good standalone playtime.
Fast charging technology allows you to plop the earbuds into their respective charging case for 5-10 minutes, and in doing so the buds typically top up to at least one hour of battery life. Not all earbuds have this feature, particularly cheap ones, but most all workout earbuds do. Every headset listed as our top pick features fast charging.
Take the Jaybird Vista from the office to the gym
The Jaybird Vista is a huge improvement over the company’s Run true wireless workout earbuds. You get an improved fit, more modern design, and retain the same IPX7 water-resistant rating. These are arguably some of the most attractive true wireless workout earbuds to date. A modest concave button adorns each earbud, allowing for basic playback and call controls. The softened rectangular shape sits nicely along the ear and avoids that unsightly antennae look that other true wireless earbuds have.
Jaybird VistaFull Review
One of the most important features of the earbuds is mono listening. To engage this mode, remove the desired earbud from the case. That’s it. You’re then ready to listen with one ear while remaining vigilant via the other. All workout earbuds should be able to enter mono mode or have some sort of Ambient Aware equivalent. Personally, I prefer mono listening to software-based environmental awareness features because the latter can amplify wind noise too much, making it hard to hear actual threats like honking cars.
Jaybird Vista microphone demo:
While these don’t support any high-quality codecs, optimal audio quality typically isn’t a priority with true wireless workout earbuds. Safety and fit are paramount, everything else is a welcome frivolity. Jaybird fans will be happy to know, however, that custom EQ settings are preserved with the Jaybird Vista. You can save your preset to the earbuds and even test out other athletes’ EQ preferences. It’s a novel way to make an otherwise straightforward function a social one.
Related: Bone conduction headphones
The Bose Sport Earbuds are the most comfortable buds around
The Bose Sport Earbuds are meant for the gym, but can be taken anywhere thanks to the sleek design. These workout earbuds are much more compact than the comically large SoundSport Free, Bose’s first foray into the true wireless space. The Sport Earbuds merit an IPX4 rating, and feature some of the most comfortable ear tips around.
Bose Sport EarbudsFull Review
The earbuds support other useful features like fast charging: 15 minutes in the case nets two hours of playtime. We measured over five hours of playback on a single charge, which is more than enough for a single workout.
Microphone quality is good, but not perfect. The four-mic array attenuates low-frequency notes, which can make those with low vocal registers sound unnatural, or otherwise “distant.” It does, however, do a very good job of cancelling out predictable background noises like the hum of a microwave, as heard in the demo below.
Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo:
The Bose Sport Earbuds are a great option for athletes who don’t want to compromise on sound quality. Sure, you may yearn for the option to create your own EQ preset, but there’s a good chance such a feature will come with a firmware update. Even without that, these are a great pair of earbuds, and among the comfiest around. If you want the same design and durability with active noise cancelling, check out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds instead.
iPhone users should listen with the Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Beats Powerbeats Pro are a fine example of how true wireless earbuds should fit. The ear hooks keep the housings stable while the nozzles allow for a more ergonomic fit than the AirPods and updated Apple AirPods Pro. Since Beats is an Apple subsidiary, these buds benefit from Apple’s H1 chip and AAC Bluetooth codec support. This means listeners will enjoy longer playback time and greater efficiency than earbuds with identical specs sans-H1 chip.
Beats Powerbeats ProFull Review
The earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, so you can sweat in them to your heart’s content without worrying about damaging anything. Inside each housing is an array of sensors that notify the Powerbeats Pro of when they’re removed from the ear. The sensors also register when you’re speaking and detect when the earbuds are dormant, forcing them to power off.
Beats uses a combination of tactile and touch controls. There are identical volume rockers on the earbuds, and holding the “b” symbol lets you deny incoming calls. Since the H1 chip is in use, you can access Siri by saying, “Hey Siri.” Battery life also benefits from the proprietary chip. We were able to squeeze out 10 hours, 52 minutes of playback on a single charge. The case holds an extra 1.5 charge cycles. If you pop the buds in the case for just five minutes, you’re afforded 1.5 hours of battery life.
Best Powerbeats Pro microphone demo:
If you can afford it, the Beats Powerbeats Pro are the best true wireless workout earbuds for any iPhone user. Otherwise, the Beats Powerbeats are an excellent option for listeners who don’t mind their earbuds being joined by wire. You’re afforded nearly all of the same functionality as the Pro model for $100 less.
Ball out on a budget with the Anker SoundCore Spirit Dot 2
True wireless workout earbuds tend to be more expensive than traditional wireless options. Fortunately for those of us restricted to stringent budgets, the Anker SoundCore Spirit Dot 2 exists. The IPX7 earbuds have several sets of ear tips and wing tips so you’ll definitely find a stable fit.
Anker SoundCore Spirit Dot 2Full Review
The charging case charges via USB-C, and the battery life is pretty average—they last 6 hours, 2 minutes on a single charge. The connection strength is excellent, but they only support SBC and AAC.
Sound quality is on-par for budget wireless earbuds and is just ok. If you like bass-heavy music, you won’t mind the exaggerated low-end heard here. If you’re someone who only cares that your wireless workout earbuds work and don’t care much for frills, these are the smartest, most economical choice.
Anker SoundCore Spirit Dot 2 microphone demo:
If you want to pay a bit extra for nicer sound quality and isolation go for the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2. They have an IPX5 rating and support both AAC and aptX.
How we chose the true wireless workout earbuds
As with any and all audio products that come our way, we subjected our picks for the best true wireless workout earbuds to a battery of objective tests to determine battery life, frequency response, and isolation properties. We don’t just rely on objective measurements to inform our review process though, as we use them in the real world by working out with them and using them for general listening. If we happened to miss a possible favorite, be sure to leave a comment below as we regularly update our best lists to adjust for new products.
True wireless workout earbuds: notable mentions
- 1MORE True Wireless ANC: Listeners who want an IPX5-rated pair of earphones with noise cancelling should really think about getting 1More’s buds. The ANC doesn’t outperform Apple’s or Sony’s technology, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, the O-hooks help maintain a low profile and stable fit.
- Apple AirPods Pro: The AirPods Pro deviates from the nozzle-less form of the first two AirPods iterations. The dedicated nozzles facilitate noise canceling to quiet the world around you, while the sweat-resistant build lets you exercise without worrying about water damage. They do, however, cost $250 before tax, which is hard for most consumers to justify.
- Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2: If you’re looking for a solid pair of AirPods alternatives that feature an IPX5 certification, stellar microphone quality, and solid battery life, these buds are a great option for less than $100.
- Bose SoundSport Free: These earbuds sound great and fit well despite being large for true wireless earbuds. The proprietary ear tips maintain a stable fit without sacrificing comfort. With the advent of its successor, the Bose Sport Earbuds, availability the SoundSport Free may not be on the market for much longer—though you can still snag some refurbished models at a discounted price.
- Jabra Elite 65t: These earphones reigned as king for well over a year and remain one of the best pairs of true wireless earbuds on the market since their price decrease. The IP55 rating preserves internal components and microphone quality is exceptional.
- Panasonic RZ-S300W: Its IPX4 rating means this headset can withstand the sweatiest of workouts, so long as it isn’t completely submerged in water. The earbuds are compact and sit comfortably even without wing tips. For essentially the same package but with top-notch noise cancelling, get the Panasonic RZ-S500W.
- Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3200: Anyone who’s drawn to the BackBeat FIT 3100 but wants to be isolated from their surroundings should get these buds. They feature ear tips that seal to the ear canal and significantly better battery life. For an unsealed fit, get the Plantronic BackBeat FIT 3100 instead.
- RHA TrueConnect 2: These true wireless earbuds are IP55-certified and create a strong seal with the ear for enhanced bass and clarity. What’s more, connectivity is stable even in crowded environments like a gym or subway.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: If you’re a fan of the original Galaxy Buds, you’ll love the Buds Plus. These earbuds have some of the best battery life of any true wireless buds we’ve tested and they have integrated Spotify support. This is a great way to discover new music a the tap-and-hold of a touch panel. To try Samsung’s direct AirPods competitor, check out the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. These bean-shaped buds actually stay in place.
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