Exercising is tough, but finding earbuds that keep up with you shouldn’t be. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the five best workout earbuds money can buy. We hope these push you through even the most strenuous workout regimen. Whether you’re looking for a pair of affordable ‘buds or the best money can get we hope to have you covered with these picks.
This list was updated on January 17, 2020, to make note of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100.
The best workout earbuds are the Jaybird Tarah
Jaybird has gone through a few versions of its product, and the X4 was the best yet—until it released the Jaybird Tarah just a few weeks later. While the X4 is technically the better pair of ‘buds, the differences are slight. Plus, if you go with the Tarah, you’ll save yourself about $30 . We think it’s a fair trade for just a tw0-hour difference in playback time. Plus, the Tarah has the best feature of the X4: the IPX7 waterproof rating.
Jaybird TarahFull Review
Unfortunately, the charging module must be connected to the proprietary charging dock, so don’t lose it. You can’t just plug in to charge them directly which is annoying. The process can be a bit finicky when compared to the typical microUSB charging port, but it looks futuristic and works. Battery life is ok. During our objective testing, we squeezed out just under 7 hours of juice. While not the best, it should cover a week’s worth of workouts for most of us. And after polling Android Authority readers, we found that most of you only listen to music for one or two hours anyway.
Music lovers: how long do you listen to your headphones each day?
— Android Authority (@AndroidAuth) August 7, 2018
What the Jaybird Tarah lacks in stamina it makes up for in sound customization via EQ settings in the Jaybird MySound app. You can save your preferred profile to the headphones and apply it to any device that the Tarah connects to. Sure, you can go with the Jaybird X4 if you really want those extra two hours of battery life and some more customizable ear tips options, but we’d say just save yourself the money.
Athletes should invest in dedicated workout earbuds
Sure, you may already have Bluetooth earbuds, but if they’re not sweat-resistant, I’d caution against using them during vigorous training sessions. Water damage may void the warranty of your everyday earbuds, but getting something that’s explicitly water-resistant protects you from throwing money down the drain each time a non-water resistant pair short-circuits. Workout earbuds and headphones aren’t just more durable, they’re also specifically designed to be used during vigorous movement. In the case of earphones, this means the fit is made more stable by silicone wing tips, an ear hook design, you name it. Also, on-board controls are formatted so they’re easy to use when exercising: this usually means the buttons are larger, making them easier to operate without looking.
The listed best workout earbuds have all been tested firsthand by various members of the SoundGuys team, and we can attest to each product’s durability. What’s more, if you’re just the average consumer looking for your next pair of wireless earbuds, any of these are a great option. It’s important to make sure that your earphones are water-resistant: accidents happen. At the very least, an oleophobic coating can go a long way.
The JLab JBuds Air Icon are the best workout earbuds for true wireless fans on a budget
If you’re an exercise enthusiast who has tried a few pairs of true wireless ‘buds, you may be familiar with how poor fit and battery life make them a hard sell over traditional Bluetooth earbuds. The JLab JBuds Air Icon are the true wireless earbuds to take for a spin. With IP55 certification, the JBuds Air Icon are dust- and water-resistant. No matter how hard you sweat, they’ll hold up without a problem. Their durability and affordability are the main reasons they’re some of the best workout earbuds.
JLab JBuds Air IconFull Review
In addition to the IP55 rating, you get access to your respective virtual assistant. The package includes proprietary Cush Fin ear tips, which do a great job of keeping the housings in place. The earbuds have been downsized from the original JLab JBuds Air, which improves comfort. Plus, JLab integrated a new dual connection system for more stable connectivity within the 10-meter range. These are an unmatched bargain within the true wireless space and they support AAC for high-quality streaming from iOS devices.
You may like: Best true wireless workout earbuds
Need something tough? Get the Jabra Elite Active 45e
Jabra has some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market and isn’t slacking in the traditional wireless department either. These feature Bluetooth 5.0, an IP67 rating, and quick charging capabilities.
Jabra Elite Active 45eFull Review
While they’re not as versatile as some of the other earbuds listed, the ear tips are designed with safety in mind. You’ll never miss what’s going on around you as the ear tips allow for external noise to be heard at all times. If you like to run outside, these are a smart choice. These Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds include other features too: you can access your virtual assistant, control playback, and take calls all from the earbud housings. While said housings are undeniably bulky, they remain in place due to the stabilizing hooks protruding from the ear tips. Battery life is on-par for wireless in-ears, clocking in at 9 hours, 1 minute of playback. They also support quick charging: 15 minutes connected to the included microUSB cable grants one hour of playback. A full charge cycle requires two hours, though.
Again, sound quality is lacking, but that’s the sacrifice athletes make for safety. Plus, they still sound better than bone conduction headphones, which have their own niche purpose. If you spend most of your time exercising outside, these are a great deal.
What you should know about the best workout earbuds
Different wing tip shapes and textures make a world of difference when it comes to comfort and stability.
A proper fit is key to excellent workout earbuds. Thankfully, most companies provide you with multiple sizes of ear and wingtips for extra security. For some, ear tips like this can be unwieldy and actually undermine a solid seal. This was an issue for me when I used the original Jaybird X, so I chose to forgo the wing tips. If your earbuds are falling out too often or hurting your ears, try altering the sizing or ear tip style.
There’s also Bluetooth codec support. If you have no idea what that is, don’t worry we have an entire podcast explaining it. Basically what you need to know is that two devices need to have the same codec in order to transfer information between them. Think of it kind of like a language. If two people speak the same language, information gets passed between them quicker than two people gesturing at each other. The same is true with codecs, and if two devices have the same codec information is passed quicker than two that don’t.
Unfortunately, not all codecs are equal and some are better than others. While this isn’t a huge deal for workout earbuds since you probably aren’t going to be doing any critical listening while doing your squats, it’s still something to take note of.
What are IP ratings?
Additionally, a key aspect of the listed best workout earbuds is that they’re, at the very least, sweat-resistant. So here’s a quick rundown of Ingress Protection (IP) ratings and fit.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
The Beats Powerbeats Pro are great for iPhone users
These IPX4 earbuds get a lot of things right. Not to mention they’re entirely wireless, and if you took the Powerbeats3 and ripped the wires off, you’d get the Powerbeats Pro. Though to be fair, the design on these is definitely sleeker than their wired counterpart. Inside is the new H1 chip from Apple that makes pairing your iOS device with them just as easy as the Airpods Pro, with a small card popping up prompting you to connect. If you’re on Android you won’t get the cool animation, but pairing is similarly easy thanks to a small button on the inside of the case.
Beats Powerbeats ProFull Review
The problem with most true wireless earbuds is, of course, battery life. But that isn’t the case here. Whether you’re rocking an iOS device or an Android device we managed to squeeze out around 10.5 hours of constant playback before these need to be put back in the case which is no small accomplishment.
Still, it comes at a price. The charging case that you’ll eventually need to put back into is huge. Plus, it charges via a Lightning cable which isn’t great for anyone buying devices in 2019 that doesn’t already have an iPhone. Still, when you take into account the sweatproof certification, the hook design that keeps these from falling, and the 10+ hour battery life, we have no problem recommending these. They’re that good.
iPhone users who want something more versatile should get the Apple AirPods Pro
Apple’s AirPods Pro has been completely redesigned from the AirPods and AirPods (2019); the Pro model has angled nozzles that seal to the ears. This is imperative for its hero feature: noise cancelling. H1 chip integration permits hands-free Siri access and seamless usage across iOS devices. It also benefits power efficiency, a big reason standalone battery life is just over five hours. Unlike the AirPods (2019), the AirPods Pro includes a wireless charging case by default, so you don’t have to shell out more money for that feature. Microphone quality is just as good as before, and the new IPX4 rating means you can sweat in the AirPods Pro to your heart’s content.
The Bose SoundSport Free are some of the best workout earbuds with excellent sound
Bose hopped onto the true wireless train with the SoundSport Free, an update to the SoundSport Wireless. With Bose’s patented StayHear+ ear tips, the bulbous ‘buds remain in your ears during the most vigorous of workouts. I was able to squeeze out five and a half at 50 percent volume, and the matte black case provides an extra 10 hours. During our objective testing at a louder 75dB(SPL), however, constant playback time came out at 4.58 hours.
Bose SoundSport FreeFull Review
Just like their predecessor, the SoundSport Free earbuds sound great. However, the low-end is underemphasized for sport earbuds. What’s more, athletes retain full control of the music with traditional playback controls and a multi-function button. Plus, if an earbud is lost, the Bose Connect app attempts to locate it. All of these features in addition to the great overall sound make the SoundSport Free a pair of the best workout earbuds on the market.
Related: Best AirPods alternatives
- Jaybird Vista: Jaybird upped its game with from the Run XT earbuds. The Vista are handsomely designed with a reliable fit and IPX7 water-resistant rating. No matter how you move, the Vista will move with you.
- Bose SoundSport Wireless: These earbuds are the traditional Bluetooth version of the Bose SoundSport Free. Aside from the varying wireless technology, it’s virtually the same.
- Plantronics Backbeat Fit 3100: For a pair of true wireless ‘buds that can keep up with getting beat down, check these out which really impressed us.
- Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100: You can wear these in the office and quickly transition to the gym without worrying about durability, thanks to the IP54 rating. Integrated sensors facilitate automatic ear detection for auto-play/pause when the earbuds are inserted or removed.
- Jabra Elite 65t: This used to be the best pair of true wireless workout earbuds available until the cheaper JLab JBuds Air entered the market. The earbuds are IP55-rated and feature a 5.85-hour standalone battery life.
- JLab Epic Air Sport: These earbuds reproduce your music with some added low-e54 rating. d emphasis to keep you motivated during your workouts. The Class 1, Bluetooth 5 firmware keeps connection strength reliable while the IP66 rating marks their durability.
- V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless: This neckband-style pair of wireless headphones is outfitted with a sweat-resistant coating and maintains a stable connection for long workouts.
- Anker Soundbuds: This is similar to the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium but the connectivity is less stable. However, it’s are more affordable.
- Fitbit Flyer: It’s like the Bose SoundSport Wireless but lacks the Bose’s IPX4 rating.
- BeatsX: If you need something stylish and chic, this is a great choice. But be wary because the earbuds aren’t officially IP-rated. See our comparison of the BeatsX, Beats by Dre Power Beats, and the Apple AirPods.
How we chose
We’ve reviewed our share of products at SoundGuys before deciding on the best workout earbuds. Doing so which makes it easier to determine what the best workout earbuds available are. However, we aren’t superhuman and admittedly haven’t reviewed every product out there, but we have done our research and all top five products and notable mentions.
For this list, I was able to test our curated selection of models. I also used these casually around the house, in the office, and generally while out and about. When testing earbuds for workout purposes, I do a bit of cardio, mainly biking and running paired with weight-lifting and calisthenics. All the products listed were able to withstand my workouts.
How we test
We subjected the best workout earbuds nominees to our objective testing which includes isolation, battery life, and frequency response. You can read all about it here, but the truncated version is as follows.
- Each product was subjected to multiple sine sweeps through the headphones, and we recorded the frequency response once we were able to repeat a result that demonstrates the hallmarks of a good seal.
- For battery testing, we used a real-time analyzer to calibrate the necessary setting for a 75dB(SPL). We then played infinitely looped music until the battery ran out. This lets us compare each product’s readout to the others.
- With the isolation tests, we used pink noise at 90dB(SPL) and set the speaker one meter away from the headphones. We first recorded with the headphones off and then with the headphones on. From there, we just subtract one from the other to get the isolation.
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