Best sports headphones: 5 of the top headphones for the gym
16th Dec 2013 | 08:00
The top headphones for fitness
Price: £15 / $25
Snappy name, huh? Let's get one thing straight: if this test was done on price alone, these would be the outright winner. The sound quality is superb for a £13 / $20 pair of headphones, with good balance and clear sound. The no-nonsense tough ear-hooks ensure they stay on your ears without any issues, and you have to give them a good yank to make them budge. They're also the only headphones here to come complete with an iOS-compatible remote for receiving/ending calls as well as skipping tracks.
Unfortunately it doesn't control the volume, though, and has a really cheap feel to it. That lack of quality also extends to the cable, which has a distinct tackiness about it - it just bunches up and doesn't hang loose like Apple's own headset nor the Philips set here.
But at this price, we're not sure we can complain. In fact, we really can't. Top of the pops in the value-for-money stakes, while the sound quality really is surprisingly good. They're close runners-up in this group.
Price: £15 / $25
Like the Philips ActionFit, these headphones are water-resistant. Not bad for the price, but they are lacking in a few key areas. For one thing, the sound has zero punch to it; even listening to a bassy track from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories yielded a dull sound (we tested all these headphones while running, listening to various tracks including many from that album).
They clip over the ear like the Sony and JVC sets here, but the actual earphone is supposed to seal tight instead of just sitting in the ear as with the other two. In practice, we found them uncomfortable (even with three sizes of ear plugs), while the over-ear bands are flimsy; they came off of our ears with minimal tugging.
Obviously they're inexpensive, but they leave a lot to be desired. Waterproof they might be, but we didn't really like the sound on offer, and we found they simply weren't secure enough on our ears for exercise.
Philips Actionfit SHQ5200
Price: £60 / $100
These Philips headphones are the only headband headphones here and they bring some fancy tricks to the party: they're waterproof and the ear cushions detach so you can wash off any sweat. They're also the most expensive, but we wouldn't necessarily hold that against them; the materials used are of excellent quality - notably the silicon finish on the headband and audio cable - and we found them supremely comfortable when running (weighing just 99g).
You can also shorten the audio cable. However, we must recommend these headphones mainly to bass fans. The emphasis on the bass made the rest of the sound a little muddy, so they aren't for listening to classic rock, for example, but if you run to pumping dance tracks they'll most certainly do the trick.
They are our favourite for comfort, too. Overall they're extremely bassy; you might or might not think this is a bad thing. They lose out on sound clarity, but they're certainly comfortable.
Price: £20 / $30
These clip-on headphones are comfortable, with really good-quality rubberised clips. They didn't come off our ears, despite some rather rough treatment. Alongside the Philips, they're probably the most comfortable set on test and, as such, would be the choice for many. The sound doesn't set itself apart from the crowd, but it is decent in quality - the bass is pretty minimal, though, so dance obsessives might not like them.
While the sound quality is on a par with the JVCs, the clips are slightly better and you might feel £26 isn't too much for a reasonable pair of clip-ons. Again, there isn't a remote or volume control, something we're surprised Sony hasn't added; when you're in the £20+ mark, it's fair to expect a volume control.
Sony has produced a comfortable pair of headphones here, but they don't really do enough musically to truly set them apart from the crowd.
Sennheiser Adidas CX685
Price: £45 / $70
Technology brands like being associated with sports brands and vice versa, so numerous products like this now occupy the sports tech market: headphones by Sennheiser, logos by Adidas. This isn't a half-hearted product, though - these are a fine pair of headphones.
They're fairly odd in appearance; they're in-ear headphones designed to form a seal in the ear canal (three sizes of buds are supplied) that also have a hook on the top to help them stay in the ear. The hook looks so inconsequential that it's hard to believe that it actually does work!
They're not as secure as some of the other over-ear hook headphones we've looked at here, but they're excellent - as is the sound quality, which has punch and the best balance of any on test here. Great sound quality and an unusual - but effective - design means the Sennheisers are the most impressive set of sporty headphones.