Wireless Headphones Round-up

October 3rd, 2018 by Kathy Braginton

I have tried at least two dozen or so of wireless Bluetooth headphones for running and biking. And before you start, this is blog is not meant to be commentary on whether this is a good idea or not.  I do it, in a safe manner, and that is the end of the issue herein.

To date, the best unit has been the Jabra Elite Sport.  It’s important to note that I am a heavy sweater and have burned through EVERY pair of Bluetooth headphones, except this Jabra product.  However, in all fairness, I did have an issue with a unit, which Jabra replaced, but they withstood a year of my extreme sweat and keep on working great.

I use Bluetooth headphones for the convenience of not having to trouble with wires.  It’s helpful whether it is a 21F degree winter day and I am wearing a hat, or if is a sweltering 87F degrees sticky workout.  Most headsets simply can’t handle the moisture, but he Jabra unit has a unique constriction that keeps the moisture out of the electronics.

A drawback of Bluetooth units is that they require a charge.  Most run for two to three hours, and the initial Jabra Elite Sport struggled to make it slightly past two hours.  As I understand matters the new units promise 4.5 hours, and two full charges with the charging case.

The Jabra Elite Sport has a charging case that stores and charges the unit.  And note that this product it two separate ear buds, not one with a connected wire around the back of your head or neck.

One other concern of the Jabra unit is that it fits entirely in your ear.  I never had a problem with hearing other noises (e.g., runner, bikers, vehicles, etc.), but if this concerns you, there are other options.

Second place goes to Plantronics Backbeat.  I have and use the original, but there is now a “Fit” version that promises 8 hours of use.  This is a one-piece unit connecting around the rear of your head.  It never really worked well with my bike helmet, and in my opinion the sound quality is poor.

The real plus (or minus depending on how you view it) to the Plantronics unit is that it is a one-size fits all unit that leaves a lot of room for ambient noise.  So, if that is a concern for you, then this might work for you.

Another unit that fills your entire ear is the Yerbuds, now owned by JBL.  I came to know this brand by a partnership with Ironman.  They offered a in the ear “enhancer” that you twisted into your ear for a tight fit.  Again, if you want ambient noise, this unit will be problematic.  And regardless of which size enhancer I used, it ultimately would slip out on long runs.  I remember twisting the unit in harder and harder each time, until ultimately, I had to see my doctor to clean out some accumulated ear wax.  Really.

The Beats by Dr. Dre were the best sounding Bluetooth unit, but they barely lasted two months of mainly gym and dreadmill usage.  It was never a product that made it out on the trail/road.

Near the back end for “sport” usage are the Apple Ear Buds.  They look kind of goofy to me, but the sound is great, and it lets in ambient sound.  And the Apple produce is excellent ear piece for a phone.

I often use the Apple buds for strength workouts in the gym where I don’t sweat as much as a long run or ride and do supplement the unit with some aftermarket rubber pieces that keep sweat and water out of the unit.

And to end with a pro tip, running with a phone is a PITA and I don’t do it.  I use a second-generation Apple Watch to link the ear buds.  When apply did away with not allowing Apple Music to sync with the Nano and Shuffle, I was really upset.  Apple effectively pushed active consumers to the Apple Watch.

If you choose to go this route, you don’t need the fancy most recent Apple Watch, it doesn’t hurt, but if you are an Apple user, especially an Apple Music user, the system works very well.

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