Ever had that moment when you’re vibing to your tunes during your run or workout and then the cable gets snagged? Here’s a swift solution: wireless headphones. There are a bunch on the market with fancy features, so MiNDFOOD’s fitness writer Anne-Marie Cook tried and tested plenty.
Here are four cable-free beauties to consider:
Bose SoundSport Wireless
Priority number 1 – the fit: Earbuds just should stay put. Bose’s SoundSport earbuds come with three sizes of their unique ‘StayHear’ tips, designed for both comfort and stability during movement. They are well marked so it’s easy to fit the matched pair on the correct sides.
Charging: It uses a ubiquitous and easily replaceable USB to micro USB cable, so there’s no issue with potentially losing the charger.
Connecting: I’m no computer scientist and I want to be able to hook up to Bluetooth without reading a 6-page instruction manual and watching 14 YouTube clips. “Battery 100 per cent” the female droid voice piped when I pressed the button once. As a guess, I held the button longer and it went into pairing mode. I opened up my iPhone 6S Bluetooth menu and found Bose Soundsport on the list. Completely intuitive, I hadn’t even cracked the quick-start guide. “Connected to Anne-Marie’s iPhone” the voice smoothly told me. I also found I could connect to my iMac just as easily and play music through the Spotify desktop player. Total bonus was that I could connect to both phone and computer simultaneously, so if a call came through I could talk on the earphones without having to switch anything over (Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity).
Ultimate test, the run: So, the Bose Wireless Earphones are pretty chunky in the ears. With the weight, they do threaten to pop loose and you need to screw them back in. I did like that they’re not completely noise-blocking, so you’ll hear that bus bearing down on you before you step out into traffic. All the buttons matched the wired earphones – it’s simple to turn volume up and down with the micro switches, skip tracks and answer phone calls. Ultimately, the weight in the earbids did make these a little hard to keep in, even trying a larger size of wingtip than I use in the lower profile wired version. Note that if you click the wire (which connects the two buds) to your shirt or jacket, you’ll want to unclip it before you take your jacket off. The wire between the buds is handy for hanging these around your neck when you finish your workout.
Battery time: SoundSport has up to 6 hours battery life. Also, you need to remember to switch them off!
Best for: Walking, not-too-energetic workouts and everyday use.
RRP: AU$249, NZ$299
Note, the upscale Soundsport Pulse (AU$299, NZ$359, not tested) have in-ear heartrate monitoring.
Go to: bose.com.au, bose.co.nz
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
Priority number 1 – the fit: These use an intriguing concept, called bone conduction technology, which means they sit on your cheekbones, not in your ears. Apparently, this is amazing for tinnitus sufferers who can’t use regular earbuds or headphones. They come in two sizes (I chose the smaller) and they do just sit over your ears and rest in front of them. I found that they move around a bit, but the audio still transfers. If you’re in a noisy zone (roadworks, traffic, etc) you will have a tough time hearing these, as there’s no sound blocking. But then that’s probably good because you’re not blasting your eardrums. It gets a little challenging when you have your hair up (man buns included) and try to put on a hat and sunglasses, though it is possible to make it work with a bit of adjusting.
Charging: As per Bose, it’s a simple micro usb plug in.
Connecting: There’s a really obvious button on the side of the left earbud which you think is the
on-off button. This is not the on-off button. The power button is the much smaller volume up
button and it’s hard to see. It also takes a couple seconds to power up. I did have to look at the
instructions to pair these via Bluetooth, but it did only take a minute. The Aftershokz has dual
Bluetooth pairing will so connect to both iMac and iPhone simultaneously. Press the large multifunction button and it will start and stop your playlist. Press and hold it and it will boot up “voice control” on your iPhone. This button also take calls. It’s easy to skip a track while playing music – just double-click the
Ultimate test, the run: Maybe I’m just used to having something in my ears, but I couldn’t quite
get used to the sound quality. It’s not bad, just different. It comes in two sizes – the standard and
the mini. I tested the mini but still found the band at the back did bounce around and I found
myself trying to adjust the positioning quite a bit. Maybe I just have a small head, or it’s something
I’ll get used to. You can also attach little flaps to help hold them in place. Volume is on the right bar, so fairly easy to use once you get used to the placement. You also can adjust the output volume on your phone. I think these are great if you need to be on the lookout for traffic.
Battery time: You’ll get six hours of continuous music and calls on a single charge.
Best for: Walking and running when you need to be aware of the environment around you. Plus, potential for tinnitus sufferers.
RRP: Approx. $199 in Australia and New Zealand (NZ will need to order online)
Go to: fesports.com.au
Jabra Elite Sport
Priority number 1 – the fit: These are truly wireless, they’re simply buds that sit right in your ears. There are three wingtip sizing options and the medium size was spot on for me. You can also choose between silicon gel and foam tips. I found the silicon more comfortable. Even though they probably have a similar bulk to the Bose Soundsport, they fit further in your ear and are streamlined against your head.
Charging: They come with a pretty cute little had case that they fit into perfectly and, so handy, this has a battery inside so you can wirelessly charge even while they’re in the case. I like that I have something to put them away in as I can imagine how easy it would be to bung them in your pocket and put them through the wash! I also love that they automatically turn on when you take them out of the case.
Connecting: This was pretty easy. I downloaded the Jabra app as the instructions on the outside of the box told me to, but I don’t know that you need the app to simply connect. It did connect to my phone easily and I could pair to my iMac. I did notice that I had to disconnect on my phone before it would pair with my computer and vise versa, which was a little annoying if I wanted to listen at my workstation and then head out on a run. I did get accustomed to going over to the printer or tea room with my tunes still going and no interruption. In one test, I got down a flight of stairs and out into the street before I lost the signal from my computer. Another cool thing is that when you take out one earbud and put it down, it switches off the sound in both buds.
Ultimate test, the run: These muffle external sound, a lot. I used them on a big run (one of the
biggest actually, City2Surf, which is famous for on-course music) and I feel that I missed a lot of
the vibe of the event. Running with them on a normal outing you feel a bit like you’re in a vacuum,
which can be good and bad. I don’t love how much I can hear my own breathing, but the sound
quality and experience is impeccable. (They’re also brilliant for sound blocking in a noisy
environment like an open-plan workplace when you need to knuckle down to writing.) Volume
control is easy with the up and down on the left earbud, and answering calls with a press of the
right. The call quality is a little other-worldly and echoey, but it seems to sound fine on the other
end. You can skip tracks by pressing and holding the volume up button on the left earbud. But, overall, I really love how well these fit. That’s hard to get past. It’s so freeing not to be hooked up to your phone. I’m now craving a run watch that plays music so I can leave my phone at home as well.
Battery time: You’ll get three hours playtime on a charge, and you can get two charges out of the charging case, so a total of nine hours away from a powerpoint. 15 minutes of charge provides an hour of music. Note, there’s an upgrade just out that ups this from three to 4.5 hours on the one charge and 13.5 hours in total with charging from the case.
Best for: Running, but you need to keep an eye out on your surroundings because you won’t hear anything coming. Though there is a feature called “HearThrough” that pics up surrounding noise on the microphone and feeds it back in, though this really doesn’t work well in high wind. These earbuds have in-ear heartrate monitoring, and that’s what you use the app for. It adds coaching, fitness tests, workouts, recording of session and analyses. I didn’t get a chance to dig in to all those features but they seem amazing and it was extremely simple to open the app (press the upper button on the right earbud) and start the heartrate monitor.
RRP: AU$329 and NZ$399
Go to: jabra.com.au, jabra.co.nz
Priority number 1 – the fit: Once you’ve chosen your fashion forward colour palette, the next slightly overwhelming task is checking out all the bits and piece in the box. There are foam and gel eartips plus ear fins’ in three sizes which all look the same and don’t have right or left marked. They do slip on over the ear buds but without a fixed point to rotate them to so there’s a lot of trial and error. Of course, this also means there’s plenty of room for variation to find the best fit. I found the best fit came without the fins on, with the over-ear setup. It’s a bit fiddly to wind the cable through the clips, but persevere. Once you have the length worked out for your head size the over-ear fit stays in well.
Charging: A micro usb plugs into a tiny piece that the earphones clip into. I haven’t lost it yet, but I’m kind of waiting for it to happen. I don’t have kids, but the piece could be a choking hazard if you do have littluns. The spare earbud and fin pieces should also be stored away safely.
Connecting: This made sense, press and hold the main central power button and then it goes into
pairing mode. Also with Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, the Jaybirds can connect to two devices (such as both iMac and iPhone) simultaneously. Volume, start, stop and taking calls was all intuitive. Skip a track by pressing and holding the volume up button. A fun extra you get with Jaybird is the company’s partnership with Spotify. Through the Jaybird MySound App, you can explore playlists from other runners and share your own running playlists.
Ultimate test, the run: I’d read a lot of good things about the Jaybird X3 sound quality – Jaybird was one of the first in market with wireless tech so have been working out the bugs for a while – and I love how low-profile the earbuds are – they’re about the same size as any standard wired earbuds, or smaller. But I could not crack the fit. I don’t know what it is about my ears and the Jaybird earbuds, but we’re not compatible. I spent two frustrating runs shoving these back in my ears, and then a good half hour trying every different combination of earbud and fin size. It wasn’t until I put them into the over-ear position that they worked for me. Now I love them, and the sound quality is all it’s cracked up to be.
Battery time: a big eight hours.
Best for: Running, and cyclists love them for the long battery life and small earbud that doesn’t get in the way of a helmet.
RRP: AU$199.95, NZ$229.90
Go to: jaybird.com.au, jaybirdsport.com/en-nz
News just in: Jaybird have released the completely wireless RUN earbuds. They are said to deliver
a secure, run-specific comfort-fit with sweat-proofing, water resistance and skip-free customisable
sound. The lightweight and compact carry case provides 12 hours of portable battery life. Jaybird
RUN headphones come in two colours: Drift (white with silver metal accents) and Jet (black with
silver metal accents). RRP is AU$249, NZ$329.90.