Great Workout Headphones

Thomas Germain

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When you’re out for a jog or lifting weights at the gym, the last thing you need are headphones that will tie you down. That’s why the word “wireless” has found a home in the gym rat's lexicon, right next to “reps” and “steps.”

Many consumers are gravitating toward wireless headphones, motivated in part by smartphone manufacturers ditching the headphone jacks on their flagship models. And smartphones aside, Bluetooth affords a level of flexibility that a wired model simply can't match, especially when you’re on a treadmill or lifting weights.

That’s where the following models come in. These great workout headphones are all wireless and well-rated by our testers, who review dozens of pairs of headphones a year. Each is evaluated on a range of criteria, including sound quality, features, comfort, and fit. And every pair below is advertised as water-resistant (CR doesn't test that feature), so you can get your sweat on carefree. One model is even marketed for swimming.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, you can also browse through more than 150 models in our headphone ratings.

Samsung Galaxy Buds

The Samsung Galaxy Buds are among the best-scoring portable Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested. That’s all the more impressive, given their “true wireless” design, meaning the model doesn’t have a cord connecting the left earbud to the right.

 

The Galaxy Buds produce exemplary audio quality packed into a pair of unobtrusive earpieces, complete with easy-to-use touch controls for playback, volume, and skipping tracks. According to Samsung, they have a 6-hour battery life and come with a powered carrying case that will recharge the earphones for up to 7 additional hours of playback on the go. The case itself can be refueled with a wireless charging mat, and it’s particularly small compared with those of many true wireless models.
 

Those perks combined with a price under $150 make the Samsung Galaxy Buds one of the best true wireless earphones on the market.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

The true wireless Jabra Elite Active 65t headphones have high quality sound, but they don't score as well as the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They have a few features that set them apart for use during workouts, though. That includes a step counter, support for various digital voice assistants on compatible devices, and an ambient sound monitoring mode—a setting which intentionally filters-in noise from the outside world, which can help protect you from traffic and other hazards when you're out on a run.

 

The advertised 5-hour battery life is in the midrange for true wireless models. But any deficiency there is offset by a quick-charge feature and the convenient carrying case, which contains a battery that can fully charge your headphones up to four times on its own.

We found that users with smaller ears might have trouble with comfort and fit, so you may want to buy the headphones from a retailer with a good return policy.

Apple AirPods Pro

If you love your gym but hate the music it plays, Apple AirPods Pro may be the solution. This successor to the AirPods adds noise-canceling technology and is designed using eartips instead of the earbud style of the previous model, which may improve fit and comfort for some users.

 

More important, there's a significant step up in performance. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the older AirPods, they don't score well enough in CR's sound quality tests to earn our recommendation. But the noise-cancellation on the Pros is superb, and the sound is far better, too—though they still don't match the Samsung Galaxy Buds, nor a new noise-canceling model from Sony (which didn't make this list because it isn't water-resistant).

 

The AirPods Pro have an advertised 4.5-hour battery life, a quick charging feature, and a case which should recharge the earphones up to four times on the go. They also feature a "transparancy" mode, which pipes in ambient sound and works exceptionally well.

Anker SoundCore Liberty Air

The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air earphones look a lot like Apple AirPods, but they sound better and cost far less. And unlike the AirPods, the Ankers have an isolating design that will muffle some outside sound. CR's technicians also note they fit and stay in place better than many true wireless models.

They don't have as many sports-focused features as the Elite Active 65t described above, which offers a step counter and ambient sound monitoring. But they do have tap controls for calls and playback, and support for digital assistants, and they come with the option to use the right earpiece alone for single-ear listening.

According to Anker, these earphones have a 5-hour battery life, and come with a charging/carrying case good for three additional charges on the go. They're available in black or white.

JBL Endurance DIVE

All the headphones on this list are advertised as water-resistant. The JBL Endurance DIVE takes things further. According to JBL, they're suitable for swimming and rated to survive a dunk in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes, making them a suitable choice if you get your workouts in a pool.

Of course, you probably won't want to bring your phone in the water, but the DIVE has a built-in MP3 player, so you wont have to. They also have technology that automatically powers the headphones on and off as you put them on or remove them, and a short collar that sits close to the neck and may help keep them secure. The sound quality is above average, though not quite as good as that of the other models on this list. But for a model under $100, these headphones are still a decent choice for critical listeners.



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