Working out without wires is the default for most athletes, and with the rise of true wireless earbuds, there are plenty of viable options to use during your next weight lifting session. Whether you’re a swimmer, runner, or all-around athlete, this list of the best true wireless workout earbuds is bound to improve your next workout session.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on February 3, 2020, to include the 1More True Wireless ANC in the notable mentions section and address Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec.
For the best all-around pick get the Jabra Elite 65t
For listeners who want a pair of true wireless workout earbuds that perform well enough in every measurable category, the Jabra Elite 65t is the headset to get. The IP55 earbuds are both dust and water-resistant, which means you can take these for a run on the beach without worry.
Additionally, if you’re one for taking calls while on the move, the Jabra Elite 65t ‘buds are the best bet. There are four microphones which simultaneously relay your voice while reducing ambient noise. Aside from call quality, the Elite 65t earbuds operate via Bluetooth 5.0. While it doesn’t quite improve efficiency like Apple’s W1 chip, or the newer H1 chip, battery life is bolstered quite a bit.
What’s more auto-connect is quick and reliable; by just removing the earbuds from the charging case, they immediately pair to the last source device. The earbuds go a step further, though; by recognizing when they’re removed from the ear so as to automatically pause media playback. Other than the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support, there’s little to lament about these earbuds.
What you should know about wireless workout earbuds
When it comes to earbuds of any kind, particularly true wireless workout earbuds, getting a good fit is necessary for the best sound quality. If your earbuds don’t fit properly, sound reproduction is subjected to auditory masking. This is when louder noises mask our perception of quieter ones: our brains only have so much bandwidth to work with as they process stimuli. One of the first aspects of sound to degrade upon masking is bass response and overall clarity. If you value either of those things, as most listeners do, you’ll find it worthwhile to take a few moments and find what ear tips fit you best.
Bluetooth codec compatibility and true wireless connection quality
There are a few to be aware of if you want to avoid audio-visual lag. While every wireless product automatically supports SBC, the lowest common denominator of Bluetooth codecs, aptX cuts audio-visual lag. If you plan to stream videos from the treadmill, definitely keep an eye out for aptX or AAC if you have an iPhone. What’s more, you also benefit from high-quality audio from these codecs. Granted, your ability to discern between the codecs, especially while working out, may be limited. Additionally, true wireless connectivity is still unreliable. Even the best earbuds struggle with connection strength because Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo is too expensive for many manufacturers to justify; though, we have seen it in the likes of the $50 Edifier TWS1 and 1More True Wireless ANC.
As Bluetooth LE Audio technology and the LC3 codec populate the consumer market, we’ll see great improvements in efficiency and connection quality. Aside from assisting the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the LC3 codec is designed to handle packet loss with fewer abrupt stutters. This means that connection dropouts will be smoother and more controlled, rather than manifesting as syncopated stutters.
Look out for IP ratings
One thing all true wireless workout earbuds need is to be water-resistant. At the very least, they should have a water-repellent coating; ideally, lookout for something with an official IP rating for ensured water-resistance. The standard for workout specific earbuds trends toward IPX4, which means a product is able to resist virtually any workout except for swimming. If you need your ‘buds to withstand complete submersion, read up on our list of the best waterproof earbuds.
Take the Jaybird Vista from the office to the gym
The Jaybird Vista is a huge improvement over the company’s Run true wireless workout earbuds. You get an improved fit, more modern design, and retain the same IPX7 water-resistant rating. These are arguably some of the most attractive true wireless workout earbuds to date. A modest concave button adorns each earbud, allowing for basic playback and call controls. The softened rectangular shape sits nicely along the ear and avoids that unsightly antennae look that other true wireless earbuds have.
One of the most important features of the earbuds is mono listening. To engage this mode, remove the desired earbud from the case. That’s it. You’re then ready to listen with one ear while remaining vigilant via the other. All workout earbuds should be able to enter mono mode or have some sort of Ambient Aware equivalent. Personally, I prefer mono listening to software-based environmental awareness features because the latter can amplify wind noise too much, making it hard to hear actual threats like honking cars.
While these don’t support any high-quality codecs, optimal audio quality typically isn’t a priority with true wireless workout earbuds. Safety and fit are paramount, everything else is a welcome frivolity. Jaybird fans will be happy to know, however, that custom EQ settings are preserved with the Jaybird Vista. You can save your preset to the earbuds and even test out other athletes’ EQ preferences. It’s a novel way to make an otherwise straightforward function a social one.
Related: Bone conduction headphones
The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 can withstand anything
While the Under Armour True Wireless Flash uses software to facilitate Ambient Aware mode, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 uses deliberately designed ear tips which constantly allow for the ingress of external noise. Aside from being safe, these are the most durable earbuds on the list and are IP57 dust and water-resistant; the ‘buds can be submerged to depths of one meter for up to 30 minutes before incurring water damage.
The flexible ear hook device seems able to withstand any bend or stress thrown at it, which is reassuring. Even the included charging case seems robust down to its smooth zippered design. That said, it isn’t water-resistant, so avoid spills.
Each of the true wireless workout earbuds shines with its holographic flat panels, the left of which is touch capacitive for volume controls. The frequency response chart of the BackBeat Fit 3100 is deceptive since the low-end appears remarkably exaggerated. However, due to the shape of the ear tips and lack of seal, real-world bass response is lessened. This is fine since these are billed as durable, safe earbuds rather than ones with excellent sound quality like the next pick.
iPhone users should listen with the Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Beats Powerbeats Pro are a fine example of how true wireless earbuds should fit. The ear hooks keep the housings stable while the nozzles allow for a more ergonomic fit than the AirPods and updated Apple AirPods Pro. Since Beats is an Apple subsidiary, these ‘buds benefit from Apple’s H1 chip and AAC Bluetooth codec support. This means listeners will enjoy longer playback time and greater efficiency than earbuds with identical specs sans-H1 chip.
The earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, so you can sweat in them to your heart’s content without worrying about damaging anything. Inside each housing is an array of sensors that notify the Powerbeats Pro of when they’re removed from the ear. The sensors also register when you’re speaking and detect when the earbuds are dormant, forcing them to power off.
Beats uses a combination of tactile and touch controls. There are identical volume rockers on the earbuds, and holding the “b” symbol lets you deny incoming calls. Since the H1 chip is in use, you can access Siri by saying, “Hey Siri.” Battery life also benefits from the proprietary chip. We were able to squeeze out 10 hours, 52 minutes of playback on a single charge. The case holds an extra 1.5 charge cycles. If you pop the ‘buds in the case for just five minutes, you’re afforded 1.5 hours of battery life.
If you can afford it, the Beats Powerbeats Pro are the best true wireless workout earbuds for any iPhone user.
Ball out on a budget with the JLab JBuds Air Icon
Since true wireless workout earbuds tend to be more feature-heavy than traditional wireless options, they also tend to be more expensive. Fortunately for those of us restricted to stringent budgets, the JLab JBuds Air Icon exists. The IP55 earbuds aren’t nearly as bulky as their predecessor and use the same silicone covers to keep the ‘buds stable.
The charging case is unique and houses its charging cable; that way, you never have to go on the hunt for a micro-USB cable. During my trial period with the earbuds, I was concerned about the durability of the cable, but it’s tested to withstand 10,000 full bends prior to showing signs of wear. Standalone battery life has improved since the original version: you know get 5 hours, 7 minutes of playback instead of just over 3 hours.
The JLab JBuds Air Icon battery life has markedly improved compared to the original JBuds Air.
Sound quality is on-par for budget wireless earbuds and is just ok. If you like bass-heavy music, you won’t mind the exaggerated low-end heard here. Ultimately, the best thing about the JBuds Air Icon is the sub-$60 price and reliable connectivity. If you’re someone who only cares that your wireless workout earbuds work and don’t care much for frills, these are the smartest, most economical choice.
If you don’t mind the hit in battery life and slightly less reliable connection quality, the JLab JBuds Air are still a great bang-for-your-buck.
How we chose the true wireless workout earbuds
As with any and all audio products that come our way, we subjected our picks for the best true wireless workout earbuds to a battery of objective tests to determine battery life, frequency response, and isolation properties. We don’t just rely on objective measurements to inform our review process though, as we use them in the real world by working out with them and using them for general listening. If we happened to miss a possible favorite, be sure to leave a comment below as we regularly update our best lists to adjust for new products.
- Apple AirPods Pro: The AirPods Pro deviates from the nozzle-less form of the first two AirPods iterations. The dedicated nozzles facilitate noise canceling to quiet the world around you, while the sweat-resistant build lets you exercise without worrying about water damage. They do, however, cost $250 before tax, which is hard for most consumers to justify.
- 1More True Wireless ANC: Listeners who want an IPX5-rated pair of earphones with noise cancelling should really think about getting 1More’s ‘buds. The ANC doesn’t outperform Apple’s or Sony’s technology, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, the O-hooks help maintain a low profile and stable fit.
- Creative Outlier Air: Creative nailed it with these true wireless workout earbuds. While they’re technically not specified for athletes, the IPX5 durability rating goes a long way. These are slightly more expensive than our bargain pick, the JLab JBuds Air, but afford more features and a slimmer design.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air: If you’re looking for a solid pair of AirPods alternatives that feature an IPX5 certification and great battery life, these are a great option for less than $100.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds: Any Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone owner will greatly benefit from the Galaxy Buds. These earbuds can be wirelessly charged atop a compatible S10 phone, feature virtual assistant integration, and have excellent battery life. They’re only IPX2-rated, though; so if you sweat a lot, they may not hold up in the long-run.
- RHA TrueConnect: These expensive true wireless earbuds are IPX5-certified and create a strong seal with the ear for enhanced bass and clarity. What’s more, connectivity is stable even in crowded environments like a gym or subway.
- Bose SoundSport Free: These earbuds sound great and fit well despite being large for true wireless earbuds. The proprietary ear tips maintain a stable fit without sacrificing comfort. If you want great sounding earbuds that can be taken to the gym, these are a strong candidate.
- JLab Epic Air Elite: These Bluetooth workout earbuds feature a similar ear hook design to the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 and are a bit more expensive, hence why it didn’t make it as a top pick. That said, the design is sleek and both panels are touch-capacitive. What’s more, isolation is excellent which only bolsters the already strong bass response.
- JLab Epic Air Executive: These are a versatile pair of earbuds that can seamlessly go from the office to the gym. The slick charging case has an integrated USB cable like JLab’s other true wireless products for convenient charging from anywhere.
See also: Best AirPods alternatives
Why you should trust us
We strive to educate our readers on the perpetually evolving world of consumer audio. When approaching any audio product, we acknowledge that assessing it requires a combination of objective testing and subjective reflection: not everyone wants a studio sound and that’s just fine. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy with your purchase if one is made. Although SoundGuys does use referral links, none of our writers may benefit from awarding one product over another.
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