The 10 Best Sports Headphones
10. Jaybird X3
9. Sony MDR-AS200
8. Braven Flye Reflect
7. Phaiser BHS-730
6. Sennheiser PMX 686G
5. TaoTronics TT-BH07
4. Bose SoundSport Wired
3. Plantronics BackBeat Fit
2. TaoTronics TT-BH024USM
1. Bose Soundsports
If you find that you need to listen to music while working out, while running, or enjoying pretty much any physically demanding activity, then you know the agony of trying to do so with regular headphones. Most headphone designs, particularly those aimed at the audiophile market, are conceived around an image of the listener sitting peacefully in his or her favorite chair, enjoying a selection of music over a highball or two.
We're a little more active than that, and we need a set of cans that will sound great and stay comfortably in place even if the big one finally strikes. Until recently, that was a little too much to ask from the industry, but the sports headphones on our list paint a very different picture.
The first thing that makes a sport headphone unique in the marketplace is its security. I don't mean that the headphones will somehow safeguard themselves against hackers (not that they would need to). I mean that they stay securely in place while you run, jump, tumble, and scramble all over whatever gym, field, or track you call your space.
Some of them stay in place by means of a rubberized ear molds that add light pressure to your outer ear for leverage. Others have thin rubber wedges around the amplifier that work like corks in your ear hole to cancel out sound while keeping the bud in place. Some models wrap around the backside of your outer ear and connect both buds with a plastic band that stretches across the back of your neck, while another group works like any other supra-aural headphone, sitting on top of your ear with enough pressure to stay put.
Hit The Road, Jack
You probably have enough experience with headphones at this point in your life to make an informed decision based on comfort alone. The market is evolving all around you, however, so certain investments may prove wiser than others among tech like these headphones.
Take Apple's recent decision to eliminate its headphone jack from the latest editions of the iPhone, for example. In many past cases, the industry has gone the way that Apple goes, and it's only a matter of time before manufacturing of wireless headphones catches up to the demand that Apple just created, and that they look poised to continue to push.
All those wireless headphones on the market will lead to other phone makers following suit, and soon the headphone jack will be a thing of the past. So, whether you're an Apple acolyte who already has their shiny new, jack-less iPhone, or a late adapter Android user, a set of wired headphones is a decidedly weaker investment today than it was just a few months ago.
If you plan to cut the cord, that ought to cut your options on our top ten list almost in half. From there, you can make your initial decision based on headphone type. Supra-aural headphones, which are the kind that sit over your ears without totally enveloping them, promise better sound quality than the in-ear bud models on our list, though some of the buds have superlative sound-cancellation capabilities. The bigger cans also tend to be a little less comfortable over time and a lot bulkier in transit.
The buds on the other hand, whether or not they're attached by a wire or a plastic band of their own, are immensely easy to transport in a gym bag, and they stand to incur less damage in the event that they do slip out of your ears and go tumbling to the ground. By virtue of their lightness compared to the larger headphones on this list, they protect themselves more effectively.
Over The Ears And Through The Years
A lot of the technology we use today was born in the military. Headphones are no different, as they were used originally as a communications device to relay sensitive messages across secure lines. Of course, the idea of relaying messages by no means of encryption beyond a certain radio frequency seems absurd, but there was a time when that was enough security.
Those early headphones in the first few decades of the 20th century carried a dangerous charge to them, and if an operator reached up to adjust the painfully uncomfortable headset, there was a good chance he would receive quite a shock for his effort.
That design was refined both in the military sector and by the private sector's telecommunications industry, where switchboard operators utilized headphones to help them rout calls effectively and privately. The music industry had a small hand in their development as well, though the use of headphones in personal stereo systems wouldn't become popular until the 1960s.
From the 60s onward, headphone designs became more and more sophisticated, particularly in music studios, where engineers sought to evaluate as much of the sound as possible before recording it from tape to vinyl.
Then, a magical little invention hit the streets in 1979. That was the year that Sony introduced the Walkman portable cassette player. The junky, aluminum-banded headphones that it came with became a symbol of the 1980s, and they were the first headphones of any time to become absolutely ubiquitous among American households.
More than 20 years later, Apple introduced the iPod and its now infamous little white earbuds. Those buds became a status symbol for a few years, eventually giving way to a wave of custom looks and a hearkening back to older styles of headphones. Along the way, runners and athletes of all stripes sought adaptations to take their music along for their workouts, and the cans and buds you see on this list found a market.