In a Nutshell
Sports earbuds should be comfortable enough to wear for an extended period of time, durable enough to withstand drops, sweat, and dirt, fit securely on the ear – all while producing outstanding sound. Here are our top picks:
- The Best In-Ear Sports Earphones: Jaybird X2
- The Best Behind-the-Neck Earphones: BackBeat Fit
- The Best Over-Ear Sports Earphones Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats2 Wireless
The Best In-Ear Sports Earphones: Jaybird X2
Pros: High-quality audio, secure fit, sweat-proof
Cons: Left and right buds not labeled
Launched in the second half of 2015, the X2 is the successor to Jaybird’s popular but flawed BlueBuds X earbuds. Although similar in appearance, the X2 offers improved sweat-proofing and sound quality, more comfortable in-ear design, and better battery life. Besides the excellent sound quality, the X2 has good comfort and fit options. Included in the box are three sizes of ear tips in both silicone and foam, as well as three sizes of ear fins. Although the unit is guaranteed sweat-proof, Jaybird offers customers a lifetime warranty against sweat-related damage.
X2 earbuds also feature an eight-hour battery life, and are compatible with any Bluetooth device.
The Jaybird X2 is available from Amazon for about $140.
Best Behind-the-Neck Sports Earphones: Plantronics BackBeat Fit
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, includes reflective armband/storage case, wireless
Cons: Cord around neck may bother some people
A favorite of CNET, Men’s Fitness, and Runner’s World, Plantronics’ BackBeat Fit behind-the-neck earbuds were designed with athletes’ needs in mind. The unit is light, flexible, and allows for the user to wear eyewear unobstructed. Additionally, the ear tips rotate to ensure a snug, comfortable fit. A proprietary audio codec allows for excellent sound, including rich, deep bass. However, the unit doesn’t completely block out external sounds in order to ensure safety and awareness of surroundings. The BackBeat Fit is also durable and waterproof, so feel free to wear these out for a jog in the rain or during an intense sweat-session at the gym. Since the unit was designed to work with Bluetooth smartphones, it also features a microphone that reduces feedback, filters out background sound, and enhances voice quality. Reviewers especially liked the eight-hour battery life and the inclusion of a generously-sized reflective smartphone armband that doubles as a case when not in use.
The BackBeat Fit is available from Amazon for about $104.
The Best Over-Ear Sports Earphones: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats2 Wireless
Pros: Excellent sound quality, water- and sweat-resistant, multiple earpieces
Cons: Six hour battery life
Although Beats headphones have been maligned by the audio community in the past for favoring style over function, the Powerbeats2 wireless earbuds received top scores from technology and fitness magazines alike, and are currently the second best-selling earbuds on Amazon. Even the Wall Street Journal praised the Powerbeats2 earbuds for their superior sound quality. In addition to excellent sound, these earbuds feature lightweight, soft-touch plastic ear hooks that can be molded to conform to the wearer’s ear and four pairs of multi-sized and shaped ear tips for a perfect, snug fit. These earbuds are also water-resistant (IPX4) and sweat-resistant, and built to withstand even the toughest workout. Powerbeats2 earbuds are wireless and compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled device and, with the addition of a remote built into the cord, can be used as a hands-free headset. However, you’ll only get about six hours of playback before these earbuds will need to be charged.
Powerbeats2 is available at Amazon for about $140.