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2013 Head-Fi Summer Buying Guide (Exercise Headphones)

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Exercise Headphones

One of the questions I'm most frequently asked by non-Head-Fi'ers is, "What headphones do you recommend for exercising?" As often as I'm asked this, you'd think I looked like a world-class athlete. (I don't.)

All of the following recommendations sound surprisingly good, given that they're purpose-built for getting sweat on, rained on, or snowed on. One of them is even machine washable.

Monster iSport Immersion


TYPE: In-ear monitor

PRICE: Starting around $100

URL: www.monsterproducts.com

Perhaps in preparation for their post-Beats existence, Monster Products has been releasing a bevy of good headphones (several of which are in this guide), including one I feel is a very solid fitness headphone. The Monster iSport Immersion is a closed, weather and sweat resistant in-ear headphone. The iSport Immersion's SportClip fit system has a flexible paddle that gently grips your outer ear's concha, rather than looping around your ear or requiring a headband. In doing so, the iSport Immersion won't interfere with your sports glasses or goggles, and sits flush enough to fit with most helmets. The nozzle also swivels to help with a more custom fit.

Monster promotes its water resistance by machine washing the iSport Immersion in demos. I have not machine washed mine, but I like knowing it can withstand that level of abuse.

The iSport Immersion's sound is bass-emphasized and treble-sparkly. I like well-executed bass emphasis in a fitness headphone, to maintain the music's rhythm even through the footfalls of walking or jogging.

The Monster iSport Immersion comes in a few different colors and styles, including Livestrong yellow, blue, black and a cool Team USA stars & stripes motif. 

Denon Exercise Freak


TYPE: Bluetooth wireless in-ear monitor

PRICE: Around $150

URL: www.denon.com

Another closed, in-ear fitness headphone--and one that can eliminate the dreaded headphone wire-yank problem--is the Denon Exercise Freak, which is a Bluetooth wireless fitness headphone. (There is a wire that ties the two earpieces together that goes behind your head.) An earhook design assures a snug fit. (Though it's a bit tricky at first to get the fit right, you'll get used to it in no time). The Denon Exercise Freak is designed to be sweat proof and has air cushions on their inside surface to soften its touch against the side of your head (behind your ear).

There's also a companion Denon Sport App (available for iOS and Android) that allows you to log your workouts, map your routes with your phone's GPS, track your pace, calorie consumption, elevation, and also has a built in music player.

The Denon Exercise Freak is also a pretty good wireless Bluetooth headset, which is also a great convenience while exercising (if you don't want to miss any calls).

The Exercise Freak's sound signature is a decidedly bass-heavy one, the mids are recessed, mid-treble has mild emphasis, and there's some high-treble roll-off--remember, though, this is a Bluetooth wireless exercise headphone. For its tangle-free convenience while exercising, good enough sound for wireless exercise listening, and its Bluetooth wireless headset functionality, the Exercise Freak is a great fitness companion.

Denon's Exercise Freak comes in blue, black, and yellow.


The most comprehensive, most impressive fitness headphone line I've seen comes from the combined minds of Sennheiser and adidas. One thing I love about the most current Sennheiser/adidas fitness earbuds line is the combination of both open and closed models, in several different form factors. Most of the new models are also second or third evolutions of model types that have existed for years, so Sennheiser and adidas have had time to evolve these by now into some of the very best fitness headphones I've worn and heard. I think I've now used every model in the current line, and there are just too many to list them all here, so let's cover some of my favorites.

Sennheiser PX685i


TYPE: Ear-bud style in-ear headphone

PRICE: Around $80

URL: www.sennheiser.com

I tend to prefer open headphones when I'm exercising--especially if I'm exercising outdoors--as I like to be aware of what's going on around me outside. Sennheiser/adidas has several fitness models designed for "situational awareness," including the Sennheiser/adidas PX685i. The PX685i is an over-head model, but it's so light you can barely feel its headband on your head. As with the other Sennheiser/adidas "situational awareness" models, the PX685i's earpieces are earbud-type, and the PX685i's earpieces are held in snugly (but comfortably) by the headband. One benefit I've found of this type of earpiece is the ability to adjust bass level by adjusting how far in my ear I push the earpiece--I can vary bass response from mildly heavy to something more flat.

The PX685i comes in with an in-line three-button remote/mic designed for iDevices.

Sennheiser/adidas MX 685 SPORTS


TYPE: Ear-bud style in-ear headphone

PRICE: Around $50

URL: www.sennheiser.com

Another "situational awareness" Sennheiser/adidas model is the Sennheiser/adidas MX 685 SPORTS. The MX 685 SPORTS is a more conventional earbud form factor (no headband), but each earpiece is held snugly in the ear by a flexible slide-to-fit piece (that they call an "EarFin") that softly wedges into your outer ear's concha. The MX 685 SPORTS is among my favorite standard earbud type headphone, whether for fitness or general listening. The sound is very balanced and detailed for an earbud, and the EarFin's make for a nice secure fit, which I simply cannot get with standard earbuds. (There is also a closed in-ear version of this model called the CX 685 SPORTS that is priced around $70.)

Sennehiser/adidas PMX 685i


TYPE: Ear-bud style in-ear headphone

PRICE: Around $80

URL: www.sennheiser.com

My very favorite of the Sennheiser/adidas line is the Sennheiser/adidas PMX 685i SPORTS, which is one of the "situational awareness" models, with earbud-type earpieces that are held in by a neckband. I started several years ago with the PMX 70, then moved to the PMX 680 a couple years back, and now the PMX 685i SPORTS. This latest neckband fitness model from Sennheiser/adidas is super light weight, is one-size-fits-all, so requires essentially no adjustments, and is super-snug yet extremely comfortable. I've used no headphone that works better with my mountain biking helmet, and the snug fit (and ultra light weight) keeps the PMX 685i SPORTS perfectly in place, no matter how hard I'm riding or running.

In terms of sound, the PMX 685i SPORTS is the best sounding fitness headphone I've yet used. The sound signature is on the more balanced side, and the neckband makes for very consistent fit and very consistent sound. The PMX 685i SPORTS sees a lot more use from me than just for exercise, because it's so light, portable, tough, and sounds so good for its form factor.

The PMX 685i SPORTS comes with an in-line three-button remote/mic designed to work with iDevices. As far as I'm concerned, for its purpose, the PMX 685i is essentially perfect.

All of the Sennheiser/adidas models above are ruggedly built, and sweat- and water-resistant.


Comments (1)

What about the new Phiaton?
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