If you insist on going wireless, but you want to go dongle-free (ruling out the Noble Audio BTS or Astell&Kern AK XB10) or collar-free (ruling out the Phiaton BT 100 NC or Bose QuietControl 30), then you're probably looking for something like the Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless. The Powerbeats3 Wireless is dongle-free and collar-free, with just the two earpieces joined together by a short wire, and otherwise completely wireless. I dig this form factor.
The Powerbeats3 Wireless replaces the Powerbeats2 Wireless, and, at first blush, looks virtually identical to its predecessor, but there have been some significant changes. For one, its design has been tweaked to improve ease of fit, and the changes worked, as I was able to get a quicker, more comfortable, more secure fit. The over-ear hooks have also been improved, go on quickly, and help guide the earphones to the right position over my ears every time.
Also, the Powerbeats3 significantly steps up sound quality versus the Powerbeats2. Whether due to acoustic tuning adjustments, or maybe just better fit--I suspect both--the sound has cleared up substantially. The Powerbeats2 was murky, congested. The Powerbeats 3 is much cleaner, much clearer, and I'm able to get good bass response without the need for an isolating seal. That last point is important, as, for any outdoor activity, I stay away from isolating headphones, for safety's sake. Is it hi-fi? No. Is it good enough for me for an exercise headphone? Yes, definitely. Its tendency toward bass heft is the kind of signature I prefer when I'm exercising, and I like that I can get it without a super-tight seal. To be clear, ear tip fit is still very important with the Powerbeats3 Wireless--for me, the largest of the included ear tips works best, the medium is thinner sounding, and the smaller ones make for thin, downright reedy sound, so take the time to pick the right tips.
I’ve found Powerbeats3 competitors from Jaybird and Sennheiser can provide better fidelity, but their tradeoffs are what put this newest Powerbeats3 at the top of the category. The Jaybird Freedom is not nearly as easy to get a good fit with (see more details below). The Sennheisers are not wireless, which is a product type (wireless exercise headphones) they’re sorely in need of.
If you're an Apple ecosystem user (I very much am), the Powerbeats3's use of the new Apple W1 wireless chip is a huge value-add. W1 allows for quick connection to one's iPhone--just hold the Powerbeats3 near your iPhone, and a connection dialog pops up, confirm it with a click, and you're paired. Very cool. If you're an iCloud / Mac user, it gets even better. The Powerbeats3, once paired to your iPhone, sends that connection information to iCloud, making the Powerbeats3 available as an audio device to all of your other Apple devices connected to that iCloud account. Today, I was listening to music on my iPhone, but then wanted to watch a YouTube video on my MacBook. Going to my list of audio devices on my MacBook, I saw the Powerbeats3 an available device, selected it, and I was good to go on the Mac--all without ever having gone through a pairing dialog with the Mac. This makes device switching (between my Apple devices) very quick, very easy.
While I’m not sure if it’s attributable to the W1 chip, the Powerbeats3 also has phenomenal wireless range not just with my iPhone, but also with the LG V20 (Android). While my house is on the small side, I can’t remember any similar small form factor wireless earphones that would allow me to maintain a connection from my subterranean home office to the complete opposite side of the house on the ground level.
Also, the Powerbeats3’s battery life is easily at the top of class, with up to 12 hours from a full charge. Should you happen to run the battery down, the Powerbeats3 has a “Fast Fuel” feature, which gives you one hour of playback with only a five-minute charge. Another area the Powerbeats3 is top of the class in is outgoing voice quality when used as a Bluetooth handset for phone calls. Like its predecessor, the Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless has outstandingly clear, direct-to-handset-type outgoing voice quality. I'd actually use the Beats for an important teleconference, which I wouldn't say for any other wireless exercise headphones I've used.
One of the basic requirements to make it into this Buying Guide in the Exercise Headphones category means having to be water- and sweat-resistant, which the Powerbeats3 is. I haven’t had this long enough to make a call on its durability, so we may have to update this entry with that later.
Of the current crop of exercise headphones we’ve used, the Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless is our top choice in this category.