11 of the Best Wireless Headphones of 2020
We’ve told you how music can enhance your workouts — amping up your HIIT session or helping you flow through Chaturanga Dandasana. So now that you have the right music, we’re going to help you choose the right headphones — or more specifically, earbuds, which allow for max movement and minimal distractions. These are the best wireless headphones of 2019, plus a few to keep your eyes out for in the coming months.
I’ve tested these in the gym by streaming audio and listening to high resolution .flac files. I’ve also tried them out across multiple music genres — everything from Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles Of Her Shoes,” to Lizzo’s infectious “Tempo,” to “Down By The River To Pray” off the O’ Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.
And bonus: All of the products on this list work with both iOS and Android!
Best Truly Wireless Earbuds for Workouts
1. Apple Powerbeats Pro
If it’s truly wireless earbuds you’re looking for and money is of little concern, my top pick for gym-goers is Apple’s Powerbeats Pro. These are bass-tuned earbuds with ear hooks to keep the buds secure, even during the most extreme HIIT workouts.
Unlike the Beats of yesteryear, these won’t give you a muddy sound. Instead, they reproduce a sizable soundstage which favors low end, without eschewing vocal clarity and acoustic sonics. And the Pros have enough ear seal that you don’t need to crank the music to the max to drown out gym noise — hearing health is important too!
They feature identical controls on either bud, so you don’t have to remember which side controls which functions. And for our sweaty friends, there are no ports for water or sweat to get into.
In terms of battery life, these are one of the top truly wireless options. They feature Apple’s new H1 chip which helps you get 9 hours of playback, and 12 more hours for each earbud from the charging case. If you do drain them, you’ll get 1.5 hours of playback with only 5 minutes’ charge time. Only downside? The size of the charging case is much larger than the AirPods case.
2. Jabra Elite Active 65t
Jabra’ s Elite Active 65t is not to be slept on! Some folks prefer these over the Powerbeats Pro because of a well-designed companion app and robust feature-set that includes HearThrough.
When activated, HearThrough allows you to hear your surroundings without having to remove the earbuds from your ears. It also gives you control over whether the music is paused or mixed with the ambient noise from your surroundings. And unlike some other “pass-through” technologies, this one actually sounds natural. Others may sound “artificial,” like they’re coming through heavily processed microphones.
The Elite Active 65t’s have a well-balanced sound — not as much bass tuning as the Powerbeats, but still enough to give you a nice thump to power through those power cleans.
As for battery life, you’ll get 5 hours of battery life, 10 more in the charging case, and if they’re dead, 1 hour of playback on a 15-minute rapid charge.
Based on price, these may be the best high-end buy on this list right now. The difference between these and the lower-priced Elite 65t model is water proofing. So, if you feel you don’t sweat much, just “glisten,” it may be worth saving a few dollars and picking those up instead.
3. Apple AirPods 2
In photography, they say the best camera is the one you have on you. In this case, the best gym headphones for iPhone owners may be the ones they already have in their pockets.
Although I wouldn’t think of the Airpods 2 as “gym headphones,” I do see people using them in the gym regularly. One day I forgot my gym headphones and had to use these instead, and I found them surprisingly secure. Although I spent my workout with that feeling they were going to fall out of my ears, they never did!
Your sound experience may vary based on the shape of your ears, but I’ve found that I get the best sound with these by turning on the EQ and tuning it to my liking. Otherwise, the out-the-box sound is a tad flat for me.
These earbuds last up to 5 hours on a single charge, more than 24 hours with the charging case, and a 15-minute quick charge will give you 3 hours of life.
Best Wireless Earbuds for Runners and Outdoors Enthusiasts
4. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3100
“Situational awareness” is something I think far too few people take seriously these days. Running around busy streets without being able to hear what’s going on isn’t exactly the safest thing to do. The Jabra Elite Active 65t is a great set of earbuds for this because of HearThrough, but they’re missing ear hooks, which is great for feeling secure.
That’s why my top pick for runners is the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100. They feature the Always Aware eartips which sit outside your ear canal and allow the sounds of your environment to come in without being overpowering. These are also rock solid in your ears because they come with ear hooks to hold up to your most dynamic urban exploits or treacherous trail runs.
You won’t get the same bass response as the previously mentioned earbuds, but unlike competing units which sit outside the ear canal, Plantronics manages to pull off some impressive sound reproduction, with bass that is still quite audible.
You’ll get 5 hours of playback, with an additional 10 from the charging case. So go head — run to your heart’s desire.
Best Over-Ear Wireless Headphones for Workouts
5. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100
Over-ear headphones can be tough for workouts — I haven’t yet used a pair that didn’t slide a bit when doing horizontal exercises like a flat bench press or chest fly. That is, until I recently tested out Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100’s.
They have a perforated headband to allow moisture to escape more easily, but it’s the draw-string cord integrated into the headband which makes them a winner. This allows you to fully clamp the headphones down, so you can actually perform horizontal exercises without the headphones falling off — even when you’re fully drenched in sweat, They may not stay perfectly in place with aggressive movements, but they’ll be fine during your burpees, bench press, or downward dog.
My only complaints with these are that I’d like them to get a little bit louder with streamed music and that the Sound Mix feature can sound a bit artificial (this is what blends the noise of your surroundings with the music).
Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones
6. Sony’s WH-1000XM3
8. Beats’ Solo Pro
If you aren’t going to be horizontal that often, and noise cancellation is your main concern, you should choose from these over-ear headphones. These are the bulkiest offerings on this list, but their ability to cut outside noise is remarkable.
The key difference between the three is the sound signature. While Sony’s WH-1000XM3 and Beats’ Solo Pro offer a sound that is tuned and robust, the Bose700 headphones tend to present a flatter sound signature. Sony’s headphones also have the richest feature-set of the three, both from the headphones and the features built into the companion app. But at $300+, these aren’t a cheap option either!
If you’re looking to purchase any of the three, you’ll really be getting an all-around headphone that’s also great for travel, commuting, and more active listening in the comfort of your home.
Budget Bluetooth Headphone and Earbud Picks
These budget picks will help you reduce your waistline at the gym, without reducing your wallet. All can be found for $100 or less, and in some cases, much less.
And don’t worry, “budget” doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing a lot in the sound department as far as workout use goes.
9. MPOW’s Flame line
MPOW’s Flame line offers solid sound and is available on Amazon for less than $25. If you read the reviews there, you’ll find that occasionally a user has quality-control issues and had to buy another pair, but my wife and my gym buddy have had these for one and two years, respectively, and they’re still ticking.
At that price point though, you could have a pair last you a year, buy another, and still be ahead of the game when compared to the cost of more expensive options on this list.
10. Plantronics’ Backbeat Fit 2100
Plantronics’ Backbeat Fit 2100‘s are still among the best headphones for runners and those who need situational awareness. Plus, they’re a steal at just under $50. They’re actually in my top five favorite workout headphones for sound, situational awareness, and the refinement of notifications and operation. They give you voice alerts for battery status, connection status, and more, unlike most other offerings which just offer beeps and tones.
11. Plantronics Backbeat Fit 500
And lastly, if the Plantronics 6100 model is a tad pricey for you, Plantronics Backbeat Fit 500‘s are more affordable, coming in under $90. They don’t have the same clamping feature, but they’re tailor-made for gym use with a water-resistant coating that will also stand up to outdoor elements.
Just Released and Soon to Come: What To Look Forward To
Be ye forewarned, some of the devices on this list are a bit long in the tooth and have refreshes right around the corner.
Jabra will update its Elite Active 65t with the Jabra Elite 75t in November. They’re 20 percent smaller, and have an updated USB-C charging case and better battery life.
Plantronics follows up its freshman-effort truly wireless earbuds with the new Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3150 or 3200. The 3150 keeps the Always Aware eartips, while the 3200 gives you noise-isolating tips that fit into the ear canal.
Apple just released the third generation of their wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro. They feature noise cancelling, a “Transparency” mode, and finally, officially receive a water-resistance rating. I have these now as well, and have been wowed by their sound quality over the AirPods 2 in my early tests. More to come!
Google has announced their follow up to their Pixel Buds with the Google Pixel Buds 2. They’re aiming for the Airpods market with these, so if you’re an Android fan, these may be the buds for you to look at. We’ll have to see how they stack up when they launch in the spring of 2020.
And one of my favorite earbuds has a new version! Jaybird updated their Run XT truly wireless earbuds with the new Jaybird Vista earbuds. They’ve redesigned the drivers, made them smaller, and even made the case smaller. They have new tech which should make them lag-free when watching videos on mobile devices.