The Best Wireless Headphones and Earbuds of 2019

 
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WE RESEARCHED THE BEST WIRELESS EARBUDS AND HEADPHONES FOR RUNNING, FITNESS, WORKOUTS, AND THE OUTDOORS.

As fitness and outdoor enthusiasts, we need headphones that withstand sweat, rain, and rough treatment. This rules out the popular wireless Apple AirPods, which lack water or sweat resistance and fall out easily.

We researched reviews on Wireless Earbuds in Android Central. Android Guys, CNET, Digital Trends, Endgadget, Forbes, Gizmodo, iMore, PCmag, Runners World, Sound Guys, Soundwhiz, Tech Radar, The Verge, Wirecutter, Wired, and ZDNet, then aggregated and analyzed them for criteria important to outdoors people--features like waterproofness, battery life, ruggedness in a range of scenarios and the quality of sound. Then we tested the models that seemed most promising.

Running and exercise headphones must comfortably and securely provide long hours of playback and quick charging on the go. And, they must sound good enough to take our mind off the occasional tedium and discomfort of a hard workout while still allowing us to stay aware of our surroundings.

Wireless earbuds and headphones are on the rise as more mobile phone makers phase out the 3.5mm headphone jack. This means the days of cheap, easily replaceable wired earbuds are ending. Fortunately, headphone makers are coming out with high quality, durable wireless headphones designed specifically for fitness activities. We researched and tested the most popular models. Here are the wireless earbuds for every kind of outdoor exercise.

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The Jaybird X4 comes with multiple options to ensure a perfect fit.

The Jaybird X4 comes with multiple options to ensure a perfect fit.

THE BEST WIRELESS EARBUDS

JAYBIRD X4

We believe the Jaybird X4 are the best wireless fitness earbuds for most outdoor activities including running and workouts. Since 2012, Jaybird has been a leader in wireless sport headphones and is owned by Logitech, a company known for its quality electronics. We think the Jaybird X4 are the best wireless earbuds because the battery life is excellent, the connection is reliable, the sound quality is good, and the fit is secure and customizable.

Fit is perhaps the most important feature of workout earbuds. Whether you’re outdoors or at the gym it’s essential that the headphones are comfortable to wear and stay snugly in place during vigorous activity. Nothing is more frustrating than earbuds slipping out on a run or cords tangling on branches during a bushwhack.

The Jaybird X4 is our pick for the best wireless earbuds.    Photo by Shayne Combs.

The Jaybird X4 is our pick for the best wireless earbuds. Photo by Shayne Combs.

The Jaybird X4 allows you to customize your fit. Three sizes of silicone ear fins, two sizes of silicone ear tips, and two sizes of memory foam tips are provided. With so many options, it can be time consuming to get the perfect fit; however, it is worth the time and effort to get it right.

According to the manufacturer, the Jaybird X4 provides eight hours of playback. It takes approximately two hours to fully charge the headphones.

What we really like about the Jaybird X4 as outdoors people is a fast charge capability. Ten minutes of charging will provide one hour of playback.

We think the X4 qualifies as a great choice for extreme outdoor activities like long distance hiking or ultra marathons because of its waterproofing. The Jaybird X4 has an IPX7 rating. This means that the earbuds are designed to be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes. Please note that the manufacturer does not recommend use in a shower, swimming, or in salt water. We discuss IPX water resistance ratings later in our How to Choose Wireless Earbuds section.

The Jaybird X4 also allows the earbuds to be worn over the ear or under the ear. Over the ear is how musicians and newscasters wear their ear pieces. Jaybird recommends the over the ear configuration for fitness activities because it holds the ear buds more securely. The earbuds also come with a cinch device and shirt clip to secure the cord that attaches to the earbuds. We think the ability to snugly cinch and attach the cord is critical for hiking and trail running because it will help avoid the cord snagging on brush and limbs.

According to Soundguys, audio engineers who make their living being picky about sound quality, the Jaybird X4 has good sound quality and passive noise isolation. The Jaybird app allows you to customize the sound equalization (EQ), the amount of treble or bass you prefer. There are a number of EQ presets you can select or you can make your own EQ setting.

The Jaybird X4 fits snugly in the ear.   Photo by Shayne Combs.

The Jaybird X4 fits snugly in the ear. Photo by Shayne Combs.

We like that the Jaybird X4 allows you to control the amount of noise isolation based on the fit of the earbuds. The Headphones Addict found the memory foam ear tips will provide greater noise isolation than the silicone tips. We think that noise blocking is less important, and not necessarily desired, for workout headphones, especially for outdoor activities where it’s important to maintain situational awareness (we need to hear the car approaching or the bear stomping through the brush).

The Jaybird X4 comes with an easy-to-use control module located on the cord below the right earbud that allows you to adjust the phone, skip tracks (forward and backward), and activate your Siri or Google voice assistant. Soundguys found that the module was easy to use while on a run. Another nice feature is that the headphones will announce the battery level when they are turned on.

As we have previously noted, the X4 is latest iteration of Jaybird’s X series of earbuds. It’s definitely not top-of-the-line anymore, but there are some great discounts available for its predecessor, the X3. So, should you buy the discounted X3? Waterproofing is the only significant difference between the two. The X3 has a sweat resistant coating, but no water resistance rating while the X4 has a IPX7 water resistance rating (it can take three feet of water for 30 minutes). We believe water resistance is essential for a pair of workout earbuds; therefore, the extra cost of the X4 is justified.

 

Compare Prices on the Jaybird X4

 

The Jaybird Tarah Pro is our pick for the best upgrade wireless earbuds.

The Jaybird Tarah Pro is our pick for the best upgrade wireless earbuds.

BEST UPGRADE WIRELESS EARBUDS (ESPECIALLY FOR LONG DISTANCE HIKING)

JAYBIRD TARAH PRO

In November, 2018, Jaybird released an upgraded set of ear buds, the Tarah Pro. The Jaybird Tarah Pro has many of the same features of the X4 such as excellent sound quality, IPX7 water resistance, and a customizable fit.

The Tarah Pro costs $30 more than the X4; however, there are some significant upgrades from the X4 which, in our opinion, make the Tarah Pro uniquely well suited for long distance hiking or similar extreme endeavors.

 

Why the Tarah Pro are the best headphones for endurance activities:

Battery life and quick charging

The Tarah Pro has an incredible 14 hours of playback. This is six hours more than the X4 and four hours more than any other “in ear” wireless headphones we researched. The Tarah Pro also has a quick charging feature that will add two hours of playback for five minutes of charging. This means you can add two hours of playback in the time it takes to grab a snack out of your pack. The X4 only gives you one hour of playback for ten minutes of quick charge.

Braided cord and curved control module

The Tarah Pro comes with a braided cord with a reflective fabric woven in. This is more comfortable against your skin and better looking (in our opinion) than the rubber cord on the X4. Plus, the Tarah Pro’s cord is more durable and less likely to tangle. The control module on the Tarah Pro has the same functionality as the X4, but it is curved to be more comfortably cinched in place.

Magnetic earbuds

The Tarah Pro earbuds are magnetic. This allows you to securely attach the earbuds around your neck when not in use. The playback is automatically paused when the earbuds are attached and restarts when the earbuds are separated.

Magnetic earbuds may sound like a minor feature, but we think this is extremely useful for long distance hiking. This will allow you to secure the headphones around your neck when not in use.

 

The following are other features unique to the Tarah Pro:

Switch fit

The Tarah Pro earbud is designed to quickly swivel between over and under ear positions by simply rotating the earbud. The X4 can be worn in the over or under ear positions; however, you must remove and replace the wings and ear tips to make the change.

Personal EQ test

The Jaybird app allows you to personalize your EQ settings (i.e., the amount of treble or bass you prefer), but with the Tarah Pro, you can take a EQ hearing test to create a personal EQ setting.


The Jaybird Tarah Pro

 

The Jaybird Vista are crushproof, waterproof exercise earbuds that are versatile enough to work in the backcountry or in the office.

The Jaybird Vista are crushproof, waterproof exercise earbuds that are versatile enough to work in the backcountry or in the office.

THE BEST TRULY WIRELESS EARBUDS

JAYBIRD VISTA

Truly wireless headphones are earbuds that connect to each other and your audio source without a wire. The microphone and controls are located on the earbuds. Released at the end of July 2019, we think the newly released Jaybird Vista are the best Truly Wireless Earbuds available.

The Apple AirPods have been the leader in the “truly wireless” headphone category since their release in 2016. However, the Apple AirPods are not great fitness headphones. They are not water or sweat resistant rated and they do not fit as snugly as other fitness headphones. They’re also expensive, making it even more tragic to lose one during a run due to their poor fit. That’s why as outdoors people, we searched for the best fitness alternative to the Apple AirPods.

We think the Jaybird Vista is the best true wireless earbuds for outdoor use, especially backpacking and long day hikes. The Vista has the best battery life we’ve seen for exercise wireless headphones: up to 32 hours (if using buds one at a time).

The Vista earbuds are truly wireless headphones that sit snugly inside of your year.   Photo by Liz Thomas

The Vista earbuds are truly wireless headphones that sit snugly inside of your year. Photo by Liz Thomas

The Vista are also well suited to outdoor use with a crushproof rating and is rated IPX7, meaning it can be submerged 3 feet underwater for 30 minutes. (We discuss IPX water resistance ratings later in the article). The headphones wedge into your ear, creating a tight fit that was so inconspicuous, we forgot they were there. All of these combine to make an excellent outdoor exercise truly wireless earbud.

While we still like our old truly wireless earbuds pick, the Jabra Elite 65t, the new Jaybird Vista released on July 31, 2019 has a few clear advantages over its competitor including better battery life, waterproofness, and durability.

Read on: Review of the Jabra Elite 65t

Like the other Jaybirds we recommend, the huge advantage of the Vista over other earbuds is the fast charge with the case. Fast charge mode gives you 2 hours of extra play off charging for 5 minutes. The case gives 10 more hours of charge time (20 hours if counting the earbuds separately).

But what makes the Vista better suited for outdoor gear than the other wireless earbuds we tried is the option to save battery by running one earbud at a time. Many hikers prefer to only have one earbud in at a time to maintain situational awareness, whether to hear a rattlesnake, an approaching vehicle, or a mountain bike coming up from behind.

Functionally, on most earbuds, listening to only one earbud means using battery to operate two earbuds while one dangles from your ear or stays in your pocket. With the Vista, you have the option to save battery by only spending battery life on the bud that you’re listening to. This is how you can get 32 hours of play time on one set of buds

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The Vista come with three silicone ear tips that allow them to fit in all sizes of ears.   Photo by Liz Thomas.

The Vista come with three silicone ear tips that allow them to fit in all sizes of ears. Photo by Liz Thomas.

As with the X4, the Vista fit is highly customizable. We think fit is one of the most important features of workout earbuds, especially for a truly wireless earbud. Truly wireless exercise earbuds must stay in the ear during movement while also being comfortable. The Jaybird Vista comes with three sizes of silicone ear tips, but lacks the memory foam tips and customizable silicone earfins found on the Jaybird X4.

To test connectivity and range, we ran an experiment on the Jaybird Vista. My hiking partner and I often listen to the same podcast at the same time while hiking and then discuss it afterwards. Because the Vista earbuds are separate and truly wireless, we decided to have each of us hike with one of the earbuds. Our other ears were free to listen for mountain lions, bears, or approaching cars.

This hiking hack effectively means that you could buy one pair of headphones for two people hiking together and split the cost. Given that the Vista are the most expensive headphones we tested (but they’re still less expensive than the Apple AirPods), we were pleased with this clever workaround, even if it meant we couldn't stray much more than 30 feet from our hiking partner if we both wanted to listen to the same podcast.

Since these earbuds are on the higher end of the price spectrum, we wanted to see how the Jaybird Vista worked for office use. If these worked as well at home as in the backcountry, we could better justify the cost with the versatility. We paired them with our phone and laptop for video conferencing. The pairing was easy and they worked so well, that we forgot that we had earbuds in and thought we were just operating off the laptop’s speakers. Like other high end wireless headphones we tested including the Jabra Elite 65t and the Aftershokz, the Vista has a microphone allowing you to answer calls without having to retrieve your actual phone from deep in your backpack.

Vista headphones in their charging case. The whole system weighs about 1 oz whereas the earbuds alone are 6 grams.

Vista headphones in their charging case. The whole system weighs about 1 oz whereas the earbuds alone are 6 grams.

Like other earbuds, the Vista required us to download an app to control audio equalization and access some pre-made playlists via Spotify. What we really liked about the app, though, is the ability to automatically set the earbuds to turn off after 15 or 60 minutes of idle use. This allows you to save battery if you forget to manually turn off, an issue we ran into with the Aftershokz. The app also has a Find My Buds option that allows you to locate your earbuds via GPS (though if you lose one on a backcountry hike, you're probably out an earbud). The app also alerts you to the battery life of each earbud separately. When you’re listening, a voice will alert you when you battery life is down to 20% so you know when to recharge.

 

While the Vista aren’t the least expensive earbuds we tried, they hit the sweet spot of versatility that works for home and exercise. If you had been thinking about getting some Air Pods for your office life, we think you’re way better off getting the waterproof, crushproof exercise and backcountry friendly Vista.

View the jaybird vista

 

The Aftershokz Trekz Air is our top pick for the best situational awareness wireless headphones.   Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

The Aftershokz Trekz Air is our top pick for the best situational awareness wireless headphones. Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

THE BEST WIRELESS HEADPHONES FOR SITUATIONAL AWARENESS (ESPECIALLY FOR RUNNING OR CYCLING)

AFTERSHOKZ TREKZ AIR

It is essential to maintain situational awareness when engaging in outdoor fitness activities like running, cycling, or hiking. We think Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones are the best option to maximize your situational awareness while listening to music, podcasts, or making phone calls.

We purchased the Trekz Air for five weeks of continual use during our thru-hike across the state of Arizona. The 800-mile long Arizona Trail is open to mountain bikes and home to rattle snakes and mountain lions, so we wanted our headphones to not impede our ability to hear around us. In addition, one headphones writer is currently using the Aftershokz while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and already has almost 500 miles of testing completed in a wet and rainy climate.

Trekz Air are the best headphones for situational awareness because they do not cover your ears. Their “open ear” design operates using bone conduction technology. While this initially sounds creepy, bone conduction is actually one of the main ways we hear our own voices, which is why recordings of our voices sound different than when we hear ourselves talk. The sound is conducted through your cheekbones. The technology has been around since the 70s, especially in use for hearing impaired individuals. The sound quality will not be as good as a pair of earbuds, but the sound isn’t bad for workout headphones.

 

During our hikes of the Arizona Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, were able to hear small twigs snapping behind us while using the Trekz Air. We could hear wildlife and approaching bikes and hikers. It took a while to get used to being able to hear out of our eardrums and still hear music, but was well worth it.

The Aftershokz Trekz Air at the Grand Canyon during a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail.   Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

The Aftershokz Trekz Air at the Grand Canyon during a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail. Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

It is essential to maintain situational awareness when engaging in outdoor fitness activities like running, cycling, or hiking. We think Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones are the best option to maximize your situational awareness while listening to music, podcasts, or making phone calls.

We purchased the Trekz Air for five weeks of continual use during our thru-hike across the state of Arizona. The 800-mile long Arizona Trail is open to mountain bikes and home to rattle snakes and mountain lions, so we wanted our headphones to not impede our ability to hear around us. In addition, one headphones writer is currently using the Aftershokz while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and already has almost 500 miles of testing completed in a wet and rainy climate.

 
A close-up of the magnetic feature of thAftershokz.   Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

A close-up of the magnetic feature of thAftershokz. Photo by Naomi Hudetz.

Our biggest beef with the Aftershokz Trekz Air is the battery life. We found the 6-hour battery life to be accurate, but realize some folks want to listen to music all day without a recharge. Unlike our recommended Upgrade Earbuds, the Jaybird Tarah Pro, the Trekz Air headphones have no way to fast-charge. Once the battery is done, that’s the end of music for the day. We much prefer earbuds with the quick charge feature. With the Tarah Pro, we could get two hours extra play time in the time of a snack or potty break, functionally letting us listen to music and podcasts all day. With the Trekz Air, that wasn’t possible.


For more information about what we carried on the 800-mile long Arizona Trail, see our Long Term Arizona Trail Gear Review.

 

compare prices on the aftershokz trekz air

 

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 is our top pick when durability is your top priority.

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 is our top pick when durability is your top priority.

THE MOST DURABLE WIRELESS EARBUDS (ESPECIALLY FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES)

PLANTRONICS BACKBEAT FIT 2100


The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100 is the best pick if you want a rugged set of wireless headphones specifically designed for outdoor activities. They are fully waterproof and connected with a sturdy silicone band that the Sound Guys describe as virtually indestructible. We also like that the BackBeats have safety features that allow for situational awareness and visibility from cars.

But as you may expect, RT Ratings found that the sound is not as good as our top picks from Jaybird. But, we don’t think that superb audio quality should necessarily be the most important feature for fitness, and especially outdoor use headphones. Instead, we value that the BackBeat FIT 2100 has a good mix of decent sound quality with durability, waterproofness, and safety features.

The BackBeat FIT 2100 wireless earbuds were designed with Plantronics’ “Always Aware” ear tips to allow more ambient noise than typical noise isolating earbuds. This is especially important for runners, hikers, and cyclists that need to have awareness of their surroundings.

The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100 has an IPX7 sweat and waterproof rating -- the same as our main pick, upgrade pick, and mid-range pick. This means that they can go under three feet of water for 30 minutes or (more importantly to us) can be worn in the rain. The reviewer from Wired tested the headphones in the shower (this isn’t recommended). We also like that the earbuds are connected via a sturdy reflective band instead of a cord that can become easily tangled.

Related: Should I get the Plantronics Backbeat FIT 2100 or Backbeat FIT 3100?

The BackBeat FIT 2100 provides reported seven hours of battery life. While this is on the lower-end of the wireless earbuds that made our list, it should be enough for most workouts or single-day outdoor activities.

The BackBeat FIT 2100 also have a unique and customizable set of controls. You tap the earbuds to control the volume and playback. Plantronics’ app has a “My Tap” feature that allows you to create custom tap shortcuts to check the battery level, start a stopwatch, or select a playlist. This sounds really useful if you don't want to fiddle with your phone in the cold or rain or are using your phone for other things like navigation apps. But all the headphones we reviewed have controls that don't require using your phone to adjust volume or skip tracks. What makes the BackBeats different is the tapping system.


 

View the PLANTRONICS BackBeat FIT 2100

 

The JLab Flex Sport is our top pick for the best over-the-ear wireless headphones.

The JLab Flex Sport is our top pick for the best over-the-ear wireless headphones.

THE BEST OVER-THE-EAR WIRELESS HEADPHONES

JLAB AUDIO FLEX SPORT

We understand that some folks don’t like or can’t wear earbuds. They can be uncomfortable or not fit correctly. Fortunately, headphone makers are coming out with fitness-oriented over the ear headphones. We were hesitant to recommend over the ear headphones for outdoor fitness activities like hiking or running because it is essential that we have a high degree of situational awareness when running or hiking. However, we think the JLab’s new Flex Sport Wireless headphones does a decent job of addressing our concerns and it has the best battery life we’ve seen on a set of headphones.

The JLab Flex Sport has a feature called “Be Aware Audio” that uses a microphone to pick up outside noise and play it for you at its real life volume. This allows you to hear a car approaching or the rattlesnake warning you of their presence on the trail ahead. The “Be Aware” feature can be turned off when it’s not needed.

The headband of the JLab Flex Sport is designed to flex 180 degrees, shown here.

The headband of the JLab Flex Sport is designed to flex 180 degrees, shown here.

What makes the JLab Flex Sport impressive among the headphones we tested is that it has 20 hours of playback on a two hour charge. It also offers easy to use controls to manage calls, play, pause, or skip tracks, and summon Siri or Google Assistant. The Flex Sport has three EQ presets: JLab’s signature sound with enhanced vocals and bass; a balanced sound; and a bass boost.

The Flex Sport is designed to withstand the rigors of fitness activities. The adjustable headband is designed to flex 180 degrees. It also comes with an IPX4 sweat resistance rating. This is not as waterproof as our recommended earbuds, the Jaybird X4, but should be adequate for most activities. The ear pads are moisture wicking and removable for easy washing.

More on water resistance ratings later in the How to Choose Wireless Earbuds section.

We still don’t believe that over the ear headphones will become the most popular options for hiking or running because of their bulkiness and weight; however, we noted that several long distance hikers were wearing over the ear headphones in the hot New Mexico desert during our hike of the Grand Enchantment Trail in 2018.

 

View the JLab Audio Flex Sport

 

The Jaybird Tarah offers most of the best features of our top pick for about $30 less.

The Jaybird Tarah offers most of the best features of our top pick for about $30 less.

THE BEST MID-RANGE WIRELESS EARBUDS

JAYBIRD TARAH

The Jaybird Tarah, not to be confused with the Tarah Pro, offers most of the best features of our top earbuds pick, the Jaybird X4, for about $30 less. The Jaybird Tarah has good sound quality, an IPX7 waterproof rating, and customizable EQ. The playback controls will allow you to quickly access Siri or Google Assistant.

Differences between the Jaybird Tarah vs. Jaybird Tarah Pro vs. Jaybird X4

Battery life

The Tarah only has six hours of playpack versus eight hours with the X4. This may be fine for most people who use headphones at the gym or on a run, but we think the shorter battery life is a problem for people who go on longer day hikes or backpacking trips. If you are a long distance hiker or a person who forgets to charge devices and battery life is an issue, we think you may prefer the 14 hours of playback time found in our Upgrade Pick, the Tarah Pro.

Fast charge

Both the Tarah and Tarah Pro offer a fast charge option. Ten minutes of charging will add one hour of playback on the Tarah. In contrast, you get twice as much playback on fast charge with the Tarah Pro: two hours in five minutes.

Fit options

The Jaybird Tarah does not offer as many fit options as the X4. The Tarah only provides three sizes of integrated silicone wings and ear tips. The X4 has separate wings and ear tips and the ear tips come in silicone and memory foam.

The three sizes the Tarah offers will probably be fine for most folks, but it will not allow for as customizable a fit as on the X4. We think if you are exercising in a gym or in the outdoors, you’ll prefer the X4 or Tarah Pro as these are both situations where it’s important to have a more secure fit. The Tarah only allows for an under ear fit. Both the X4 and Tarah Pro can be worn under or over ear. Over ear is a more secure fit for vigorous activities.


Related:

Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones

 

Compare Prices on the Jaybird Tarah

 

Budget Wireless Earbuds

Anker Soundcore Spirit X

If you are not ready to spend $100+ for a wireless set of earbuds, the Anker Soundcore Spirit X are an excellent budget pick. We purchased the Anker Soundcore Spirit X to long-term test their performance and compare it to our former budget pick, the Aukey Latitude. We think the Anker Soundcore are the best budget wireless earbuds because of their long battery life and the fit of the earbuds.

The Anker Spirit X have similar specs to our previous budget pick, the Aukey Latitude, including sweatproof resistance, but with a reported 12-hour battery life. Neither budget pick is as water resistant as our top picks, but both have an IPX4 rating. This means the headphones are designed to be sweatproof (see more on waterproof ratings in in our How to Choose Wireless Earbuds section).

 

While we would not recommend you hike all day in the rain with either set of budget headphones, they should work fine for most activities, especially gym use.

Between the two budget headphones, the Anker Spirit X have a much better battery life. We find that the Anker Spirit X have a true 12-hour battery life while the Aukey Latitude’s reported battery life wasn’t as good as the manufacturer reported. We tested the Aukey Latitude’s performance while hiking across Arizona for 800 miles on the Arizona Trail, so had a lot of time to record battery life in the field. Our headphones writer is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail using the Anker Spirit X, which has been a good way to test how the headphones perform on long days in wet weather.

The Anker Spirit X headphones.

The Anker Spirit X headphones.

The lack of a battery level indicator is another flaw with the Aukey Latitude. We discovered this on a day hike. We thought the headphones were nearly fully charged, but an hour and a half into the hike, we got the low battery warning. A few minutes later they were dead.

One area where the Aukey Latitude has a leg up on the Anker Soundcore Spirit X is the magnetic feature. This allows you to secure the ear buds together around your neck when you are not using them. Many customer reviews report the Aukey’s magnetic feature is better than the Anker.

Another thing we liked about the Anker Spirit X is the reported quality customer service. Regardless of the manufacturer, it seems like most customers are getting a reported lifespan of about a year on budget wireless earbuds. But Anker’s customer reviews are filled with reports from people who were able to get Anker to replace headphones that had issues after a year. This is the type of customer service we may expect on a more expensive earbud, so were surprised that Anker replaced the budget Spirit X.

Anker reports on their website that the Spirit X cannot be recharged by most portable chargers because a minimum output current lower than 100mA (0.1A) is required. While we always suggest following the instructions from the manufacturer, we’ve been charging our Spirit X in the backcountry using the Anker PowerCore 10000 Redux mAh Powerbank and haven’t noticed any issues yet.

 

View the anker soundcore spirit x

 

Should I get the Jaybird Tarah Pro, Jaybird X4, or Jaybird Tarah?

The Jaybird X4 is our Overall Pick for Best Wireless Earbuds, though we think the Tarah Pro is the best for endurance activities and if you don’t mind spending a little extra.

The Jaybird X4 is our Overall Pick for Best Wireless Earbuds, though we think the Tarah Pro is the best for endurance activities and if you don’t mind spending a little extra.

So, is the Jaybird Tarah Pro worth an extra $30 over the X4 or $60 extra over the Tarah (our mid-range pick)? We think so. As a long distance hiker who listens to lots of podcasts when on the trail, I like the Tarah Pro because it has fast charging, a braided cord, and almost double the hours of playback of the other two headphones. Plus, I really like that the earbuds are magnetic so I can secure them around my neck when not in use, like when I am talking to another hiker.

We provided a comparison table to more easily compare the three Jaybird options.


Related: Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones


 

COMPARE THE JAYBIRD X4 vs. Jaybird TARAH PRO VS. JAYBIRD tarah

JAYBIRD TARAH
CategoryMid-priceBest for mostUpgrade pick
Playtime6 hours8 hours14 hours
Fast Charging10 min = 1 hrs10 min = 1 hrs5 min = 2 hrs
IPX Rating7 (Sweat Proof + Water Resistant)7 (Sweat Proof + Water Resistant)7 (Sweat Proof + Water Resistant)
Ear TipsSiliconeSilcone and Memory FoamSilicone
Fit OptionsUnder Ear OnlyOver and Under Options AvailableOver and Under Options Available
Cost$99 $129 $159
Why choose$30 less than the X4Tarah plus: More fit options than the Tarah; plus better battery life than the Tarah; plus carry pouchX4 plus: Exceptional battery life; plus an amazing fast charge option; plus braided cord is more durable and comfortable; plus customizable EQ; plus magnetic earbuds; plus curved control module
 

Which Wireless Earbuds should I get: Backbeat Fit 2100 vs. Backbeat Fit 3100?

As we researched, we found that the BackBeat FIT 2100 has a big brother, the BackBeat Fit 3100. Unlike the BackBeat 2100s we recommend, the 3100s have a true wireless headphone design like the Apple AirPods. Android Police reports that the 3100s are comfortable and stable, even during exercise.

We compared the two headphones and found a lot of similarities. The Fit 3100 also has Bluetooth 5.0 and is IP-57 waterproof rated, so is good for sweating. The Plantronics Customer Support says you can even swim with them, though bluetooth doesn’t travel underwater, so there wouldn’t be a point. However, the 3100 version has a shorter battery life than the 2100 that we recommend (5 hour vs. 7 hours). It makes up for it by coming with a carrying case that works as a fast charger (giving you an additional 10 hours; there’s no carrying/charging case with the 2100).

Still, we stand by our preference of the BackBeat FIT 2100 for exercise. It’s about two-thirds the price of the 3100 and has a longer true battery life by 2 hours. The customer reviews on the 3100 aren’t great, either. 37% of reviews on Amazon are 1 or 2 stars. Most customers found firmware issues that have led to connection problems. Sound cuts out often or in some cases, has one ear bud louder than the other, or stops working completely.

We also think that the neckband that connects earbuds suits outdoor use better than truly wireless earbuds. We’ve seen too many single true wireless earbuds abandoned along running trails. Truly wireless earbuds may be great for a gym, but we prefer a band that connects wireless earbuds in the backcountry.

The BackBeat FIT 2100 stays put better than the 3100 and it’s more noticeable if they fall out. Should you set the 2100s down on a picnic table, bench, leaves, or rocks, it’s easier to find a neckband than a single ear bud. But if you are dead set on a true wireless earbud for your workout, we think the Jaybird Vista is a better option.

Related: Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones

 

No wires!! The Jabra Elite Active 65T are truly wireless.   Photo by Emma Weeks.

No wires!! The Jabra Elite Active 65T are truly wireless. Photo by Emma Weeks.

Which Wireless Earbuds should I get: Jaybird Tarah Pro vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t vs. Jaybird Vista?

As mentioned above, we think that the neckband that connects earbuds suits outdoor use better than truly wireless earbuds. We’ve seen too many single true wireless earbuds abandoned along running trails. Truly wireless earbuds may be great for a gym, but we prefer a band that connects wireless earbuds in the backcountry. If you’re choosing between these three headphones for outdoor endurance, our top choice is the Tarah Pro.

If you prefer truly wireless earbuds, we think the Jaybird Vista will suit you better than tha Jabra Elite Active 65t. The battery life on the Jaybird Vista is longer than on the Jabra Elite and it is has a higher waterproof rating and crushrating. The Vista also allows you to power only one earbud at once, which extends your battery life when you’re trying to maintain situational awareness.

Related: Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones

Read On: Review of the Jaybird Vista

 

Runner-up Wireless Headphones & Earbuds

The Jabra Elite Active 65T is our pick for the best truly wireless headphones.   Photo by Emma Weeks.

The Jabra Elite Active 65T is our pick for the best truly wireless headphones. Photo by Emma Weeks.

Runner-up Truly Wireless Earbuds:

Jabra Elite Active 65t


The Jabra Elite Active 65t are our former pick for the Best Truly Wireless Earbuds. The Jabra Elite they provide great sound and call quality. According to CNET, the Jabra Elite Active 65t has better sound quality than the Apple AirPods. However, we decided that the Jaybird Vista are a better pick for most people because of a longer battery life and improved water resistance.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t have an IPX6 water resistance rating, which means they are protected from strong water jets from any angle. But they aren’t as waterproof as the IPX7 found on our current pick, the Jaybird Vista.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t provides five hours of playback plus the carry case provides 10 more hours of playback, for 15 hours total. Their battery life is good, but not quite as good as the 16 hours on the Jaybird Vista, or 32 hours if listening to ear buds individually.

The Jabra Elite Active comes with a number of great intuitive features. The earbuds turn on when they are removed from their case and turn off when they are returned to the case. They pause the audio playback when an earbud is removed from your ear; the play continues when the earbud is placed back in your ear. The buttons on the side of the earbud control audio playback, manage phone calls, and can summon Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.

One feature that still makes the Jabra Elite stand out over our current Truly Wireless Pick is Jabra’s “HearThrough” technology. It makes the Elite headphones stand out for fitness activities. HearThrough uses built in microphones to allow you to better hear your surroundings. The HearThrough can be turned off when not needed and specifically managed in the Jabra app.

Sound Guys were impressed at how well the Jabra Elite Active fit. But--as we would be for any truly wireless headphone--we remain concerned that we could lose an earbud on a strenuous hike. However, should you ever lose an earbud, you are able to buy an individual replacement.

 

View the Jabra Elite Active 65t


Aukey Latitude after a day of beach hiking near the Oregon Coast Trail.

Aukey Latitude after a day of beach hiking near the Oregon Coast Trail.

Runner-Up Budget Wireless Headphones

Aukey Latitude


The Aukey Latitude has decent sound, an eight hour battery life, and a control module that will manage phone calls and skip tracks. We tested the Aukey Latitude on our thru-hike of the Arizona Trail and found that they are a good pair of headphones for the price, but think the battery life on our current pick, the Anker Soundcore Spirit X, is better.

The Aukey Latitude is not as water resistant as our top picks, but it does have an IPX4 rating which means the headphones are designed to be sweatproof. While we would not recommend you hike all day in the rain with these wireless headphones, they should work fine for most activities, especially gym use.

 

The Aukeys come with three sets of wings and eartips to help you customize your fit. We like that the ear buds are magnetic. This allows you to secure the ear buds together around your neck when you are not using them.

We didn’t like that the Aukeys don’t have a battery level indicator. We discovered this on a day hike. We thought the headphones were nearly fully charged, but an hour and half into the hike, we got the low battery warning. A few minutes later they were dead.

Read on: Review of the Anker Sprit X

 

view the aukey latitude


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How to choose wireless earbuds

It is important to distinguish wireless fitness earbuds from other headphones you would primarily use for listening at work or home. Sound quality and noise isolation are the most important features of work or home use; however, durability, comfort, and fit are more important characteristics for fitness earbuds, especially earbuds for outdoor activities like running, hiking, or cycling.

Below is a discussion of characteristics of great wireless fitness earbuds:

FIT

Fitness earbuds must not only be comfortable, but they must remain in place during strenuous workouts. Everyone has different ears, and therefore, will have a different fit. This is why we like earbuds like the Jaybird X4, which comes with multiple sets of wings and tips allowing for a customized fit.

We also like that the Jaybird X4 and Tarah Pro can be worn above the ear and cinched snugly in place.

The Jaybird X4 and Tarah Pro can be worn above the ear and cinched in place.

The Jaybird X4 and Tarah Pro can be worn above the ear and cinched in place.

Sweat and Water Resistance

Sweat and water resistance distinguishes fitness earbuds. An average person sweats between 27-47 ounces per hour of exercise. The International Protection Marking Code (IP Code) classifies the amount moisture protection is provided by mechanical and electrical devices. Each of the fitness headphones reviewed has an IPX rating that lets you know the amount of sweat and water the device is designed to protect against. The following is a helpful summary of IPX definitions from soundwhiz.com:

  • IPX0: Zero water resistance.

  • IPX1: Slight water resistance.

  • IPX2: Can handle a small amount of water.

  • IPX3: Can handle a small amount of spray, but not sweat proof.

  • IPX4: Sweat proof. The device can handle splashing water from any direction.

  • IPX5: Can handle low pressure water jets from any angle.

  • IPX6: Protected against strong jets of water from any angle.

  • IPX7: Water proof. The device can be submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

  • IPX8: The device can be submerged in more than three feet of water. This is the standard for swimming headphones.

For fitness earbuds, an IPX4 (sweat proof) is the minimal acceptable IPX rating. Our runner-up budget earbuds, the Aukey Latitude EP-B40, and our “over the ear” pick, the JLab Audio Flex Sport, are rated IPX4. This is adequate for most moderate workouts. However, for vigorous cardio intervals, long runs, or activities in the rain, we recommend an IPX7 (waterproof) rating. Our overall pick (Jaybird X4), upgrade pick (Jaybird Tarah Pro), mid-price pick (Jaybird Tarah), and most durable pick (Plantronics Backbeat FIT 2100) all have IPX7 ratings.

The Aukey Latitutde EP-B40 enjoying a sunset view.   Photo by Mike Unger.

The Aukey Latitutde EP-B40 enjoying a sunset view. Photo by Mike Unger.

Noise Isolation

Most headphones isolate you from surrounding ambient noises by providing a physical barrier between your ear canal and the noise environment. This is not necessarily a good thing for fitness earbuds. We don’t want to hear the grunter in the gym, but we need to hear the approaching car on our run.

For most “in ear” headphones, the noise isolation is dependent on the fit of the earbuds. The Jaybird X4 (our top fitness headphone) comes with silicone and memory foam eargels. The memory foam creates more noise isolation than the silicone eargels. The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 (our most durable pick) comes with eargels specifically designed to allow in ambient noise.

 

The Jabra Elite Active 65t (our truly wireless runner-up) and the JLab Audio Flex Sport (our over the ear pick) have external microphones that can be turned on so you can better hear what’s going on outside of your headphones.

If situational awareness is a primary concern, then we think the best option are bone conducting headphones, which do not cover the ear at all. After considering several models, we believe the Aftershokz Trekz Air is the best bone conducting fitness headphone.

If you lose an earbud, individual replacements can be ordered.   Photo by Emma Weeks.

If you lose an earbud, individual replacements can be ordered. Photo by Emma Weeks.

Battery Life

The battery life of our picks range between 5 and 32 hours. If you’re not using your headphones for long periods of time, it may not be worth the extra money for longer battery life. However, if you’re likely to forget to charge your headphones before you need them, you might want to consider headphones with a quick charge option.

Both of Jaybird’s Tarah and Tarah Pro have an incredible 1 hour of playback time with 10 minutes of charging. There’s nothing worse than getting to the gym and realizing your headphones are dead (this has never happened to us).

Related: Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones

 

SOURCES

Android Central

Android Guys

CNET

Digital Trends

Endgadget

Forbes

Gizmodo

iMore

PCmag

Runners World

Sound Guys

Soundwhiz

Tech Radar

The Verge

Wirecutter

Wired

ZDNet

Our findings are based on aggregating and analyzing them for criteria important to outdoors people like waterproofness, battery life, ruggedness in a range of scenarios and the quality of sound. We also tested the most promising models. For details on how we compared models, see our Comparison Table for Wireless Headphones.