We review the best sports Bluetooth headphones and earbuds you can get for wireless music while you exercise for under £60
Bluetooth sports headphones have to do 2 things well: first they have to stay securely in place while you run, jump and workout. And second they have to sound good while doing so. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Our review line-up of in-ear and on-ear Bluetooth headphones includes models from Sony, Freesound, Deewear and various interchangeable Chinese brands which have come to dominate the sub-£50 market. All of the headsets featured delivered good sound quality and rock-solid Bluetooth connections.
All were reviewed and tested in a variety of situations, including gym workouts, cross training and road running. Inevitably some factors – such as how secure the headsets stay in place – depend on the shape of your particular ears and the size of the rubber pods supplied. So even the best fitting headset for one person may be an exercise in frustration for someone else. With that caveat noted, here are our 5 best budget Bluetooth headphones for sport and exercise…
Deewear FlyONE Dark
The Deewear FlyOne Dark sports Bluetooth headphones are marketed as being secure enough for you to use them while freerunning across rooftops and down the sides of buildings. While we didn’t test this scenario ourselves – because we are old enough to know better – we can vouch for the fact that these earbuds fit extremely securely into your ear, helped by the rubber lug that lodges limpet-like behind the fleshy bit in the middle (aka the ‘anterior notch’).
In fact, of the eaphones on test only the Freesound Freerunner stayed on more securely – and that came at the price of comfort. Sound quality was fine for devices of this type and price range, with the top volume being enough to be heard easily over traffic and other street sounds while jogging (or free running). However the maximum range of the FlyONE Dark was noticeably more limited than the other headphones tested – dropping consistently out at 7-8m even when in direct site of the smartphone. Still this is a modest flaw in an otherwise extremely well balanced product.
VTIN Swan Bluetooth Headphones V4.1
These VTIN Swan bluetooth headphones look remarkably similar to last year’s iClever IC-BTH02 – which is both a good and a bad thing.
Good in that the IC-BTH02 have been a reliable workhorse for the past 12 months and if the VTIN Swans follow that trend they will be exceptional. Bad in that the distinctive circular shape is quite bulky and – if you can’t get a perfect fit with the earbud – prone to fall out during vigorous exercise such as jogging or cross training.
However if you can stomach wearing a sweat band to help keep them secure, the VTIN Swans do offer a lot of other benefits. The battery life is excellent, the headphones connect without fuss every time they are powered up and the sound quality is much better than you have any right to expect at this price point. Oh, and the Bluetooth range was excellent, working through thick walls and at distances of 10m + without drop out or interference.
We’ve kept ours for general use around the home or on long journeys, even if they no longer have first place in the sports bag.
Mpow Bullfight Bluetooth Headphones
OK – these Mpow Bullfight bluetooth headphones have a double gimmick. First off, they are shaped like a pair of bulls horns, hence the crazy name. Secondly in the base of each headphone is a powerful magnet – which also contains an electro-magnetic switch when the two parts are stuck together. So you can end a phone call or stop a track just by making the magnets stick together with a satisfying ‘clunk’.
The magnet also lets you stick the earphones on laptops, monitors, and random bits of metal which is actually a quite useful way of storing them – and stops the connecting wire getting all tangled up. The Mpow Bullfight is rather well specced with the latest Bluetooth 4.1 ensuring swift connections and a creditable 7-hour battery life. iOS users will also get the benefit of seeing the Mpow Bullfight’s battery life on their device – a lifesaving feature.
Our only main gripe is that the unique horn-shaped design makes the earpods more likely to pivot out of your ear if they are not firmly lodged in. So serious joggers and gym-bunnies may want to explore alternative options.
Freesound differs from a lot of the Chinese no-brands in this market because they actually have a dedicated marketing presence in the UK, which pushes the brand to millennial hipsters who like watching parkour and listening to banging tunes*.
But when you look past the shameless product positioning, you find there’s actually a really rather good product. The Freesound Freerunners so 2 things exceptionally well: first and foremost they lock tight and securely onto your head. So secure, in fact, that prolonged use can actually make your ears hurt. Secondly, they sound brilliant – delivering proper bass as well as a decent mid and high-range.
So what’s not to like? Well the phones don’t provide the battery indicator on iOS devices, and the £69.99 recommended retail price is laughably high. But shop around on Amazon and you can find these for around £30 – which is an absolute steal.
*Younger readers, please cringe now.
Sony MDR-AS600BT Bluetooth Headset
Sony invented the portable music market over 35 years ago, so we had high expectations of its MDR-AS6000BT Bluetooth headset. And so we should – not just because of the brand’s heritage, but because of the steep £50 price point.
Our first impression was one of slight disappointment – these bulky, boxy earphones simply don’t look as good as we’d hoped. But looks aren’t everything – especially when the object is stuffed out of sight in your lugholes – and by every other measure the MDR-AS600BT performed as expected. The sound was very good – on a par with the Freesound – and we particularly liked the NFC handshake, which makes Bluetooth connections much quicker with compatible phones.
In the gym test we found the Sony headsets to stay secure with everything my ageing knees could throw at it, and it’s reassuring to know that the device is certified splash-proof with an IPX4 rating should your session get extra sweaty.
But in the end, although the Sony performed admirably, it wasn’t twice as good as any of its rivals. And that makes it incredibly hard to justify the £50 it sells for – let alone the laughable £79.99 recommended retail price.