Best sports headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best sports headphones you can buy in 2021.
If you're looking to up your fitness levels in time for summer 2021, then a new pair of sports headphones is a great way to give yourself some extra motivation. You can't beat your favourite tunes when it comes to finding that extra motivation to finish your run, ride or (home) gym routine – and a good pair of headphones is critical. (Feel free to consult our best running songs playlist, too.)
The best sports headphones will deliver great sound while offering sweat-resistant designs that stay in place, and with wireless options aplenty to choose from, you should look for a pair of sports earphones with a good battery life, too.
From cheap true wireless sports earbuds that completely remove the cable, to in-ear Bluetooth wireless earphones, neckband headphones, and even Bluetooth over-ear headphones, these are the best sport headphones we've reviewed.
If you prize sound quality over pure sports performance, then the upcoming Sony WF-1000XM4 could be of interest. They're likely to continue Sony's winning run of true wireless earbuds, and because there are no cables, they will be suitable for certain sports activities (though they're unlikely to be sold as a pure sports pair). Apple fan? We could see the AirPods 3 announced as early as next week. Exciting.
How we choose the best sports headphones
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of headphones. Lucky us. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
- Running down the differences: Beats vs JBL vs Bose running headphones: which should you choose?
Theses are some of the best-sounding, most reliable running and gym headphones you'll find for this money. If you really care about sound quality, then these might just be best sports earphones for you.
They're not 'true wireless', as there is a soft cable between the two buds. Each of the buds also has an in-ear hook to keep them in place. We like the design here, complete with lightweight remote, and these running headphones are also sweat-resistant and IPX4 splashproof, too. The battery life is a modest six hours but we would imagine that will do most people for a few runs or circuits.
The Bose sound is perfect for this kind of earphone too, delivering the kind of powerful, punchy bass that might get you running that bit faster. The SoundSport Wireless sound dynamic and make music sound lively – perfect for getting you over the line with that workout, or even just off the couch.
Read the full Bose SoundSport Wireless review
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to sports earphones and the JBL Reflect Flow is a hotly anticipated entrant to the flourishing, albeit rather niche, true-wireless-for-sports market.
In their niche category, though, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones are impressive performers for the money, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to a pair of over-ear headphones. The 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long gym session.
There are better wireless earbuds for pure sonic performance but if you want a sporty option, these might just be the best bet.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review
Nothing screams sporty more than a splash of neon. But the Sennheiser CX Sport earphones are more than just a few flashy green accents, they’re some of the best sports earbuds on the market.
These Sennheisers really are designed with running and the gym in mind, with their rubberised ear fins and splash and sweat-resistant design. The fit is excellent and noise isolation is good. The earpieces are connected by a short run of cable which includes an in-line mic and controls. Battery life is a respectable six hours.
The sound quality is robust and powerful, just what you need when you're making a push for the finish line or your final set of squats. The CX Sport deliver a large dose of Sennheiser’s traditional in-ear sound, with lots of detail on a solid foundation of powerful bass. What more could you want?
Read the full Sennheiser CX Sport review
The Sony WF-1000XM3 remain the best all-round true wireless earbuds and they're a great option for the gym, too. They may not be built for exercise in quite the same way as others on this page but by offering great sound and fit, and being compact true wireless options, they're great all-rounders.
The latest version of Sony's earbuds offer an all-new Bluetooth chip which sharpens up music synchronisation, and feature a noise-cancelling processor which claims to bring a 40 per cent upgrade on its predecessor. Everywhere else, pretty much everything has improved, from the fit, to the battery life, to the sound quality.
When it comes to sound quality, instruments sound natural, voices are detailed, and there's plenty of punch and energy when asked for. Clarity and dynamics make them great for loud environments, too. A class-leading pair of wireless earbuds and a decent bet for the gym.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM3 review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds or sports headphones. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers at a low price.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). And a 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, while bass is deep and detailed. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money. A great buy on a budget.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
The Earfun Pro buds take the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and add active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if your running route goes near noisy roads.
The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of workouts. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback; three skips to the next track.
They're built to survive a downpour, so are happy to deal with however much sweat you throw their way. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money. Now you've no excuse not to get out and exercise.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
Bowers & Wilkins has successfully made a smooth move into the headphone market, building on its almost unrivalled reputation when it comes to making speakers. In-ears of this design, which makes us think of sport and the gym, haven't necessarily been on the hit list, however. But fear not, B&W has knocked it out of the park with these wireless in-ears too.
The PI3 earphones are a dual driver design, complete with a flexible neckband. We would prefer a few more ear tips to get the optimum fit, so it might be one to try before you buy. They deliver a decent battery life and though they aren't technically waterproof, B&W claims they are "resistant to light rain, splash and sweat".
Happily, they deliver a clear, controlled, punchy and well-balanced sound. From rock to pop to hip-hop, the B&W PI3 earphones deliver a confident, entertaining sound. Another fine option from B&W.
Read the full B&W PI3 review
If top value sound quality from true wireless earbuds is what you're after for a pair of gym headphones, Cambridge Audio has answered your prayers. For an affordable price, the Melomania 1 earphones deliver an open, detailed sound that's hard to beat without spending more money.
A good fit is essential, and, due to the length of the earpiece itself, that might not be as easy to come by for everybody, but their sonic talent is such that it's worth the effort and potential purchase of extra buds.
With nine hours' battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the case, that means an impressive 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up. There's no noise cancelling, but it is clear Cambridge Audio's focus has been on great sound over bonus features. One for the marathon runners out there.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
Earfun isn't the first brand that jumps to mind in this category, but If you want cheap and cheerful wireless sports earbuds, you need to give the Earfun Air a try.
These true wireless earbuds are packed with features. You don't get noise-cancelling at this price point, but the Earfun Air do provide excellent noise isolation and they feel comfortable, too. They're also waterproof to IPX7 standards (submersible in one metre of water for up to 30 mins), support virtual assistants and include Qi wireless charging if you've got a suitable charger to hand.
Battery life is seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is solid and stable, calls sound clear and for the money, the wireless earbuds offer an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after a pair of affordable and entertaining in-ear headphones, the Earfun Air are definitely worth investigating.
Read the full Earfun Air review
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are arguably the most refined-sounding wireless earbuds that we've heard.
The earpieces are slim and comfortable, while, unlike the 1st Gen pair, they now sport noise-cancelling. And it works extremely well. They're nice to use too, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which can be customised to control music playback and features.
Battery life is competitive, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life up to a solid 28 hours.
Sonically, highs and lows are composed and controlled, while still delivering impressive dynamics. The Sennheisers present a detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority. They're a little pricier than other wireless earbuds, but if your budget can stretch, your ears will be rewarded, and your workout will fly by. Money well spent.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
By combining the magic of the original AirPods with active noise-cancelling, Apple will be hoping it has another hit on its hands. And while the AirPods Pro aren't the best-sounding noise-cancelling in-ears, they are still an utter joy to own and use.
Excellent noise-cancelling is complemented by a transparency mode that feels almost as natural as wearing non-isolating earphones. Here Apple has created a pair of headphones that’s as well suited to a long-haul flight as it is to a run around the block. For many, they could be the only pair of headphones they ever need.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro review
Built with sporty types in mind, the SoundSport Free in-ears are both sweat- and water-resistant, and have a suitably rugged feel to them. They stick out a bit more than some rival wireless earbuds, and you could argue that some of the competition look both more stylish and more discreet. But it's more than made up for by the performance.
Bose sorted some initial connection issues with an update, and now we're treated to great sound without a hitch. There's no noise-cancelling but there is a bold but balanced sound with plenty of bass. Good battery life, buoyed by a charging case, are the icing on the cake.
Read the full Bose SoundSport Free review
The Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones are, predictably, wireless, offering Bluetooth connectivity, but they have a flexible cable between the buds. They also have a hook over the ear.
The cable and the hooks mean they're highly unlikely to fall out of your ears, so they're ideal should earphones that stay put be a key priority. They're comfortable, too, have a decent battery life of 12 hours, and offer a mic and volume controls on the cable.
The sound is bassy and exciting, not offering the last word in clarity but perhaps ideal for the getting a sweat on to some pumping tunes. A solid bet if the feature set ticks your boxes.
Read the full Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless review
We weren't sold on brand name alone but a thorough reviewing later and we were converts for their skills at such an affordable price. If you prefer on-ear headphones for the gym, then these deliver good wireless sound and decent noise-cancelling for a great price.
Of course you get what you pay for, and much more expensive headphones will deliver better all-round sound. But for this price they're hard to fault.
Read the full Lindy BNX-60 review
The Jaybird Vista are true wireless earbuds aimed at athletes. They’re the company’s second shot at truly wireless in-ears and the latest in a fairly long-line of sports headphones from Jaybird. And it shows, with a comfortable, secure fit and an accompanying set-up app that's a joy to use.
And they sound good, too, with only the best wireless earbuds (see the top of this page) offering a slither more detail and composure. They're sweat-proof, comfortable, secure and come with a range of features, ensuring they're a good bet for any budding runner.
Read the full Jaybird Vista review
If you can tolerate their slightly bulky, slightly dated look and design, then you'll be rewarded with a great-sounding pair of noise-cancelling earbuds that will work in the gym as well as they work on your commute.
There’s an impressive nine hours of battery from the earbuds, plus a less impressive nine hours from the charging case. They’re built up to IP55 standard, meaning they’re resistant to dust, sweat and water – up to a point, at least – and control is available via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, with the mic array ensuring your instructions are heard reliably.
The Sony WF-SP800N aren’t perfect – they can be coarse at the top end and their default bass response is perhaps too rich for its own good – but they can be finessed to deliver a really energetic, well-balanced and enjoyable sound.
Read the full Sony WF-SP800N review
A 2019 Award-winner, these AKGs are compact, convenient and surprisingly affordable considering what's on offer. They're a headband design, which doesn't make them the best running headphones, but they're a decent shout for the gym. The noise-cancelling is impressive and the AKG sound is dynamic and punchy.
Read the full AKG N60NC Wireless review
Anyone looking for an affordable pair of sports earbuds should look this way. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine hours from the buds, nine hours from the case – while their IPX4 water resistance rating provides protection against ‘water splashing’. They're light and secure in your ears, too.
The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. And although there’s meat behind their low end, it doesn't overshadow mid and high frequencies. It's actually complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. Some rivals boast greater detail and subtlety, but at this price, you could do a lot worse.
Read the full Sony WF-XB700 review
A cheaper version of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds? Sounds good, right? These more affordable Bose earbuds certainly get close to delivering on that promise but don't quite match the performance value of the flagship buds.
They feel a little cheaper, which is to be expected, but you still get a choice of three finishes and a selection of eartips. They're IP4 sweat and water resistant, battery life is a pretty average 5 hours, with a total of 15 hours thanks to the case. Connectivity doesn't seem quite as slick as the more expensive models but if you will only be connecting to one device – rather than, say, a phone and a laptop – that will make it easier.
In terms of audio quality, they deliver a balanced, full sound. The very best pairs at the top of this list deliver a little more detail and a little more subtlety, but these remain easy to listen to. Their musical, powerful balance is easy to get along with and they will work well for sporty types who don’t really want a bass-heavy sound.
Read the full Bose Sport Earbuds review
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