Headphones that are music to fitness buffs' ears

ST reporter Lisabel Ting trying out sports headphones by running and doing cartwheels. Sports headphones and earphones differ from regular ones as they are 
usually designed to cope with vigorous movements while maintaining a secure fit.
ST reporter Lisabel Ting trying out sports headphones by running and doing cartwheels. Sports headphones and earphones differ from regular ones as they are usually designed to cope with vigorous movements while maintaining a secure fit. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Sports audio accessories that are durable and give a secure fit despite vigorous movements are becoming popular

For some fitness enthusiasts, getting pumped up with the right mix of music while working out could mean an extra mile on the trail, or pushing through that last set in the gym.

Sports headphones and earphones, which can give that extra kick, have become more popular over the last few years.

Co-founder of online audio retailer Headphones SG Lynn Zhang said sales of this genre of headphones and earphones, which are designed for the rigours of sports, are "most definitely" on the rise.

 
 
 
 
 

"While this was a virtually non-existent category three years ago, sports headphones now make up about 30 per cent of all the headphones we sell," she said.

"As they are built to be more durable, we also get fewer returns for them as compared with non-sport ones," she added.

  • Methodology

  • For these reviews, I came up with a fitness routine to test the earphones for fit, and to gauge how securely they stay in the ear during exercise.

    To make the testing as thorough as possible, I incorporated a series of exercises.

    The routine included basic exercises like running and cycling, and those with explosive movements such as burpees and sit-ups, which are common in many workouts.

    The music I listened to comprised mostly high-tempo dubstep and techno tracks, which were heavy on the bass.

    THE ROUTINE

    • 1.5km treadmill run (the bread and butter of many users of sports earphones)

    • 2km cycle on stationary bike (for side-to-side head movement)

    • 15 burpee push-ups (for explosive full-body movement)

    • 20 inclined twisting sit-ups (for rotational movement)

    • 10 cartwheels, five on each side (for full-body inversion)

    The whole routine took between 20 and 30 minutes to complete.

    Lisabel Ting

While global statistics on the popularity of sports headphones are hard to come by, it is telling that established audio manufacturers such as Sennheiser and Bose have muscled in on the trend by developing their own sports ranges.

Recent years have also seen the rise of smaller specialised companies, such as California-based Jaybird, that focus solely on making earphones for athletes.

Sports headphones and earphones differ from regular ones as they are usually designed to cope with vigorous movements while maintaining a secure fit.

Some sets do this with over-ear hooks, while others have uniquely-shaped earbuds, or rubber fins that fit snugly into the crook of the ear.

Ms Zhang added that "they are usually wireless to facilitate movement either in the gym or outdoors", and that they may include additional fitness-related features like heart rate monitoring and voice coaching.

Mr Lionel Phua, customer relations executive at online audio retailer Treoo, said that sports audio accessories also tend to be made of specialised materials, such as "rubberised coatings over lightweight plastics or special hypoallergenic rubber compounds".

They are marketed as being resistant to water, impact and dust.

He also noted that "most sports headphones tend to have a sound signature that is bass heavy, to help keep the consumer going as they are working out".

He said that at Treoo, close to 20 per cent of all headphones sold now are sports headphones.

For many fitness buffs, convenience, fit and durability are some of the factors that come into play when deciding if they should spring for a pair of sports headphones.

Project manager Kevin Choo, 31, owns a pair of Jabra Sport Wireless+ earphones, citing the wire-free nature of the unit as its biggest plus point.

"I used to run with regular earphones and nearly pulled my iPhone off the treadmill numerous times because the wires got tangled," he said.

Others appreciate the secure fit of sports audio accessories, which keeps them firmly in place from the start to the end of a workout session.

Influencer relations director Jasmine Ee, 42, said: "If you are a runner, it is especially important that your headphone is sweat-proof and doesn't slip off easily when you're running."

She uses Yurbuds sports earphones that are placed into the ear and rotated to stay in place.

"I really like the earbuds as they are very comfortable and provide a secure fit.

"They don't come off easily while you're running," she said.

Sports headphones and earphones also tend to be a lot more durable than regular ones, and can stand up to the rigours of exercise.

Many claim to be resistant to elements such as water and dust.

Mr Charles Oh, 30, uses a pair of Jaybird X2 Wireless Buds when he works out.

The supervisor in the food and beverage industry said: "I like being able to rinse the whole thing under the tap when I'm done with my workout, without having to worry that it may get damaged."

Dr Jimmy Wong, a marketing lecturer at SIM University, said that music can be a "great motivator" for fitness buffs. He added that runners can use the tempo of the music to pace themselves.

However, he cautioned: "Blasting music on your earpiece while running on the road may be dangerous as you may be less aware of the surroundings.

"If you are not careful, you may knock into other road users and may be more prone to accidents."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Headphones that are music to fitness buffs' ears'. Print Edition | Subscribe