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The Best Wireless Running Headphones of 2018

July 30, 2018 Tech By Photo by Hunter Kelley

Last Updated July, 2018: We’ve added selections for best all-around wireless running, exercise, and workout headphones. This list includes new details and the entire list includes headphones that don’t easily fall out.

Table of Contents
Introduction

The Best Wireless Running Headphones (Neckbuds)

Editor’s Pick: Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless
Best For Hardcore Athletes: Jabra Sport Pulse and Sport Coach Special Edition
Best Overall: Bose SoundSport Wireless
Best Budget: Anker SoundBuds Slim Wireless
Best Fitting: Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless
Best Designed: Jaybird X3
Best Over-Ear: BTS Pro by 66 Audio

The Best Wireless Running Headphones (True Wireless)

Best Noise-Canceling: Sony WF-SP700N
Most Versatile: Jabra Elite Active 65t
Honorable Mention: Jaybird Run
Best Sound Quality: Bose SoundSport Free
Best Fitting: Samsung IconX

Introduction

Standard headphones, like the ones that come with your iPhone, work fine — they’re just not great for exercising. They aren’t sweat-proof, they have sensitive components (microphone, speaker, accelerometer) that are vulnerable to perspiration, and they’re prone to dying prematurely. The answer? Selecting the best wireless running headphones.

Sport headphones add a new dimension to your workout. They are light, have a comfortable and secure fit, and can handle the buckets of salty perspiration your dome dishes out. So whether you’re lifting weights, running or doing a total body workout, it’s time to swap out your basic buds for something better.

There are two primary types of wireless running headphones. You have neckbud earphones, which have a cord that connects the two earbuds. And you have true wireless earbuds, which are completely wire-free. In regards to your running experience, it doesn’t really matter which you get — it’s mostly about style. The latter of which tend to be more expensive. It should be noted that true wireless earbuds will tend to be more experience. Our below buying guide separates the two different categories.

How We Tested: We’ve tested and ran with all of the below wireless sport headphones. My runs range between four to six miles on average and take place either along NYC’s East River Path or the NJ suburbs where I grew up. I’m not a professional by any stretch — just a guy who’s been running consistently (three to five times per week) for the last 10+ years. And for me, running with music is vital. If you have any questions you can reach out to me a tbowe@gearpatrol.com.

The Best Wireless Running Headphones (Neckbuds)

Best for Hardcore Athletes:
Jabra Sport Pulse and Sport Coach Special Edition

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Who Should Buy These: The Jabra Sport Pulse SE is designed for endurance athletes doing VO2 max training. The Sport Coach SE is ideal for HIIT workouts. Both headphones will give you updates how you’re doing throughout the workout, updating you on distance, cadence or how close you are to reaching your workout goal. To get any of these features, in either headphone, you’ll need to use the Jabra Sports Life app.

Admittedly, both headphones pack a lot of features that might be overkill if you’re just running and not training for something specific. And the battery life isn’t great — expect less than five hours. However, the sound quality is comparatively very good and the price doesn’t come near the $200 mark of the Powerbeats3 Wireless.

Overview: Jabra has pushed the envelope for running headphones. In 2014, it launched the Jabra Sport Pulse, its first pair of wireless sport headphones with a built-in heart-rate monitor; in fall 2016, we got the updated Jabra Sport Pulse ($160) and the Sport Coach Special Edition ($120). The former, and more expensive of the two, features a heart-rate monitor and continuous VO2 Max testing, a measure of the rate at which you consume oxygen during a workout. The more affordable Jabra Sport Coach SE doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, but it does have a TrackFit motion sensor that automatically counts activities like push-ups and sit-ups.

Fit: Despite the differing appearances, both headphones have the same exact fit. Each pair comes with a variety of silicone earbud cushions and earwings in various sizes, so you can mix and max to get the right fit. For me, the fit was hit or miss — on some runs they would stay put and on other runs they felt loose. It’s obviously a matter of getting the right combination for your ears, but they didn’t hold as steady for me as others on here.

Sound Quality: Sound quality — which Jabra hasn’t been particularly known for — was strong on both headphones. The bass wasn’t super heavy. In terms of loudness, it was on par with the Bose SoundSport Wireless. It’s solid.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “We’re highly impressed with the Jabra Sport Pulse, both from the perspective of accurate and useable heart rate tracking and the breadth and variety of workouts. It’s one of the best heart rate monitors we’ve tried, with a rich array of clever metrics to boot.” — Wareable
• “If you’d rather your fitness wearable live in your ear than on your wrist, the Sport Pulse SE are the premiere choice.” — Digital Trends

Key Specs
Jabra Sport Pulse SE
Driver: 6mm dynamic
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
Water Resistance: IP55
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 5 hours

Jabra Sport Coach SE
Driver: 6mm dynamic
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
Water Resistance: IP55
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 5.5 hours

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Editor’s Pick: Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless

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Who Should Buy These: If you own an iPhone and are willing to spend $200, which is expensive, this is a great pair of running headphones. I absolutely love running in these headphones. The fit was great and the volume was as good as could be expected. If you like the fit, but don’t care about the extended battery life or the easy pairing (i.e., if you own an Android), the Powerbeats2 wireless sport headphones ($55+) are also great and cost significantly less.

Overview: The next generation of the Beats’ acclaimed Powerbeats2 wireless sport headphones comes with several distinct improvements Most importantly, the Powerbeats3 is equipped with Apple’s W1 chip for fast and seamless pairing if you have an iPhone; if you like how easily the AirPods pair with your iPhone, these do the same thing. The second key upgrade is battery life; the Powerbeats3 has a 12-hour battery, which is exactly double what the Powerbeats2 offered.

Fit: I’m not normally a fan of earbuds with hooks that wrap around the outside of my ear; it creates a pressure point that makes the headphones uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. With the Powerbeats3, however, that wasn’t the case. The hooks didn’t rest on my ears at all. They only touched my ears when I was leaning forward, hands on my knees, because I was out of breath. The hooks also didn’t cause the earbuds to flop around during the run, which is what normally happens. Overall, the fit was excellent. I could wear these headphones for hours.

Sound Quality: I like my headphones really loud when running, so, in terms of volume, the sound was on par with Jabra’s Sport Pulse Special Edition or Jabra’s X3. It was bass heavy, but I didn’t have a problem with that.

Warning: The Powerbeats3 Wireless are some of my favorite running headphones, however, you should know that there have been wide-reported issues with the headphones. In fact, there is a lawsuit pending regarding the advertised battery life and sweat-resistance of the Powerbeats3 Wireless, which you can read about, here. I did not encounter any such issues in my testing.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “You’re paying a little too much for the Beats brand and getting a little too much of that Beats sound, but these are fantastic workout headphones—and great for everything else, too.” — Wired
• “Solidly built and with a great battery life, the PowerBeats 3 get a lot of things right – but at this price point they need to do a little more than this to make them a worthwhile purchase.” — TechRadar

Key Specs
Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless
Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth Class 1
Water Resistance: N/A
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 12 hours

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Best Overall: Bose SoundSport Wireless

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Who Should Buy These: The Bose SoundSport Wireless are solid running headphones. They’re easy to use and there’s no fitness app to haggle with. And they don’t favor iPhone or Android, like the Powerbeats with the M1 chip. They’re also in the same $150-ish ballpark as other quality sport headphones. Ultimately, they’re solid, but don’t distinguish themselves from the pack; you’re going to buy them if you like the look and/or you are loyal to Bose.

Overview: This is a wireless version of Bose’s original SoundSport headphones ($100). It’s also nearly identical to Bose’s SoundSport Pulse ($200), just without the heart-rate tracking. The extent of your Bose loyalty and the way you want to use your headphones should dictate which Bose sport headphones you buy.

Fit: Like most sport headphones, the Bose SoundSport Wireless comes with a bunch of earwing options to ensure a quality fit. I had no problems with them falling out mid-run. However, and there’s no getting around it, these headphones look and feel bulkier than other sport headphones. Comfortable, yes. But they look slightly ridiculous in a non-workout setting.

Sound Quality: As expected, it’s bass heavy. Not overly so, but still bass heavy. As far as my need for loudness — these headphones were fine. They weren’t as loud as the Powerbeats3 Wireless, but they were on par with the offerings from Jabra and Jaybird.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The Bose SoundSport Wireless is the most comfortable, best overall in-ear Bluetooth sports headphone you can buy right now.” – CNET
• “They are comfortable, sound great, are easy to use and don’t cost more than their high-quality rivals.” – What Hi-Fi?

Key Specs
Bose SoundSport Wireless
Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Water Resistance: N/A
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 6 hours

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Best Budget: Anker SoundBuds Slim Wireless

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Who Should Buy These: If you’re a casual runner, and most earbuds stay in your ears (for me, most do not), this is a solid pair of no-frills sport headphones at an affordable price. The battery life is decent, lasting between 5-7 hours depending on the music volume. It has a built-in mic to answer calls, too. You’re not going to find deal on sport headphones out there.

Overview: Best known for its line of USB accessories, such as power banks, wall chargers and charging cords, Anker also makes a variety of in-ear headphones. And frankly, its SoundBuds Slim Wireless — new to 2017 — are the best sport headphones you can buy under $50. The combination of price and performance makes them an easy quick purchase on Amazon. That said, don’t expect them to sound better than the higher-end offerings here.

Fit: The fit on these wasn’t the best for me. The pair I tested came with varying sizes of silicone earwings and earbuds, but even when I thought I got the right combination, the right earbud would pop out of my ear every few minutes. If anything, they stayed in my ears better the longer I ran. Maybe it had something to do with the sweat. The earwings themselves were also a bit more cumbersome compared to the earwings on the Jabra Sport Pulse.

Sound Quality: Sound quality is this pair’s weakness. High volumes tend to break up the treble and vocals more than on other pairs. However, these headphones were loud, which is a necessary evil for me when running.

Note: The SoundBuds Slim Wireless is still our favorite budget option for wireless running headphones, however, the company has since released the Soundcore Spirit Sports earphones ($40), which are a little more expensive and offer a little more sweat protection.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The SoundBuds Slim Bluetooth earphones are hard to beat for the price, especially if you’re not a stickler for sound quality.” — CNET
• “Unless you’re an audiophile, or like the way another pair of headphones looks, there’s no reason to pay around $150 for a pair of wireless earbuds, when the Anker SoundBuds Slim exist and cost under $30.” — Android News

Key Specs
Anker SoundBuds Slim Wireless
Driver: 6mm driver
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Water Resistance: IPX4
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 7 hours

Best Fitting (Most Comfortable): Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

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Who Should Buy These: Get these if you can’t for the life of you get a pair of in-ear sport headphones to fit in your ears. They aren’t the most beautiful headphones — in fact, once they’re molded, I’d say they look a little gross. And at $120, they are fairly expensive for a sports headphone with no special fitness features. But if fit is #1 on your list of priorities, this is the pair you want.

Overview: The big differentiator with Decibullz is fit. Instead of traditional silicone ear cushions, these come with custom molds. The process to get them to fit your ears is a little bit of a science experiment (hot water is involved), but the resulting fit is unique to you. Additionally, these headphones have a built-in mic and can stream aptX audio. Decibullz also makes more affordable wired in-ear custom headphones.

Fit: They never fell out of my ears and they were surprisingly comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

Sound Quality: The custom molds help with passive noise cancellation. The sound wasn’t bass heavy; overall it was fine. However, they didn’t get as loud as the others.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless Bluetooth Earphones are easy to custom-fit to your ears and offer great sound, decent battery life, and shouldn’t fall out while you’re exercising.” — Techaeris

Key Specs
Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless
Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Water Resistance: N/A
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 5 hours

Best Designed: Jaybird X3

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Who Should Buy These: Runners with a budget around $120 really have three choices: Jaybird X3, Decibullz, and the Jabra Sport Coach SE. The Jaybird X3 is more geared toward the audiophile athlete; you can fine-tune its audio best. I’d also argue that the X3 are the best designed and most stylish of the three.

Overview: The X3 is the next generation of Jaybird’s highly lauded X2 wireless sport headphones, featuring enhanced drivers and a slimmer overall design. Jaybird claims it’s perfect for fitting under helmets, in case you want to take them skiing or biking. The battery life (8 hours) is better and the redesigned, “flatter” attenna in the mic gives the X3 a longer Bluetooth range than the traditional 30+ feet. The X3 works with the MySound app, enabling you to adjust EQ levels. Its Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity also lets you pair the headphones with two different devices simultaneously.

Fit: The fit is good, with big earwigs that look and feel similar to Anker’s SoundBuds Slim. I also like that the cable had built-in cable-shortening clips so the wire didn’t need to rest on the back of my neck.

Sound Quality: The audio quality is arguably the best on this list. Out of the box, the audio wasn’t bass heavy and I could play around with the EQ in Jaybird’s MySound app. The volume level was also amongst the loudest on this list.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The Jaybird X3 are an excellent pair of wireless in-ears for everyday use and workouts alike, with some forgivable shortcomings given their impressive affordability.” — TechRadar
• “The X3s got a brand new makeover, and it looks great. The cheap plastic of the X2s is replaced with more cheap plastic, but this one just looks and feels way better.” — Sound Guys

Key Specs
Jaybird X3
Driver: 5.8mm drivers
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Water Resistance: N/A
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 8 hours

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Best Over-Ear: BTS Pro by 66 Audio

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Who Should Buy These: If you’re absolutely devoted to on-ear or over-ear headphones, the BTS Pro is for you. They’re a little bulky and weren’t as comfortable to run in for me, but the impressive sound, battery life (40+ hours) and Bluetooth range (100 feet) make them a solid pair to work out with. Another nice feature: the Motion Control app will help you locate the headphones if you’ve misplaced them.

Overview: The BTS Pro is an advanced (and more expensive) iteration of 66 Audio’s maiden sport headphones, the BTS Sport. Both are on-ear sport headphones, but, compared the BTS Sport, the BTS Pro boasts improved battery, audio and Bluetooth range, and the overall design is sleeker. These headphones have a companion app that lets you adjust EQ, among other things.

Fit: The taut plastic frame hugged my head and rested securely on the tops of my ears. They were comfortable enough, but by the end of my 30–45 minute runs, the tops of my ears were sore from the constant pressure. And on-ear headphones trap heat, so my ears tended to run extra sweaty. I can say, however, that they fit tight and never felt like they were coming off.

Sound Quality: The sound was excellent: clear highs and lows, even at high volumes. With the Motion Control app (available on Apple Watch, too), I could easily adjust the audio settings as well. However, the volume didn’t blow me away like I hoped.

Other Recommended Reviews:
•”The best part about such a large design is you get excellent battery life (40 hours) and signal strength so your music doesn’t cut out, plus our tester found it far easier to change volume and tracks thanks to big buttons.” — Runner’s World
• “With a comfortable fit, good sound, and impressive range, I was pleased with the BTS Pro. Call quality could be better, but if you mostly use your headphones for listening to music, that may not matter so much.” — Macworld

Key Specs
BTS Pro by 66 Audio
Driver: 36mm high-density drivers
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Water Resistance: N/A
Charge: USB Type-C
Battery Life: 40 hours

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The Best Wireless Running Headphones (True Wireless Earbuds)

Best Noise-Canceling: Sony WF-SP700N

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Who Should Buy These: These are one of the only true wireless earbuds that have active noise-canceling. It’s not great, but it does help for commutes and in office environments.

Overview: The Sony WF-SP700Ns ($178) are the follow-up to the company’s first true wireless earphones, the Sony WF-1000X. They have a more sports-focused design and completely redesigned charging case. Also, these are active noise-canceling earphones, which makes them truly unique among other true wireless earphones.

Fit: These fit me really well. They have a unique design that makes the earbuds float on the outside of your ears, but not as drastically as Bose’s SoundSport Free. The also come with several different silicon eartip and earwing options, so you should have no trouble getting the right fit.

Sound Quality: The sound quality is good and pretty even. For me, the best thing about the WF-SP700Ns was they are one of the loudest true wireless earbuds. There’s also a companion app allows that lets you play around with the EQ settings.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The WF-SP700N are totally decent (and extremely comfortable) fully wireless in-ears, but they simply can’t compete with similarly priced competitors in terms of battery life, and their biggest outstanding feature – noise canceling – just isn’t worth the effort.” — Parker Hall, Digital Trends

• “Sony’s WF-SP700N are a middling pair of true wireless headphones. They’re lacking in clarity and in noise-cancellation prowess, but at least they’re comfortable to wear for extended periods and don’t fall out easily. While these are a decent sophomore attempt, you might be better waiting to see what Sony has planned for year three.” — Nick Pino, TechRadar

Key Specs

Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Water Resistance: IPX4
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 3 hours (depends on NC and ambient modes)

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Most Versatile: Jabra Elite Active 65t


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Who Should Buy These: The Jabra Elite Active 65t combines excellent sound and integrated mics (so it’s great for taking calls), with wireless earbuds that are also ideal for working out. They also look professional. If you’re going to wear true wireless earbuds for both work and working out, these are great ones to consider.

Overview: The Jabra Elite Active 65t ($190) are the next evolution of the company’s other truly wireless earbuds, the Jabra Elite 65t. The two are very similar, but the Jabra Elite Active 65t have a grippier outer layer, are slightly more sweatproof, and they an integrated motion sensor (aka accelerometer) that adds more tracking features. Essentially, the Jabra Elite Active 65t are more sports-focused (and more expensive) versions of their predecessors.

Fit: The fit is tight and they don’t come with adjustable silicone ear-wings (which are different from silicone ear tips), so some people might find them uncomfortable to wear for long listening sessions.

Sound Quality: Only the Bose Soundsport Free come close to these in terms of sound quality. You can expect an accurate, neutral sound.

Other Recommended Reviews:

• “One area where the Jabras stand head and shoulders above the Bose and the Sony buds is in on-ear controls: it has very nice push-button controls for things like pause, fast forward, rewind and Siri/Google assistant activation. Bose has more limited controls that are woefully difficult to use; Sony has limited controls (no volume or Google Assistant) that can be a little difficult to use..” — John Davidson, The Australian Financial Review

• “Where many fully wireless headsets settle for mediocre fidelity, the Elite Active 65t actually sound quite good — akin to a set of wired headphones that cost about half the price. Nothing has changed between the Elite Active and original model, both of which showcase the deep and punchy bass and shimmery treble we already enjoyed earlier this year.” — Parker Hall, Digital Trends

Key Specs

Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Water Resistance: IP56
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 5-hour per earbud, 10 hours from the charging case

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Honorable Mention: Jaybird Run

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Who Should Buy These: These true wireless earbuds are a safe, neutral option. They work seamlessly with both iOS and Android devices. They’re very good (almost great) in terms of fit, audio quality, features, battery life and durability. And they’re the most polished looking, especially in white, of any true wireless earbuds you can buy. $180 isn’t cheap, however.

Overview: These are very similar to Jaybird’s ultra-popular X3 in-ear wireless headphones (also featured on this list), except the Jaybird Run headphones are true wireless — no cords.

Fit: For me, these were right behind the Samsung IconX (2nd-Gen) in terms of fit, but with their more prominent earwing they might fit people even better. They come with a number of silicon ear tips and earwings, so you can really get them to fit securely, no matter your ear size. Battery life is above average at roughly four hours per earbud.

Sound Quality: The overall sound quality is good. They get pretty loud, which is imperative for me when working out. And they work with a companion app that allows you to adjust the audio’s EQ.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The Jaybird Run sound great, are weather resistant and packed full of functionality. That they provide all of this at a reasonable price makes them an excellent choice.” — Séamus Bellamy, MacWorld

• “When it comes down to it I was simultaneously impressed and unimpressed with the Jaybird Run. The build quality and discreet charging case definitely caught my attention, but it lines up with what I’d expect from a product that costs $179. Plus the quick charging feature is super useful and because the entire package is so small, keeping them in my pocket while walking to the gym was enough to charge them up enough for a full workout. The sound quality was also better than most truly wireless ‘buds I’ve tested purely because of how much the app lets you customize the sound.” — Adam Molina, Sound Guys

Key Specs

Driver: two 6mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Water Resistance: Yes (no official IPX rating)
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: 4 hours per earbud, 8+ hours with charging case

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Best Sound Quality: Bose SoundSport Free

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Who Should Buy These: If you like the fit and sound quality of Bose’s other in-ear headphones, these will be great for you.

Overview: These are Bose’s first-ever truly wireless earbuds. They have no fitness frills (no built-in GPS or heart-rate tracker), nor do they have the active noise-cancelling tech of Bose’s QC30 headphones, but they are sweat resistant and sound pretty great. And their price has been recently reduced to $200, down from $250.

Fit: They use Bose’s proprietary StayHear+ Sport tips, so if any of Bose’s other in-ear headphones fit your ears well, then these will too. These are by far the bulkiest true wireless earbuds that I’ve tested, and they do stick out of your ears, which might feel awkward to some.

Sound Quality: The SoundSport Free’s enclosed fit creates a passive noise-canceling effect, and the soundstage sounds huge compared to most other true wireless earbuds. The bass, too, is super impressive.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “If you love amazing sound quality, comfort, and convenience, the Bose SoundSport Free are worth a look. I finally understand why people can be convinced to pay so much for these things.” — Adrienne So, Wired

• “Although Bose’s SoundSport Free may not be perfect, thanks to some software upgrades and a price drop, it’s become one of the best — and best sounding — totally wireless earphones.” — David Carnoy, CNET

Key Specs

Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Water Resistance: IPX4
Charge: micro-USB
Battery Life: roughly 5 hours per earbud

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Best Fit: Samsung IconX (2nd-Gen)

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Who Should Buy These: If you have a Samsung smartphone, buying these earbuds will be an easy decision for you. But even if you don’t have a Samsung smartphone, these are very good earbuds primarily because they fit so damn well. Plus, you don’t have to use Bixby. Most people don’t anyway.

Overview: These are Samsung’s second-generation IconX earbuds. They have a better battery life (thanks to no heart rate sensor), fast charging capability, Bixby integration and can even track your runs without needing your smartphone nearby. They also have a redesigned charging case that’s less-elongated, slightly bigger and charges via USB Type-C.

Fit: The IconX earbuds stayed in my ears better than any other pair I tested. Better than AirPods. Better than Bose’s earbuds. Better than Anker’s new affordable ones. Better than pretty much all of them.

Sound Quality: Sound quality is good and reliable, but won’t blow you away. They get louder than most other truly wireless pairs of earbuds, which is big “plus” for me.

Other Recommended Reviews:
• “The buds don’t track heart rate like last year’s model, but they will give you a rough (very rough) approximation of the distance you traveled and steps you took during a workout. Samsung’s Bixby woman-like voice talks to you while you run, encouraging you to speed up and updating you on your distance. To get a better idea of your workout in progress, I recommend bringing along a phone or Gear Sport watch.” — Jeffrey Van Camp, Wired

• “The new IconX are good enough to encourage such heavy use in a way that the original pair never did. They may not have the kind of magic touches of something like AirPods’ instant and effortless pairing, or the rich sound of the Bose SoundSport Free, and Samsung isn’t throwing in everything but the kitchen sink like Bragi does with the Dash. Instead, Samsung’s found a sweet spot between all three, and that idea sounds really good.” — Sean O’Kane, The Verge

Key Specs
Driver: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Water Resistance: IPX2 (Sweat resistant)
Charge: USB Type-C
Battery Life: roughly 5 hours per earbud

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