You may not have considered on-ear headphones for working out in.
Many of us will slip in earphones believing that they’re the best to exercise with.
For many of us, that may be true.
For some people, however, earphones aren’t at all suitable for the gym: they can be uncomfortable, ill-fitting, and can often require regular re-adjustment during intense movements. Earphones have many benefits, sure, but on-ear headphones do, too.
On-ear headphones have smaller cups than over-ear headphones; they ‘sit’ on the ear rather than cover it completely. You might also hear them called supra-aural headphones.
There are a number of reasons why you might consider on-ear headphones for working out. They occupy the middle-ground between earphones and over-ear headphones sharing a number of the benefits with both.
They’re portable: you can easily carry these to the gym. They’re lightweight and won’t take up much room in a bag. They’re robust enough to be used regularly.
There are plenty of open-backed headphones in the on-ear range, too. If you enjoy exercising outside and in the hours of darkness, then an open-back will be safer. Headphones and earbuds can hide sounds in our immediate environment and that can be dangerous in certain conditions where noise might be an indicator of potential danger. An open-back allows noise to pass through.
There’s a really wide range of brands and models available in on-ear hardware, too. You can go high spec or budget and almost anything in between. This gives you options and the chance to pick the headphone that will best complement your workout routine.
As on-ears sit directly on the ear (no shit…), they’re particularly vulnerable to sweat damage but luckily, you can easily add sweat-proof covers to on-ear headphones. This means you don’t have to opt for a sports headphone as almost any on-ear headphone can be made gym-ready with EarHugz.
There are a few limitations to on-ear headphones:
They’re not as comfortable as over-ear headphones as they press onto the ear.
On-ears don’t clamp onto the ear as a big headphone does so there’s always going to be a degree of sound leakage. This means other people around you may well hear you listening and lifting to Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits.
Similarly, your on-ears won’t be as good at sound isolating as earphones or over-ear cans. A good thing - yes - if you’re exercising outside but hella annoying if you’re working out in a gym with a loud sound system. Earlier in the year, the World Health Organisation announced it was adding headphone noise to its list of dangers to human health. On-ear headphones could encourage you to turn up the volume to compensate for poor sound insulation resulting in long-term hearing loss.
Best On-Ear Headphones for Working Out
Weighing in at 155g, these are lightweight on the head.
Their sweat-resistant nano-coating makes them not only ideal for exercising in general - sweat kills headphones, remember - but even better if you’re likely to workout outside in poor weather.
The on-ear controls will let you control your playlists and volume mid-workout without interruption.
You’ll get around 18 hours of battery from a single charge (at this price point, that’s a pretty good deal).
The range of these is pretty good, too, and you’re looking at comfortably hitting 10 meters from your device.
Multi-point Bluetooth pairing allows you to pair these headphones to more than one device at once.
A couple of minor drawbacks: the earcups don’t fold down and that’s frustrating if you expect portability in gym headphones.
Mixed reviews on comfort mean that these might not be so great for long workout sessions.
These headphones aren’t just sweat-proof they’re waterproof. If you’re an outdoor runner in a climate with a lot of rain, then these will be ideal.
The colour scheme won’t be to everyone’s tastes but the reflective yellow will ensure you’re seen at night.
There’s a touch-sensitive control panel on the headband above the right-ear cup which allows you to adjust volume, play, pause and skip over tracks.
Their very lightweight.
The earcups pivot and collapse down for easy storage.
The battery has 24-hours worth of playback and a full charge is around 2 hours. There’s a 3.5mm audio cable included for when the battery dies.
Voice-activated calling for when you need to be hands-free.
There are mixed reviews on sound quality. As a gym headphone, it’s probably fine but these were designed to be robust, durable and water-proof so something had to give.
Recently we wrote a post about Beats workout headphones and we included the Beats Solo3.
Up to 40-hours battery life and with the additional fast-fuel function a 5-minute charge will give you 3-hours of playback.
A mic in the earcup lets you take calls. Press down the left one and you can talk to Siri. You can control your music from here, too.
There’s no active noise-cancelling technology although, there’s enough padding to make sure that some ambient sounds are blocked.
Some people have said it’s a bit of a tight fit. There’s a ‘clamping’ effect on all headphones, and it can become uncomfortable after a while especially if you’re using on-ear.
You might remember that we wrote about the release of the Rock’s gym headphone earlier in the year.
You can flip the earcups and they fold down to practically nothing
With the Rock’s trademark Brahma Bull centred on each cup, these headphones are perfectly pitched at the bodybuilding and strength market.
The breathable air cushions are easy-to-remove and clean and are spray and splash resistant for up to 5-minutes and they’re sweat-resistant, too, which is one of the biggest selling points.
If you have a training partner, you can use the TalkThru function to quickly lower the volume of music as you converse or trash talk.
Noise-cancelling microphones amplify your voice inside your headphones, too, so that you don’t have to take your cans off to hear or be heard.
There’s a sixteen-hour battery life with a speed charge function that gives an extra hour of playback from a five-minute charge.
Under Armour worked with JBL who used 40mm drivers with an emphasis firmly on big bass that handles well at high volumes.
One small point: a number of reviews on the Under Armor website say that the cups are on the small side.
These are perfectly portable: the ear cups flip inside and they fold down into a very small package that’s easy to slip into a gym bag.
A female assistant guides you through the set-up of these cans. She’ll also offer an update on battery life and - handily - give caller ID when someone rings you.
Battery life is around 15 hours and a fifteen-minute charge gives around 2-hours of playback.
Bose’s multipoint connectivity lets you connect via Bluetooth to two devices.
Dual microphone reduces ambient noise whilst amplifying the other person’s voice. This could be very useful if you’re exercising in a busy environment or noisy gym.
There are plenty of on-ear headphones to pick from. We’re biased but we believe that it’s best to choose on-ears that suit you and THEN make them gym-ready.
Sports headphones have come a long way but they still fall short of many people’s expectations.
Adding sweat-proof covers will make almost all headphones suitable for working out in including over-ears such as Bose QuietComfort 35 II and one of our favourites Sony WH 1000MX3 Wireless. EarHugz sweat-proof headphone covers come in an awesome range and all are reversible to black.