I used to love my Apple AirPods.
I used to recommend the Apple AirPods to everyone I met. I thought they were convenient, compact, and intuitive. I loved how quickly they charged, how they fit in every bag and pocket, how they stayed in my ears during bouncy trail runs and even HIIT workouts, and how easily they connected to my phone. I really loved the sound quality and how they blocked outside noise but not too much so it would be dangerous to wear them on the bike. But over the years, and after my third pair finally bit the dust, I decided to stop wasting money on them or recommending them to people. Because, frankly, they actually suck.
Dust and debris in the charging port eventually prevented them from charging, the battery life is only about three hours, sometimes only one headphone would charge and the other would sit in the pod fully dead refusing to connect, and the longer I had each pair, the longer it would take for them to connect to my phone. I would stand on the sidewalk stalling my run or ride just to wait for the Bluetooth connection to get its shit together. For their steep price ($159), the quality should be better. I could’ve purchased a better pair for the money I spent on three pairs of AirPods.
So, the other day at work as I was trying to charge my AirPods (which actually has only one working pod at the moment), I gave up, threw them in my bag, and started searching for a cheaper pair of Bluetooth headphones online. I’ve heard great things about Jaybird, Aftershokz, and Bose sport headphones, but I’m currently on a shoestring budget, so dropping more than $100 on headphones wasn’t going to happen.
One of the first searches that came back was the JBL Endurance RUNBT wireless Bluetooth headphones. They are priced at $19.95 and JBL’s website offers FREE 2nd day air shipping which is honestly unheard of for pretty much anything on the internet under $100 and not on Amazon Prime.
They’re advertised as sweatproof and to have up to a 6-hour battery life. They allow for hands-free calling and communication with Google Now and Siri. There are also two ways to wear them whether you prefer a traditional headphone fit or an over-the-ear style; it’s called Fliphook™.
All of that sounded great, and even if the price point was too good to be true, it still felt worth a try. I ordered them and they were delivered within a couple days.
Last night was the first time I tried them out during a 45-minute run and 10-minute HIIT workout, and here’s what I think so far…
Sweatproof: not totally. I made it through my 45-minute treadmill run/walk without them falling out, no problem. I was sweating but not completely drenched. Then when I got to my higher-intensity workout where I really started sweating, the left headphone slowly worked its way out of my ear a couple times. Eventually, I took it out and tucked it in my bra strap so I didn’t have to keep stopping. The fix? The headphones come with two additional sizes of in-ear suction cuppy things so you can adjust based on your ear size. I think I’ll go up a size when I try them out again.
Sound quality: pretty great! I especially love that they are more noise-cancelling than the AirPods. When I used them at the office before heading to the gym, they did such a great job blocking out conversations, the office radio, and even my fingers typing on my keyboard. I was able to concentrate much better than I could with the AirPods. Now that I know that, I am not sure I’ll be wearing them on the bike. Too much noise cancelling is definitely dangerous.
While the sound quality is great, I noticed a lot of reverb-type sound while I was walking and running—basically any movement made my ears feel like I had the front windows open inn my car on the highway and the wind was getting stuck in the back making that whomp whomp whomp sound. You know what I mean? Anyway, that was surprising because these are MADE for running. I got used to it after awhile, but it’s very noticeable, especially while I went on a walk this afternoon at lunch.
Ummm what’s next? The wire. I really loved that the AirPods didn’t have a wire. I wrapped it around the back of my neck, and it didn’t bother me while I was running, but when I got to my HIIT workout, it got a little annoying, falling to one side and tugging on one of my earphones.
Connectivity: insanely easy. I was able to charge them out of the package in 15 minutes and pair them to my phone within seconds. AirPods were the same way since they’re in the same family as my iPhone, so that was great. And that thing should be standard these days with how far tech like this has come. That’s also why I think there shouldn’t be slow internet like anywhere anymore but there’s always one café or something that has shitty wifi.
Overall: I like these for now, but I’m going to keep looking. I think they get the job done and they’re especially nice at work when I need to drown out more noise to write, but I’m not sure they’re great for the long term, especially in the summer when I sweat like crazy on trail runs and hikes.
JBL Endurance RUNBT: 6.8/10
Do you have a favorite pair of headphones for working, working out, running, or riding that don’t cost an arm and a leg? Share them!