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Can’t Find Workout Headphones That Work for You? You’re Not Alone

The Powerbeats Pro and the Jaybird Vista are, in my opinion, the two best wireless earbuds for working out. (For right now at least.) But neither is perfect.

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Henry Phillips

People listen to music while they exercise, and why shouldn’t they? A recent study published in the journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise found that listening to music during sprint interval training (SIT) had “the potential to enhance feelings of pleasure, improve enjoyment, and elevate performance.”

But music means headphones, and not just any pair will do. You want one that’s sweat- and water-resistant. (AirPods, for example, aren’t and have a better chance of dying if subjected to, say, sweat.) And then there’s fit to consider; it’s hard to have a good workout when your earbuds keep falling out.

I’ve tested a lot of different pairs and settled on two: the Beats Powerbeats Pro ($200) and the Jaybird Vista ($180), both released in 2019.

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Henry Phillips

The Powerbeats Pro have the same H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods, making them extremely easy to pair with an iPhone. They normally cost $230 (but we’ve seen them on sale for $200).

The Powerbeats Pro — the obvious choice for anybody with an iPhone (they’re essentially sweatproof AirPods with Apple’s easy-pairing H1 chip) — have a unique ear hook design, which results in the most secure-fitting wireless earbud I’ve ever tested. The Jaybird Vistas, on the other hand, feel entirely different. They’re much smaller and have silicone ear tips that grip the inside of your ear.

Both pairs sound excellent, and together, they represent the best workout headphones money can buy. But let me be clear: they are flawed.

Let’s start with the Powerbeats Pro. On multiple occasions, I’ve gone to take them out only to find one of the earbuds wasn’t fully charged, meaning that the one earbud simply wasn’t placed back in the charging case correctly. This same issue has also been happening to one of my colleagues, who has a pair of Powerbeats Pro, as well as a community of Reddit users. One of them, GreenTeaRex007, sums it out correctly: “It’s an easy but frustrating fix. You have to make sure the charging port is perfectly connected with the buds.” This happens far too often to call user error; it’s bad design, plain and simple.

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Henry Phillips

The Jaybird Vista have an IPX7 rating, meaning they’re fully waterproof and sweatproof. They cost $180.

My issue with the Jaybird Vista isn’t as severe, but it’s still frustrating. On really hot days, when I sweat a lot, one of the earbuds will lose its grip and fall out of my ear. And once it’s out, there’s no going back in — which means I have to hold onto the lone earbud for the rest of my run or risk losing it if it’s in an unzippered pocket.

When it comes down to it, I find myself reaching more often for the Powerbeats Pro instead of the Jaybird Vista, simply because I like the way they fit. But $230 is a lot to stomach for a pair of wireless headphones that may or may not be properly charged before your next run. (Of course, you could pay an extra $29 for AppleCare+ for Headphones to cover any kind of accidental damage to the headphones for two years.)

To be fair, workout earbuds have covered a lot of ground recently — just a few years ago, I wrote about my preference for cheap wired earbuds, which I found qualitatively louder and more intuitive than their wireless brethren at the time. But make no mistake, the category of workout headphones, wired or wireless, still has a long way to go.

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