Under Armour Headphones Wireless review
Another partnership, and another piece in Under Armour's connected fitness ecosystem.
The benefits of wireless headphones are pretty clear for daily listening needs, but not having cords get in your way is basically a requirement when you're exercising. While wired headphones may be a simple annoyance when you're walking down the street, they could really hinder your ability to run, bike, hit the gym or engage in other sporting activities. And even though Bluetooth doesn't offer the same sound quality as a wire, it's a worthwhile trade-off in this situation.
Alongside the release of the HealthBox, Under Armour also announced a partnership with JBL to bring its audio expertise to the table in further connected fitness products. The new Under Armour Headphones Wireless are one of two products to come out of this new partnership. A light, comfortable and fitness-focused set of headphones seems to be a great companion to Under Armour's new connected fitness products — we're going to see how it works out in our full review.
It's a wireless world
UA Headphones Wireless Design and build
When you unbox the headphones and hold them in your hand, you'll immediately notice just how huge the earbuds actually are compared to your average pair. But once you notice that all of the electronics — aside from the cord-mounted buttons — are contained just in the two earbuds, it makes a bit more sense. Everything about the UA Headphones Wireless' design was done with exercise and activity in mind, and that means you can't have a bunch of extra stuff hanging off of your neck when you're running or moving around quickly. Even the cord connecting the two earbuds is quite short at 18 inches.
The earbuds are huge, but they're light and fit snugly
The earbuds are a tad awkward to put in your ear, and that's due to both the size and shape of them. Under Armour has made a big deal about the "TwistLock" design of the UA Headphones Wireless, in that they're designed in such a way that you're supposed to place them in your ear, then turn them forward to "lock" in place in your ear. When you look at the hook-like shape of the earbud tips it makes sense, since you're really getting that curved portion solidly lodged into your ear. Once you have them comfortably placed in your ears they stay put despite what you'd expect from their size.
I didn't feel like the UA Headphones Wireless were particularly more snug in the ear than any other ergonomically-designed earbuds, but they definitely stay in place while exercising, as advertised. What really makes a difference in keeping the large earbuds in your ears is not having a bunch of weight in the cord like typical "neckbud" designs.
The one piece of extra equipment on the cord is the in-line three-button remote, which is accompanied by a pinhole mic on the backside. The buttons are distinct and clicky, making them easy to hit even while running. The short length of the cord between the earbuds can potentially cause some problems with the mic placement, as the in-line controls are basically right under your ear and pretty close to your neck. Of course, you probably shouldn't be taking calls when you're quite literally running, but if you do want to have a hands-free chat you may have to pull the mic a bit closer to your mouth.
All of the right fitness-focused design decisions were made here
The UA Headphones Wireless are also IPX5 water-resistant, which makes them safe from your sweat and the occasional splash from your water bottle, but won't stand up to submersion in water.
Even with the relatively small size and lack of any sort of extra pack along the cord, Under Armour still quotes eight hours of battery life out of the UA Headphones Wireless. While that may be a bit short for people who want to use them as a daily pair of headphones for a commute and a full day of work, that's more than enough for several days of exercise or a few long runs before needing recharged. They also charge through a standard Micro-USB port on the in-line remote, which is nice.
All you'd expect
UA Headphones Wireless Sound quality
Nobody's buying Bluetooth headphones specifically for their sound quality, and in this case there are several features of the headphones that are more important than sound, but having high-quality speakers at the end of the chain is always welcomed. JBL is known for its quality speakers, and it's put a solid pair of 5.8mm drivers into the UA Headphones Wireless. They lack a little bass, as expected in relatively small earbuds, but the rest of the range is unsurprisingly clear. The top volume is almost too low for spoken-word content when you have the extra noise of going on a run, but when it comes to music it's more than enough.
Though they lack some noise cancellation, the headphones sound good
The UA Headphones Wireless actually don't offer too much passive sound isolation (despite what you'd expect from the TwistLock tech), and don't include memory foam-like sealing earbud tips, which is actually probably a good thing from a safety standpoint considering that you should be aware of your surroundings if you're out exercising. But of course that can also lean toward a "hollow" kind of sound profile that takes away from the audio experience a bit. And if you prefer your headphones to offer a better seal in your ears for extra passive noise isolation when you aren't working out, these may not be what you're looking for.
The upside of the combination of minimal noise isolation and a short cord between the earbuds means is that don't transfer any noise from the cord into your ears, which is a big issue with wired headphones but can also be a problem on wireless models that have more material draped around your neck. Every design decision is a trade-off here, and you can tell that the choices were made on the side of using these while you're active.
Pricey, but may be right for you
UA Headphones Wireless Bottom line
When it comes to having a set of Bluetooth headphones for your runs or time at the gym, you can probably get away with just about any pair out there — so long as there isn't a cord tying you to a phone you're going to be alright. Some are better suited to these specific tasks, though, and there are features in the UA Headphones Wireless that set them apart — water-resistance, light weight, no extra electronics on your neck and a tough exterior that can take a beating. Plus you get a very tactile three-button remote and an in-line mic if you need to take a phone call every so often. And if you choose instead to pair the UA Headphones Wireless with your favorite smartwatch for phone-free activity, the pairing process is simple.
JBL has done its part to offer quality sound here, too, at least within the realm of Bluetooth earbuds. And though they stay put in your ears and are comfortable, they don't give you much passive noise cancellation — but that's a fine trade-off considering everything else these little earbuds offer.
If you're looking for a set of Bluetooth headphones to wear every day you're not likely to choose the UA Headphones Wireless, but for someone who needs a tougher pair to stay active with these will fit the bill.
Should you buy them?
But then there's the price — Under Armour is asking a hefty $180 for the Headphones Wireless (certainly in the same theme as the UA HealthBox). While you can easily expect to pay over $100 for any quality pair of Bluetooth earbuds, this is really pushing it for a set that are positioned to work well for exercise but come up short of other choices for daily use. A step further up the line, Under Armour is also set to release a higher-end model that offers constant heart rate monitoring in the earbuds as well — those will set you back $250 (with a hit to battery life to boot).
Sweetening the deal somewhat is the inclusion of a one-year subscription to MapMyFitness, a $30 value, but perhaps if you're buying expensive headphones for your workouts, you already have that subscription. I certainly wouldn't have minded seeing the MSRP simply dropped to $150 to be a bit more competitive instead.
Where to buy the UA Headphones Wireless
If the UA Headphones Wireless are what you're looking for in a pair of fitness-focused Bluetooth earbuds, you can get your hands on them directly from Under Armour and JBL online.