I am not a fan of traditional, wired headsets.

Let’s be honest, I dislike any kind of cable. But headphone wires, I disliked them since I was a child. They’d tangle, they’d get caught in door handles and after a while they are the single point of failure of any headset. Either where they attach to the 3.5mm plug or to the headphone speakers – they would start crackling and eventually die.

My very first Bluetooth headset (not great for running) was the Sennheiser MM100 and I have never used a wired headset ever since.

I have used daily – and loved – my Jaybird BlueBuds X for more than two years but eventually I lost them.

In my quest to replace them I bought 6 new pairs and took them with me running, to the gym, on the bike and on general daily life.

I selected models with different shape and sizes, varied budget and brand. There’s a new breed of headsets now that includes HRM measurements or app connectivity but for this test I only wanted to test simple ones with no added gimmicks.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

plantronics-backbeat-fit

  • MSRP: $129.99
  • Weight (gr): 25
  • Bluetooth Type: v3.0
  • Waterproof: P2i sweat-proof coating
  • Stand-by Time: 14 days
  • Talk Time: 6-8 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: Phone armband
  • Current Price: Check it on Amazon

I own another Bluetooth product from Plantronics – the M70 – that I use daily for phone calls and which I really like.

The BackBeat Fit is another great quality product. The pictures can somehow mislead you into thinking the headset is made of hard plastic, but the chord that links the left and right earphones is actually made of a very flexible material: you can fold them and put them away in your pocket. Of all the headsets I tested, these are the ones that I can stash away in my pockets most comfortably without fear of losing pieces.

Starting with the fit you put the earpieces in your ear canal, you wrap the hook around your ear and rotate the earpieces so that they are oriented in the right direction for your particular ear. It’s quite simple: no ear plugs or hooks to try and change – but it works. The BackBeat Fit stays true to its name and in a week of continuous use, they never got out of my ear.

The chord doesn’t get in your way – unless you have a running jacket with a higher neck, in which case it has happened to me a couple of times that the chord would catch on the neck of the jacket – but the headset would not get out of my ear.

In terms of playback – the quality is very good but the volume is never really loud. This is good if you are sensible and want to still be able to hear sounds around you – but it makes the bass not as strong and you might have issues hearing some podcasts/audiobooks if external noise is loud.

My only gripe with these otherwise very good headsets is the controls. On each side you have two buttons: a large round one and a little one above it. The left side controls playback and volume and I had to go read the manual to figure it out. There’s a combination of long/short presses and double presses that will allow you to turn the volume up and down, play/pause and rewind or skip track back and forwards. It’s just not that intuitive.

These are the only headsets that come with a phone armband included. It’s a good one and large enough to hold my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.

In a nutshell: The BackBeat Fit is a great choice for its fit and construction quality. Its main drawbacks are the low volume and somehow non-intuitive controls.

Check them on Amazon


JLAB Epic2

jlab-epic2

  • MSRP: $99.99
  • Weight (gr): 14
  • Bluetooth Type: v4.0
  • Waterproof: IPX5
  • Stand-by Time: N/A
  • Talk Time: 12 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: 7 sets of gel cushion tips, travel case, 2 clips to manage cable length
  • Current Price: Check on Amazon

JLAB does not sell in Europe. I contacted them to ask about resellers but there aren’t any. Ordering from their site would have been very expensive (shipping USA -> Amsterdam) and mentioning I wanted these for review didn’t really help. I ended up buying them on Amazon USA and the shipping was not such a huge charge.

Well, I guess that was my only problem with the Epic2. Everything else – these headset are amazing.

They have the best fit of all the others on test. Upon unboxing you will find 7 pairs of gel ear-clips. Some of them of quite unusual shape. The thing that amazed me was the fact that the hook that goes around the ear is adjustable. Instead of being a set piece of hard or soft plastic, these hooks are made of titanium and covered with plastic. This means you can adjust them to the exact shape of your ear. Add to this the lightest weight of the ones I tested (tied with the Jaybird).

Sound is very good and controls are intuitive. Battery life is 12 hours and the waterproof rating is IPX5 (water jets). The carry case is very well done.

The only drawback I had was some skipping during playback (not much, but they did skip sometimes).

In a nutshell: Possibly the best headsets in this list, especially if you find them at a lower price than the suggested retail. I’ll be using these for a long time.

Check them on Amazon


Jaybird X2

jaybird-x2

  • MSRP: $149.95
  • Weight (gr): 14
  • Bluetooth Type: v2.1
  • Waterproof: N/A
  • Stand-by Time: N/A
  • Talk Time: 8 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: Flat charging cable, 3 pairs of “wings”, 3 pairs of silicone ear tips, 3 pairs of comply ear tips, 3 clips to manage cable length, carrying case
  • Current Price: Check on Amazon

Hello Jaybird my old friend. I owned and used for a couple of years the Jaybird Bluebuds X and I stopped using them for only one reason: I lost them.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Bluebuds X at the time and I had high expectations for the second generation. Rumor has it that there is an X3 coming out soon, but I contacted Jaybird and they did not comment.

The X2 are the most expensive headsets on this list at $149.95 recommended retail and you won’t find them for much cheaper – at least until the X3 gets released.

The X2 are light in weight and sport a mat finish as opposed to the patent looks of the predecessors. I am tempted to say that’s basically the only difference I found. I have worn them in the rain and on long runs with plenty sweat, but that never damaged them or made them uncomfortable to wear.

Actually – here’s a big difference. A common upgrade to the Bluebuds X was the purchase of “Comply memory foam” ear clips. They were not expensive but improved the sound quality sensibly – since it depends so much on how much “seal” you could get. Jaybird must have caught on this trend because 3 pairs of Comply tips are included together with 3 more traditional ones. I prefer the Comply to the traditional ones – but it’s a matter of preference and fit. Luckily this time you can try without having to buy them separately.

Talk time is high at 8 hours for such a low weight and small sized headset. Music/Audio never skips and once you shorten the chord to the right length with the included plastic pieces – you can just plug them in your ears and forget you are wearing them. They are that good.

I prefer the “wings” to ear hooks and this is what makes the X2 my favorite in this list.

Here’s my only drawback: portability is so-so at best. The included pouch is too large to actually carry it around with you. It’s not huge, but way bigger than needed for such a small device. But if you put them loose in your pocket you might lose the tips, or the wings or the headsets themselves. Be careful!

In a nutshell: Although on the pricey side, the X2 are possibly the best headsets you can buy. Beware: they are easy to lose if you put them in your pockets.

Check them on Amazon


MPOW Seashell

mpow-seashell

  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Weight (gr): 16
  • Bluetooth Type: v4.1
  • Waterproof: IPX4
  • Stand-by Time: 185 hours
  • Talk Time: 7 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: 3 sets of gel ear-tips, 3 sets of wings
  • Current Price: Check on Amazon

I’m wearing these as I am writing and they are the surprise of this test.

Using them for a couple of weeks or so – I am really, really liking them. MPOW has a vast catalog of bluetooth headsets of different price and performance. I selected the Seashell as they were comparable in features to the others in this list.

The Seashell fit inside your ear and do not have a ear hook. They stay in position thanks to wings, similarly to the Jaybird X2. And they do stay.

They only weigh 16 grams, are splash proof and have 7 hours talk time. Sound is good (listening to Megadeth right now) and they never skipped during my tests.

Honestly, for this price (you’ll find them for less than the already low $39.99) it’s impossible to say anything bad about them – and probably even if they cost double.

The packaging is small and essential. There’s no pouches or other accessories. The only thing I missed was some sort of clip to shorten the long chord – but if you can make do you’ll be fine.

In a nutshell: At this price, the MPOW Seashell are a definitive must-try. Sound quality, comfort, battery life – all belong to a different price class.

Check them on Amazon


66 Audio BTS

66-audio-bts

  • MSRP: $49.99
  • Weight (gr): 72
  • Bluetooth Type: v4.0
  • Waterproof: N/A
  • Stand-by Time: 400 hours
  • Talk Time: 25 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: carrying pouch
  • Current Price: Check on Amazon

Here comes a headset that is quite different from all the others. Instead of begin in the ears, the BTS from 66 Audio features two large speakers that go over the ear instead.

They are significantly heavier than the rest of the headset in this overview: 72 grams vs the average 20-25 of the in-the-ear models.

So, are they cumbersome to run with? Not at all actually. For some reason, the design of the headsets works really well while running.

Instead of a plastic/nylon chord, the headband of the BTS is made of solid plastic that folds and unfolds so that you can put them back in their small pouch. Here’s my first surprise: I just slide these around my ears and they get in place without having to play around. Of all the ones with ear hooks I have tested, these ear hooks are the easiest to put on.

What about the weight? I actually was not bother by it. The higher weight allows 66 Audio to place a ridicolously long-lasting battery in the BTS. They declare 400 hours of stand-by and 25 hours of talk time. Although I did not specifically test these claims, they don’t seem to differ too much from my testing: I basically charged them once and used them for almost two weeks and they are still charged.

The size also helps with the sound: while I am no audio engineer, I believe the much larger size of the speaker themselves help the BTS sound very natural. Bass/trebles are balanced and the sound is very full.

They are big though. Aesthetically, they stick out of your ears quite a bit and look strange in my opinion.

I had some issues with sound skipping at the beginning of songs or while skipping tracks. Not so much that makes them unusable, but definitely I felt this issue more than with other headsets.

66 Audio does not declare the waterproof rating, but I sweated in them and there was no issue.

In a nutshell: Great sound (although it might skip more than you like), a form factor that might not look great but fits very well and never moves or falls off your ears. Amazing battery life and a lot of value for the money.

Check them on Amazon


Jabra Sport Pace

jabra-sport-pace

  • MSRP: $99.99
  • Weight (gr): 20
  • Bluetooth Type: v4.0
  • Waterproof: IP5
  • Stand-by Time: 10 days
  • Talk Time: 5 hours
  • Port: micro-USB
  • Accessories: 3 sets of ear-gels, 1 clip to manage cable length
  • Current Price: Check on Amazon

The Jabra Sport Pace also rocks an around the ear hook. It is a hard plastic piece and unfortunately my biggest gripe with these headsets.

Let’s start with everything else.

The Sport Pace sounds good with different kinds of music and voice (podcasts/audiobooks). The package includes 3 different sized gel earpieces that should fit most people. By plugging completely inside the ear canal the sound is full with a rich bass and clear details.

The chord is long but included is a little accessory that allows you to shorten it. At collar-bone level you have the little remote with the controls. Three simple buttons and the microphone which makes pairing, playing adjusting volume/tracks etc very comfortable and intuitive.

The Sport Pace has one of the highest waterproof ratings among the ones we tested: IP5 means that they survive water jets projected by a nozzle for at least 3 minutes. You won’t get into the swimming pool with them, but they should be able to survive a shower.

Now my issue: I could not get comfortable with the ear hook. I really felt it pressing around my ear and could never get really comfortable. It would actually annoy me after a few minutes.

I have checked other reviews to see if I was the only one with this issue. It seems some people have a problem with it but most don’t. Being a hard material and not being adjustable I believe it comes down to the shape of your ears. Mine don’t work with these headsets.

In a nutshell: Very good sound quality, a very interesting price (you can find them for much less than full price) but a fit that is not for everybody.

Check them on Amazon






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