I'm a huge fan of wireless headphones, especially ones I can wear to the gym. I've been through probably a half dozen sets in the past 4 or 5 years, so I was pretty damned pumped to review the JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Heart Rate. They’re a slick pair of Bluetooth enabled wireless earbuds, matching audio quality with quality health tracking. My best all round earphones were the Beats Powerbeats - great for sweaty times with sound and comfort good enough for everyday use.
The design is solid, with a matte red/black design which is fairly consistent these days in fitness earbuds. Out of the box there are a variety of plug designs for the ear canal, attaching to the bulky earpiece that squashes into the ear and with extruded hooks around the top of the ear. The individual buds are then connected by a thin cable that hangs free. The quality is pretty solid, and by filling my ears it does a good job of blocking out ambient noise. JBL claim a guaranteed comfort from this design, and it is definitely a secure fit at the gym.
The partnership between JBL and Under Armour is a good one and the next step after setup is to download the UA Record app, which tracks your progress, adds enhancements and tries to socialise your gains through a follower feed. It's one of the better fitness apps out there in terms of interface and operations but had some variations in tracking from the inbuilt health app.
The connection was solid with barely any dropoff or disruption to the audio. Good enough to be used everyday with good mic pickup for phone calls. The physical design fills the ear and does a solid job blocking out unwanted ambient noise on the train ride.
How was the music? The audio quality was...good...but not great, across a range of AC/DC, Bliss n Eso, Beethoven and some audio books. It's crisp all the way through the levels with more emphasis on the middle. Voices are clear, and the complexities of string and piano was confident. In bigger anthems the bass was present and guitars are good – the bells in AC/DCs Hells Bells had a nice ring to them.
In the gym it worked pretty well for noise, and for the connection to the UA Record app - easy to start a workout, track it and feel pretty damned connected. Speaking of which, that heart rate tracking when you're in an app workout is as easy as tapping the right earbud. This works pretty well in practice.
On the downside, I never really connected to the audio output...at this price point I need GREAT music, but overall it lacked character or fullness for the price - I never felt the urge to crank it up in the same head pounding way as Beats. And JBL’s guaranteed comfort claim was shaky for me. The bulky fit gets tiring relatively quickly and distracted me from the benefits especially during everyday use on the train.
In recent times the quality of wireless earphones has improved to the point that we should expect great things from our devices. I like these JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Heart Rate earphones - good design, good audio, good brand, good app. Unfortunately for me there's just not enough character to make the earbuds stand out for the price.
- Great for all round fitness fanatics
- Nice use of heartrate tracking
- Easy connectivity to the app
- It’s expensive
- Good, but not great characteristics overall - not enough character to stand out