Most exercise headphones are the in-ear headphones and while these small buds have come a long way in the last few years the quality of their sound still pales in comparison to that of non-exercise over-the-ear headphones. Many companies have instead been focusing on the in-ear exercise headphones, neglecting the on-ear versions.
While I found the Jaybird Tarah Pro’s to be the best in-ear headphones I have ever tested for exercise use I have still been searching for some higher-end over- or on-ear headphones that are sweatproof. Then Under Armour and JBL announced their new Sport Wireless Train headphones and these were something I HAD to check out.
Headphones are relatively simple things to check out — for most users the things they want to know is: How do they fit? How do they sound? How long does the battery last? Some people may also care about how they look but that is irrelevant to me, as is what’s in the box but let’s start with those anyway.
What’s in the box?
Inside the box are of course the headphones but also an extremely sturdy carry case which will protect them more than any other case I have ever seen for any headphones. This is big and it is strong — you’d better have a decent gym bag if you are going to put these in there every day.
A decent case is not a bad thing though and this case is of definite high quality and will definitely protect the investment you have made in these headphones.
Also included in the box is a microUSB charging cable which is a shame they have not included a USB-C charger instead — I am getting to the point where I rarely carry a microUSB cable any more.
There is also the usual 3.5mm cable to allow you to connect your headphones to your device’s headphone jack using wires instead of Bluetooth — if they ever run out of battery (which JBL/Under Armour say you can get 16 hours out of).
How do they look?
These headphones are only available in black in Australia and these are very industrial — they look to be nothing but business which is not a bad thing as I personally would prefer a company to focus on how the headphones fit and sound rather than how they look.
In saying that, they are not ugly but don’t expect the colours you see from Beats and some other brands.
Each ear cup is not circular in shape instead more of a rounded octagon. All of the controls are on the right ear cup and include the usual volume controls, skip or go backwards of media, answer or reject calls, hang up a call along with a long press to summon your phone’s digital assistant.
The charging port is also included on this right ear cup along with the ‘TalkThru’ button. The TalkThru button allows you to hear conversations outside of the headphones without having to take them off or pause the music/media. TalkThru uses ‘speech-optimised, noise-cancelling mics’ to achieve this affect which was actually quite useful when training.
The ear cups are a soft material which is sweatproof but can be removed and hand washed should they get stinky at any stage.
How do they fit?
The UA Sport Wireless Train headphones do NOT include active noise cancelling and as such rely on a good fit to remove outside noise.
The overhead band is a very strong band that helps maintain a strong adherence to the ears. They allow the ear cups to clamp down over the ears firmly, relying on the decent cushioning of the ear cups to prevent any pain on wearing them. The band is padded as well and actually, if fitted well, can barely be felt on top of the head.
While I could not imagine wearing them for 5 hours straight, for a workout of an hour or so they were comfortable without any issues, even while wearing a beanie. The firm fit also prevents them from falling off your head during vigorous exercise which of course is a plus.
If you do not want your headphones fitting strongly to your head (but still being comfortable) and prefer them to just sit lightly on your ears then these may not be the headphones for you.
How do they sound?
That’s the advantage of over or on-ear headphones. Basic physics means that you should be able to get a broader sound profile from the tweeters etc in them than the in-ear buds. The UA Sport Wireless Train do not let you down in this regard.
Comparing them to my other pair of on-ear gym headphones (Plantronics Backbeat Fit 505) it was not even a close race — and it shouldn’t be considering the difference in price and age of the technology within. The Under Armour headphones created a much fuller sound which had a richer base and much crisper mids and highs.
The difference in sound between the two was night and day — as was the fit. The Under Armour headphones fit much more snugly and felt more secure on the head but were still extremely comfortable.
The Jaybird Tarah Pro though was an interesting comparison. The Tarah Pro in-ear earbuds are the best in-ear earbuds I have ever used and comparing the two it was a very close run thing between them and the Under Armour headphones. It sounded like the Tarah Pro had the edge in crispness of the high end but the low end was where the Sport Wireless Train stood out.
As you would expect the bass was much better on the bigger headphones giving an overall impression of a better sound as it was richer and more encompassing, no matter what the type of music you listen to.
So what’s the verdict?
The UA Sport Wireless Train by JBL are not cheap. Let’s get that out there first. With headphones, like so many things in life, you get what you pay for.
The headphones are not the most stylish or prettiest headphones you will ever see but they are certainly very functional. You will get a very rich sound which covers all aspects of the sound spectrum well creating a great listening experience.
The listening experience is further improved by the comfort of the headphones. These are exercise headphones, sweat-proof and as such you would expect them to be a bit uncomfortable, especially if designed to stay on your head throughout strenuous exercise. They were not uncomfortable in any way. They clasped to the head creating a good seal of the earcup on the ear without creating any uncomfortableness on the head or ears.
If you are looking for a set of on-ear headphones that you can safely use at the gym without fear of sweat ruining them then these should be a pair at the top of your list to check out. At a tick under $300 they are not cheap but are of extremely high quality — are they good enough for that $300 price tag? That’s up to you — how badly do you want a set of sweatproof cans that sound great and sit comfortably on your noggin?
Under Armour are quite happy for Scott to keep these, because they are sweaty and gross after he "reviewed" them.