For most of my gym-going life, I didn’t give much thought to which earbuds I’d bring with me.
Most of the time, I’d bring a pair of beater buds — the ones that I wouldn’t be too torn up about if they got ruined by sweat while running.
Recently, though, I’ve grown tired of tinny sound and general discomfort. I decided to try a pair of the best workout headphones on the market: Apple’s Powerbeats3.
At $200, they are pricey, but they carry both Apple’s and Beats by Dre’s pedigree, and promise an unmatched sonic experience for working out.
Here’s what we found after putting them to the test.
These headphones look and feel solid. Though they are bulky, they are very light, and won’t bother you while you’re moving around. The matte finish is smooth, and appropriate for a pair of earbuds that are designed to take your workout routine in stride.
Setting up the Powerbeats3 headphones was extremely easy. Thanks to Apple’s W1 chip, I simply pressed the power button on the headphones and held them near my iPhone. Almost instantaneously, a notification popped up on my screen giving me the option to make the Bluetooth connection. The whole process took less than a minute, and I was quickly playing my Spotify library.
After the initial connection, using the Powerbeats3 was simple. To turn them on, I would hold the power button and wait until I heard a tone in my ear that meant they were connected. To turn them off, I just held the same button for a few seconds.
The neckband has an inline volume controller that also contains the microphone for making calls. The volume buttons have a satisfying click, though the play/pause button is pretty mushy, so I’m not always sure if I’ve pressed it properly.
For some reason, Apple has opted to charge these headphones via Micro USB, rather than Lightning or USB-C. However, the earbuds can get a full charge in under two hours and also include a feature called Fast Fuel, where they can be charged for 5 minutes and get one hour of play when on low power.
As far as in-ear headphones go, the Powerbeats3 are certainly on the better end of the spectrum. The detail is good, with rich mids and highs, though a lot of the quality is lost when you blast your music. And in typical Beats fashion, the bass makes sure you know it’s there at all times. Still, for $200 you’d be forgiven for expecting a better audio experience. It’s a lot of money to pay for a pair of earbuds that don’t blow you away with their sound.
In the box come a number of earbud size options, and after some trial and error I was able to find the combination that created the best seal for me. These earbuds are by no means noise-cancelling, and I found myself having to pause my podcasts while a subway was pulling into the station, but with your music playing at a moderate volume, not much outside noise gets in.
Though I had originally intended for the Powerbeats3 to just be my workout earbuds, I’ve found myself wearing them outside of the gym as well. They are extremely comfortable, and the lack of a long cable makes them easy to slip off and slide into your pocket when they aren’t in use.
The Powerbeats3 are large and bulky, but once you’ve put the hooks over your ears it feels like there’s nothing there. The earhooks aren’t tight or distracting, but they do a great job of making sure everything stays in place.
One issue I’ve found with the earbuds is that since they stick out of my ears, they aren’t great in windy conditions. When the wind hits me head-on it becomes very loud and makes it difficult to hear my music.
The neckband style took a little bit of getting used to, and I found that I am more comfortable with the cable hanging behind my head, rather than under my chin. And although the neckband is the perfect length to drape around your neck when you aren’t listening to music, the buds are too bulky and don’t stay in place. Thankfully, the Powerbeats3 come with a compact carrying case.