Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
The curvaceous Aiwa HP-JS36 Swoops are sporty, lightweight headphones with an around-the-back neckband that's similar to Sony's stylish Street Style line. Because they represent a happy medium between loose-fitting earbuds and heavier over-the-ear headphone designs, they're a top choice for running and other active pursuits. As a bonus, the $24.99 HP-JS36s also sound a touch better than most 'phones in the same price range.
In addition to the neckband design, the lightweight HP-JS36s feature in-ear drivers that nestle firmly but comfortably toward the front of your ear canals. An adequately long 3.6-foot cord runs from the left side and features an in-line volume control for easy level adjustments during your workout.
Wearing the HP-JS36 on a four-mile run, I was happy with the results. Unlike the Sony earbuds, the HP-JS36s didn't dislodge from my ears a single time during the entire trek. On a few occasions when things got really sweaty, the in-ear drivers and neckband did slip around a little, but it was a comparatively minor annoyance. The bare plastic, in-ear drivers didn't lead to excessive sweating like over-the-ear drivers usually do.
Alas, the Swoops aren't perfect. If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses regularly, you might have problems with the HP-JS36s' fit. I had to slightly tilt my shades in order to comfortably wear them with the headphones. The amount of discomfort you'll experience depends entirely on the size and style of your specs, but you might want play it safe and try Aiwa's clip-on HP-SC21 'phones or Sony's MDR-EX71SL earbuds instead. Also, because of the neckband, you can't recline in a high-back chair while wearing the HP-JS36s. Plus, the Swoops don't fold for storage and don't come with a carrying case, so you'll have to take care when transporting them in your gym bag.
From a performance perspective, the Aiwa HP-J36s were a pleasant surprise. They offered ample volume when used with a variety of audio sources, including our portable MP3 player. Snoop Dogg's classic track "Gin and Juice" sounded lively and delivered better bass than you'd get from most headphones with similarly small drivers. Compared to the Sony MDR-E827G earbuds, for example, the HP-JS36s sounded slightly brighter and a little more nuanced.
Bottom line: The Aiwa HP-JS36 Swoops pair decent sound quality with a secure fit (though wearing them with glasses may prove problematic). They're an easy recommendation for anyone seeking an affordable pair of exercise-friendly headphones.