Under Armour's new JBL-engineered wireless sports headphones show promise but have pain points

Under Armour's new wireless sports headphone cost $180 and ship in late January 2016.

Harman

Harman and Under Armour have a new strategic partnership and the first fruits of their joint labour are a line of wireless sport headphones. Both sets, UA Headphones Wireless and UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate, are engineered by JBL.

I got my hands on an early sample of UA Headphones Wireless, which are shipping in late January and retail for $180 in the US. No international pricing has been announced yet, but that converts to around AU$280 or £125. I can't say I'm all that enthusiastic about them, but mainly because they simply don't fit my ears that well.

The problem is the buds' housing is big and has a silicon cover (you can choose between two sizes) that's ringed with a row of treads, with a integrated silicon eartip that extends out. You kind of screw the bud into your ear and the treads are supposed to lock the headphone in place. JBL says its "Twistlock technology guarantees the headphones will never fall out while the Flexsoft finishing provides long-lasting comfort."

It didn't work so well for me, however. The outer rim of the bud -- the part that has the treads in it -- was just too big to fit comfortably in my ear and the silicon tip of the earphone didn't extend into my ear canal far enough to get a good seal. That's not to say these won't be a perfect fit for someone with bigger ears, which is why I'm going to have some other CNET editors try them out before I put a final rating on them.

Alas, because of the poor fit of the headphone, it was hard to judge how good the sound was. When I manually pushed the tips into my ears, I got a lot more bass and the headphones sounded good. With the more open fit I ended up with, though, they sounded flat and had little bass.

The step-up version of the headphone has a built-in heart-rate monitor and features a different design.

Harman

I was more partial to the fit of the step-up UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate, which has a different design (notice the hooks in the picture above) and is due out late this spring for $250 (about AU$360 or £175). The buds fit in my ears better and I was able to view my heart rate in UA's health and fitness app, Record -- the headphone provides instant heart-rate measurements directly from your ear at the touch of a button.

Both models do seem durable and have an IPX 5 rating, which makes them water resistant but not waterproof. Still, they're fairly pricey for what they are.

As for extras, there's the usual inline remote and microphone for taking calls, but what's interesting is that you charge the headphones via a hidden Micro-USB port in the remote. It may be a new trend going forward with these types of headphones: housing some of the electronics and possibly the battery in the inline remote. I'm not sure that's the case here, but Sol Republic's Relays Sport Wireless headphone has a battery in the headphone cable and so does Jaybird's upcoming Freedom wireless sports headphone.

It's worth noting that one of the best things about the headphone may be the protective storage pouch that's included. It's got the rubbery, sporty texture you'd expect from an Under Armour product. It's also lightweight and appears to be water-resistant.

If you buy the UA Headphones Wireless or UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate you'll receive a complimentary 12-month MapMyFitness Premium subscription, valued at $30 (around AU$45 or £20). MapMyFitness is a part of the Under Armour Connected Fitness suite of apps, with a global community of more than 155 million people worldwide. MapMyFitness allows members to track, analyze and share more than 600 types of fitness activities.

The UA Wireless' case is quite nice but some dust particles do stick to it.

David Carnoy/CNET

Here's a look at the specs of the two new headphones, courtesy of Harman.

UA Headphones Wireless - Engineered by JBL:

  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • JBL Signature Sound
  • Twistlock Technology, "guaranteed" never to fall out
  • Flexsoft comfort fit
  • Three button mic with volume, music and call control
  • Sweat-proof with IPX 5 rating
  • Up to 8 hours of playback time
  • 12-month MapMyFitness Premium membership

UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate - Engineered by JBL:

  • Instant heart-rate monitoring technology at the touch of a button
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • JBL Signature Sound
  • Twistlock Technology
  • Flexsoft Comfort Fit
  • Three-button mic with volume, music and call control
  • Sweat-proof with IPX 5 rating
  • Up to 5 hours of playback time
  • 12-month MapMyFitness Premium membership

Hot Products

 

Discuss: UA Headphones Wireless - Engineered by JBL...

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Hot Products