The $129 BlueAnt pump may not sound stellar but it offers a secure fit and a waterproof design that makes it an appealing headphone for workouts.
A message on the front of the manual for BlueAnt's Pump HD Sportsbuds wireless Bluetooth headphones reads: "The best possible sound comes from the best possible fit."
With bona fide in-ear headphones like the Pump, that's true, because if you don't get a tight seal you lose a lot of bass. To help you get that tight seal, BlueAnt includes a couple of optional stabilizers that snap onto the buds. Ostensibly, the stabilizers are there to help "lock the Pump in place" when doing more extreme activities, but I couldn't get a tight seal without using them.
The stabilizer design works well overall, and these headphones really stay in your ears (they didn't move around at all when I used them on a treadmill and elliptical machine in the gym) and should provide a comfortable, secure fit for most people, which is the most important when it comes to wireless sports headphones.
That said, I did find that at times that the stabilizer dug into my ear a little, and it would have been nice if BlueAnt offered different sizes of stabilizers and perhaps made them out of slightly less rigid rubber. If you're lucky, you won't encounter this issue, and some people will be able to get a tight seal and secure fit without using the stabilizers.
The headphones do seem durable and are waterproof. In fact, if you have all the ports closed off -- a rubber gasket covers the Micro-USB charging port -- you can literally put them under the faucet and rinse them off.
While Bluetooth doesn't transmit underwater, the other thing you could do is wear these in the pool if you keep your head above water. They have up to a 100-foot range, which is more than the typical 30 feet that Bluetooth offers, and battery life is decent enough at around 8 hours.
The headphone's housing has a nice, soft-to-touch feel to its finish, and the controls are well placed in the right earpiece and can be operated blindly. The play/pause button doubles as an answer/end button and the volume controls double as transport controls, allowing you to skip tracks forward and back by double tapping them. A microphone is built into the unit, which allows you to use this as a stereo headset for making cell-phone calls. (This Pump is designed to work with iOS devices, so the remote functionality may not work with all phones, but the microphone will).
As I said, the Pump is an in-ear headphone and the tips are designed to be really jammed in your ears to get a tight seal. You get various eartips, including a foam set that allows more sound in so you can hear traffic around you when you're running or biking, and one size should work for you.
On a more critical note, I thought the Pump's sound was only so-so for a wireless Bluetooth headphone. If you get a tight seal, there's plenty of bass, but the headphone just doesn't sound clear or refined -- at all. I also noticed a very faint background hiss in quieter environments when I wasn't listening to music (I could hear it when I first turned on the headphones).
Perhaps because the box promises crystal-clear "HD" sound, I expected more (and certainly more clarity), but overall I found the sound more in line with what a $20 wired headphone produces. Some people may like that bass push, but I need more detail.
I was OK with the sound for workouts but I personally would not use this headphone outside of sports activities. The similarly priced JayBird BlueBuds X sounds better and so does the $130 Plantronics BackBeat Fit . However, that Plantronics model has an open design (so you can hear traffic) and lets in a lot more ambient noise.
The Pump plays louder but the BackBeat Fit has more natural, better balanced sound, is lighter and arguably a little more comfortable. I would be more inclined to use the Plantronics for daily use.
The Plantronics does have one small downside: the cord bounces up and down a bit. The cord on the Pump is a bit stiffer and moves much less. The Pump also comes with a little clip that allows you to adjust the cord's length (shortening it will prevent any bouncing), which is a nice bonus, and Plantronics should have included one.
While the Pump fell short on the sound quality front for me, from a design standpoint it's an appealing wireless sports headphone that should work well for a lot of people. Like the Plantronics BackBeat Fit, it ideally would cost a little less than its list price of $130. But hopefully it will come down in price over time.