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A year ago, you couldn't get much of a Bluetooth sports headphone for $50. Sure, there were the usual generic brands on Amazon, but anything from a name brand tended to cost a minimum of $80 -- or more.
But things have changed, and JBL is serving up its new Endurance Sprint for 50 bucks (£45 in the UK, not yet available in Australia, but that's around AU$65 converted). They have touch controls, fit comfortably and sound very good so long as you can get a tight seal. They're also fully waterproof with IPX7 certification, which means they can be submerged in 3 feet (1 meter) of water for up to 30 minutes.
These wireless earphones have a different design than a lot of the in-ear Bluetooth sports headphones. Those feature wings or stabilizers that hook into the inner part of your ear to lock the buds in place. JBL's are a modified version of Beats' popular Powerbeats 3, which have a hook that wraps over the top of your ear. The Powerbeats 3 cost more than three times as much as these guys.
The earphones come with three different size eartips and a set of notched silicone "enhancers" that cover the base earbud. You're supposed to insert the buds downward at an angle into your ears then twist the enhancer up so the the buds lock in place and the hooks go over your ears.
JBL calls it "Twistlock" technology and it works pretty well. The company says the earphones will never "fall out," which is true but that doesn't mean you'll always be able to maintain a tight seal, which is crucial to maximizing sound quality with these headphones.
It's worth mentioning that the hooks are magnetized and adhere to a slot near the bud, creating a loop. This nifty design touch allows you to clip the buds to your clothing or a strap on a backpack.
They worked great in the gym for me, but I did occasionally lose the seal while I was running and had to readjust the bud to get it back. The only problem is that when you adjust the earphones you end up touching the right earpiece -- where the touch controls are located -- and accidentally pausing your music.
The touch controls are responsive but a little finicky. I found it easy enough to pause and play music (one tap) and answer/end calls (also one tap) and skip tracks forward (two taps). Things got a little trickier raising and lowering volume (I opted to use the volume controls on my phone).
Battery life is fairly decent at eight hours and there's a quick charge feature that gives you an hour of playback from 10 minutes of charging. That quick charge is quickly becoming standard on these types of headphones.
As I said, these sound quite good, and I'm not sure I've heard $50 in-ear sports headphones that sound any better. There's a touch of presence boost in the treble that leads to a little sibilance (another way of saying the headphones are a tad bright) but there's plenty of bass and decent clarity and openness. I thought they sounded a little better than the JBL Reflect Mini 2 wireless sports earphones, which I also liked, but are more expensive. They also worked fine as a headset for making calls, but don't expect business-class performance.
The Endurance Sprint is actually the least expensive wireless model in the Endurance line. There's also the Endurance Jump ($70, £70), which features a stiffer neckband-style design and the Endurance Dive ($90, £90), which have built-in memory so you can store MP3 files on them and take them swimming (Bluetooth doesn't transmit underwater but if you have music playing on the headphones themselves, you don't have to worry about transmission back to a Bluetooth-enabled device).
Unless you're a swimmer, you should be fine with the lower-priced Endurance Sprint. It's a surprisingly good wireless sports headphone for $50 or £45 with only a few small downsides.