Finding a pair of headphones for running can be trickier than it seems. In-ear headphones have a habit of working their way out of your lugholes as you pound the pavement, and models that sit in a loop around the back of your head can be uncomfortable if they move around on your neck too much.
Sennheiser reckons it has the answer with its Adidas-branded OMX 680i Sports earphones. They use adjustable ear hooks to stay in place as you run. They're not too pricey either. You can buy them online for around £35.
The 680is look garish, due to the neon yellow that Sennheiser has used on the cable and the face of the earpieces. The ear hooks, inline volume control and jack plug are black, though, which provides some balance. The neon colour does make these headphones look sporty too.
Sennheiser says the cable is made from Dupont Kevlar for added extra strength and durability, so it shouldn't snap the first time you snag it on something.
The earpieces sit on the outside of your ear, rather than nestling into the canal. This means they don't isolate noise, so you can hear some ambient sound around you when you've got your music playing. If you're running on roads or streets, this is probably safer than being totally cut off from what's happening around you.
The earpieces have a rubberised coating that helps protect them against sweat and rain, but they're not fully waterproof, so you can't jump in your local swimming pool with them on.
Sennheiser supplies swappable ear sleeves in small, medium and large sizes, so you can choose the option that best suits your ear size. We found the larger size worked best, creating more of a seal around the entrance to the ear, boosting perceived bass performance, and blocking out slightly more background noise than the other options.
It's the design of the ear hooks that the buds are mounted on that's special. These hooks are covered in a rubberised material that can be bent into different shapes. This allows you to customise the shape of the ear hooks to make them fit pretty much perfectly, so they don't move around when you're running. Once you've got the right fit, they really are very comfortable to wear, and impressively stable as well.
In the middle of the headphone cable, Sennheiser has added an inline control designed to work with iPods and the iPhone. It lets you pause and resume music playback, as well as control the volume level. The remote also has a built-in mic, so you can use it to take calls.
If you have an iPhone or iPod, these are neat features. But, if you have a different handset, the headphones may not work at all. For example, they didn't work properly with either our Vodafone Smart or Samsung Galaxy Apollo, playing music out of only one ear.
Other headphones worked fine with these phones, so we can only assume the problem lies in the way the headphone jack is wired to accommodate the inline mic and volume controls.
The sound quality isn't bad, especially compared to other models that come in at around this price. High-frequency audio, such as cymbals and hi-hats, is crisp and lively, while mid-frequency guitar and synth sounds have plenty of presence.
Where these headphones are rather lacking, though, is in the bass department. They just don't have the low-end rumble of more expensive in-ear headphones that we've tested. As a result, certain genres, including dance and reggae, have a tendency to sound rather gutless.
In terms of overall fit and comfort when running, the Sennheiser OMX 680i Sports headphones really are hard to beat. We found that they stayed in place and remained comfortable even during longer runs. But, although their sound quality isn't bad, it's a shame they're not slightly more capable when it comes to reproducing really deep bass sounds.
Edited by Charles Kloet