Under Armour has partnered with JBL to create a pair of in-ear Bluetooth sports headphones with a built-in heart-rate sensor. Bose and Jabra also make in-ear sports headphones with an integrated heart-rate monitor, so this isn't a unique product, but few sports headphones offer this feature.
Under Armour has one advantage, though: The UA Sport Wireless Heart Rate Headphones can connect to the company's immensely popular Record platform. The app lets you track workouts and receive audio updates for things like pace, distance, heart rate and heart-rate zones.
While the Record app is free, Under Armour's headphones are priced at $200 (which converts to about £160 or AU$260), which is higher than some better-sounding alternatives. To sweeten the deal, the company is throwing in a complimentary 12-month subscription to MapMyFitness Premium, an offer valued at $30, which converts to about £25 or AU$40.
The headphones are designed primarily for working out and are rated IPX5, so although they aren't fully waterproof they will do just fine in the rain and with sweat. The open design and loop hooks help keep the headphones in place when exercising. This also allows you to hear cars and people around you when running, but it means they aren't very good for blocking out noise.
I want to hear my surroundings when running, but not at the gym. Unfortunately you can't have it both ways. These weren't able to cancel out gym noise unless I raised the volume to an uncomfortable level.
The headphones come with a small carrying case and four different size earbuds, but they aren't normal earbuds. They are super-sized ones with a small ear tip at the end, and they are incredibly difficult to remove and replace. While I had an OK fit, my colleague David Carnoy struggled with his and preferred the comfort of the Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless headphones.
Other features include an inline remote and microphone on the right wire for taking calls, changing songs, and changing the volume. Charging the headphones is done through a Micro-USB port located right on the remote. The battery will last up to 5 hours, which is the same as Bose's heart-rate headphones, but still a bit short for my liking.
I've been working out with the headphones for the past few weeks. I had no connection issues with Android and iOS phones, and the audio sounded crisp and clear for the most part, although the bass was a bit lacking. These were also one of the only headphones that didn't fall out when I was running.
Under Armour's Record app has been one of my favorites for quite some time. It's easy to use and is compatible with a lot of devices, even those that aren't made by Under Armour. The app uses the sensors in your phone (such as GPS) to track a variety of exercises, such as running, biking and weightlifting.
You can set up audio prompts to activate after a specific distance or time. These will give you real-time feedback on your pace, distance, calories burned, heart rate and heart rate zones. You can also get an on-demand audio update on your heart rate by tapping the Under Armour logo on the right earbud.
As for the heart rate sensor, it's located on the left earbud and is similar to what we've seen in the Fitbit Charge 2 and Apple Watch -- a flickering green LED light used to illuminate the capillaries and measure the blood as it flows past. I was a bit skeptical at first. This was my first time using heart-rate earbuds, but they turned out to be pretty accurate for measuring both runs and gym sessions.
The heart rate feature is cool. But let's be honest, most people probably don't care about it, and those who do are better off getting a heart-rate running watch or using a chest strap at the gym.
The sport earphone market is extremely competitive. If I'm paying top dollar for a pair of headphones, I expect them to be as close to flawless as possible. The sound quality of Under Armour's headphones doesn't justify the high price. They also aren't worth wearing when you aren't working out, and $200 (about £160 or AU$260) is a lot of money to pay for a pair of part-time headphones.
If you're sold on having heart-rate tracking headphones, you're better off getting the Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless and Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition. Both cost the same as Under Armour's headphones, include heart rate, offer superior sound quality and are a more comfortable fit.