Back in August 2017, Samsung-owned Harman announced a new Under Armour-branded on-ear sports headphone model called the UA Sport Wireless Train branded Engineered by JBL, a subsidiary of Harman. Scheduled to ship in December 2017, the UA Sport Wireless Train Headphones promised to reinvent the gym headphone. They're finally being released now for $200, with international pricing available soon.
I've been playing around with an early review sample for a couple of days and have been impressed with the Train's sound and build quality. JBL says the model is "built for rugged durability and sweat resistance," and "all materials and finishes will withstand the most intense workouts and any wear and tear from a gym bag."
For added protection they fold up into a vented carrying case (so your headphones can dry out after being sweated on) that's equipped with a carabiner. The whole package isn't light, weighing in around 1 pound, with the headphones tipping the scales at 8.64 ounces or 245 grams.
One of the key features JBL and Under Armour are touting is TalkThru Technology, which makes it easy to chat with folks in the gym without taking off your headphones. "At the touch of a button, music seamlessly fades out while three JBL microphones heighten the surrounding conversation, so there's no need to take the headphones off to hear a quick cue, form tip or just say hello to friends," the press release says.
Indeed, it works nicely. Tap the Under Armour Logo on the right earpiece and your music's volume dips down to barely audible levels so you can hear the outside world. Press it again and the volume goes back up.
Like a lot of other models, the UA Train is equipped with a speed-charge feature that gives you an hour of playback time from just 5 minutes of charging. The heapdhone charges via Micro-USB and comes with a cable so you can listen in wired mode when you need to -- say, on a plane. Overall battery life is rated at 16 hours at moderate volume levels, which is pretty decent though not fantastic.
The other design feature worth noting is the large buttons for volume and track control (you hold the up-volume button to advance tracks forward and down-volume to skip back).
The prominent pause/play button also activates your voice assistant when held down. All the buttons, including the power button, are easy to operate by feel.
As I said, these headphones sound good. They're well balanced, with relatively clean, detailed sound (for Bluetooth) and well-defined bass that's definitely got plenty of kick to it without sounding boomy or bloated. If you're looking for more bass, the Project Rock Edition, endorsed by actor Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, is apparently more bass heavy. It costs $250 and ships September 21, 2018.
Ultimately, my only gripe is that I didn't find the headphones incredibly comfortable. They're designed to stay on your head -- and they do -- but they sit snugly on your ears and there were moments when I had to remove them to relieve a bit of pinching on the top of my ear. They are a less-than-ideal headphone for people who wear glasses. Alas, that's par for the course for on-ear headphones.
Under Armour and JBL say these headphones "give weightlifters and cross-trainers the on-ear design they love with fabrics and technology custom-engineered for the gym." It's been a year since they were first announced and I'm seeing more folks at my gym in New York City -- some of them serious weightlifters -- wearing smaller earphone-style wireless headphones and even AirPods ($175 at Walmart) (they fit some people's ears very securely, though not mine).
While there's still probably some demand for this type of headphone -- and I do like the features and sound it offers -- I do think it may have to come down in price to attract a wider audience. It's well designed, but then again, design trends change.
I'll have a full review after I spend some more time with the UA Sport Wireless Train headphones -- both in the gym and outdoors.
UA Sport Wireless Train features:
- UA SuperVent ear cushions to keep cool and dry
- Ear cushions are removable and washable
- UA Grip material for maximum stability and control
- Compression-fit headband
- TalkThru technology
- 16-hour battery with Speed Charge
- Bluetooth wireless
- JBL Charged Sound
- Oversize controls
- Foldable design for compact transport
- Sweat resistance (IPX4 rating)
- Price: $200