How to choose your sports headphones?


LSport and music often go hand in hand and several scientific studies have proven time and time again that music can have a positive impact on sports performance. And the best way to enjoy your music solo is of course to opt for headphones dedicated to sports use. Let’s see the criteria to take into account to choose it.

Qwhether it is as a regular athlete, to become “summer ready” (ready for the summer), to take care of yourself during the summer season or simply to keep your resolution to get back to sport; all the reasons are good for sports practice. But talking physically is one thing, doing it in music is another much more motivating. However, when we talk about equipping ourselves with headphones to accompany us in training sessions, there are as many solutions as there are sports disciplines. We will therefore try not to tell you which helmet is the best but simply to guide you on the criteria to take into account when you have to make your choice.

The form factor or type of headphones

Lhe “form-factor” represents an essential element of equipment design since it defines the size, shape and certain physical specifications of the components prescribing a specific standard. We are of course talking here about the type of your helmet which is defined by immutable physical criteria in addition to having to satisfy both your requirements in terms of comfort but also adapt as well as possible to the requirements of the sport you practice.

    • Circum-aural “Form-factor”: The padded ear cups sit on the skull and surround the auricle for a higher bass level and better passive isolation.
    • Supra-aural “Form-factor”: The padded ear cups are placed on the pinna of the ear for a reduced size and a more airy sound system.
    • Semi-intra “Form-factor”: The earphones are housed in the pinna of the ear in front of the auditory canal for reduced discomfort and minimal bulk.
  • In-ear “Form-factor”: Earphone tips slide into the ear canal of the ear to channel sound. You thus gain in sound and passive isolation.

UCircum or supra-aural audio headphones will be heavier and will warm your ears than semi-intra or intra headphones. In addition, due to its weight and volume, this type of helmet is not the most relevant when you practice intense physical activity that does not allow your head carriage to remain as stable as possible. Too many jolts, bumps, rhythm changes or changes in the axis of the head carriage can affect the stability of the helmet on your ears and your skull.

LThe semi-intra or intra-auricular audio headset is lighter and sits in the pinna of the ear. Thanks to specific tips and a stabilization system which often takes the form of fixing lugs, you are sure to keep the headphones in your ears regardless of the vigor of your physical activity.

Lomfort is essential when you want to equip yourself with headphones for sport or not. The design, the “form-factor” and all the details that make your helmet a comfortable companion for all your activities must be taken into consideration to make the best choice.

Wired or wireless sports headphones?

Lhe question of wired or wireless for sports headphones is certainly a question of taste, but also of ergonomics and hardware. Indeed, you are more likely to tangle your brushes with a helmet equipped with a cord. If your audio source, such as a smartphone, multimedia player or even a tablet, does not support Bluetooth® wireless technology, you will have no choice but to opt for a wired headset, even if it means sometimes being hampered during your movements.

FFortunately, whether your sports headphones are wired or not, some models are supplied with a bag for the headphones but especially for your mobile device such as a smartphone or walkman, allowing you to optimize use and reduce discomfort.

Sf you choose a Bluetooth® wireless headset, you should know that not all Bluetooth® technologies are created equal. No, to be more precise, all audio encoding technologies used with Bluetooth® technology are not created equal. Moreover, to understand everything about the subtleties of Bluetooth® technology, I invite you to take a look at our article: Audio & Bluetooth: Codecs, Profiles, Versions, Compatibility…

VSow do Bluetooth headphones work? In essence, it’s quite simple, your audio source, in this case your smartphone, will digitally compress (encode) the audio stream so that it travels via Bluetooth® wireless technology to your sports headphones. There it is decompressed or decoded so that your headphones can convert it into a sound wave. There are therefore several codecs making it possible to compress the audio stream and therefore to transmit more or less information from said stream. Who says more information passing through means better sound quality at the output. Among the most used codecs we can list a few:

  • The SBC codec: This is the codec used by default for the A2DP profile generally integrated with Bluetooth® technology. This codec provides an audio quality slightly lower than that of an MP3 at around 320 kbps.
  • The Qualcomm® aptX™ codec edited by CSR supports LPCM audio data in 48kHz / 16 bits and allows you to obtain a quality close to that of Audio CD thanks to a compression ratio of 4: 1. that the transmitter (mobile device) and the Bluetooth® receiver (the sports audio headset) both support the Bluetooth® aptX codec.
  • The LDAC codec is a discovery of the Japanese firm Sony which gratifies us here with a technology which transmits up to 3 times more data than the traditional Bluetooth® technology (SBC). The maximum frequency range is 96kHz / 24 bits at transmission for superior compression and reproduction quality approaching Hi-Res. Up to 990 kbps of data can be transferred using Bluetooth® LDAC. Again, both the Bluetooth® transmitter and receiver must use this codec. In other words Sony devices.
  • The AAC codec is a codec mainly used by Apple mobile devices which wanted a clean codec to obtain a better quality ratio than the memorable MP3. It offers a sampling frequency between 8 Hz and 96kHz against 16 to 48kHz for MP3.

VSAs you can see, it’s not just a matter of choosing between a wired or wireless sports audio headset, but also of taking into consideration the Bluetooth® technologies used. These tips obviously work for a wireless headset that is not dedicated to sports.

Sweat resistant? Waterproof ? A sports design?

VSIt is certainly not an obligation, but it is important that whatever sports audio headset you wish to purchase, it is resistant to water or sweat. In fact, the mineral salts contained in sweat can damage the electronic components of your helmet. A water-resistant helmet is all the more easily washable as it can accompany you in rainy or even aquatic environments depending on its degree of resistance.

VSt is the “protection index” standard which is responsible for defining the capacity of the casing of an electronic device to resist external threats. This degree of protection marked “IP” and relating to sealing is established by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). To summarize, the index is made up of two letters (IP) followed by two numbers (or a number and/or a letter) which characterize the degree of protection of the enclosure of electrical equipment.

VSThe figures thus indicate the compliance conditions to which the envelope meets. When no criteria are met, the number can be replaced by the letter X and optional letters can be added. As you can see from the table below, an IPX5-certified sports audio headset is resistant to jets of water. If you want a sports audio headset capable of following you during temporary or prolonged immersion under water, you will have to opt for a headset with an IPX7 or IPX8 index.

UThe sports design can take into account whether you play sports in a sometimes hostile environment or in conditions that require increased safety. Some audio headsets thus adopt a reflective covering in order to increase your visibility if you are a runner, for example.

The little extras that are always good to take

SIf your headphones are dedicated to sports, this does not prevent them from being complete or from offering some interesting additional functions. The hands-free function is not an obligation when you want to focus solely on your sports practice, but in the ultra-connected world in which you live, it is sometimes difficult to cut yourself off from the world. And then before or after the effort, you can always appreciate the fact of making phone calls without changing equipment.

VSsome manufacturers also offer a mobile app to use alongside your headphones. Some of these applications are basic, others allow you to manage your playlists or adapt the rhythm of the music according to your activity. In short, another way to always optimize your sports headphones a little more in order to offer you the best possible user experience.

Vthere, you know what points to look for when you want to equip yourself with headphones for mainly sports use. The “form-factor”, comfort, wired or wireless connectivity, the Bluetooth® technology used, the protection index, ergonomics; all these points help you choose the ideal sports headphones for your sports practice.


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