First and foremost, a pair of earbuds ought to be comfortable. I mean, if you don’t want to wear the things around, what’s the point, really? But try as I might, I just couldn’t get a good fit with the UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate – Engineered by JBL. As with the verbose naming scheme, the issue seems to come down to a company trying to cram too much into too small a space.
The latest arrival from the joint venture between Under Armour and JBL are designed to stay put during workouts, combining an over-the-ear hook with a strange sort of membranous cover designed to fill the wearer’s concha (look it up). It’s a lot of safeguards designed to keep the thing from moving while the wearer works out.
Of course, in order for it to stay firmly in place, you’ve got to get a good fit in the first place. And I just couldn’t find one with the various tips the company included in the box. The addition of heart-rate monitoring to the equation also increases the surface area on the devices, making them bulkier than I’d prefer a pair of fitness headphones to ultimately be.
As the name implies, the addition of heart-rate monitoring is the big new feature here. UA isn’t the first to offer the technology — you can currently pick up a pair from Bose and Jabra with similar functionality. Honestly, I’m not sure what the appeal is of incorporating it into a pair of earbuds, as heart-rate detection becomes increasingly ubiquitous on fitness bands, though, as a JBL rep said, “it’s just one less thing” you have to wear on your person.
Also, for those who are into constant updates, the headphones will also read your heart rate back to you. It’s a bit jarring at first, and, honestly, I’d prefer to just check the Under Armour app for updates rather than interrupt my music, but, then, no one’s accused me of being an elite athlete of late.
The sound is solid for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The product seems largely aimed at folks looking for workout-specific buds, due to both the build and a battery that’s rated around five hours. They slot pretty nicely into Under Armour’s existing software ecosystem alongside its existing box of health offerings, so they might be worth looking into for those who have committed to the company’s hardware offerings.
They’ll hit retail October 30, priced at $200, joined by the more affordable heart-rate-free UA Sport Wireless.