Sennheiser makes some truly wonderful personal audio products – the HD800s, for instance, are arguably the best sounding headphones on the planet. But when you’re looking for a pair of headphones to use while you’re training, sound quality is just one of many important factors to consider.
When you’re running with headphones on you need them to be light enough so that they stay in place and don’t tug at your ears. You also need to make sure that the cable doesn’t slap a too hard against your torso and interfere with the music. And you want headphones that aren’t going to die at the merest touch of liquid, because you’re going to be sweating all over them.
To address all these issues, Sennheiser has teamed up with Adidas and created a range of headphones that are designed specifically for active users. The Sports range includes earbud, in-ear, headband and neckband designs, so no matter what type of headphone you prefer, there should be something in the Sports range to suit.
The Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports that I’m looking at today utilise a neckband design, with the earphones themselves sitting inside your ears, but not sealed in the ear canal. The PMX 685i Sports are very light, weighing only 19g including the cable, and you can barely tell you’re wearing them, even when running. And because the over-the-ear neckband design supports the headphones, there’s no hint of tugging, no matter how fast you’re running.
Unlike earphones that sit inside the ear canal, the PMX 685i Sports don’t isolate ambient noise – this can be considered good or bad, depending on your situation. If you run mainly outdoors it’s a real benefit to be aurally aware of your surroundings – you want to know if there’s a car approaching, a horse trotting along the trail or even a dog nipping at your heels. However, if you generally run in a gym, especially one that plays loud music, you may find yourself having to crank the volume up to block out the ambient noise.
The cable is attached to the left earphone and runs to a length of 1.2m. There’s an in-line remote control on the cable along with a microphone. So, if you’re plugging into an iPhone, you’ll be able to play/pause/skip and adjust the volume of your music without touching your phone. And if a call comes in, you’ll be able to answer it and talk – whether you can continue running while you chat on the phone is more down to your own fitness that the headphones though!
Sound quality is good, especially from headphones designed to withstand an active lifestyle. There’s a decent degree of clarity on offer that never really gets harsh, even when you dial the volume up. I initially found a distinct lack of low frequency impact, which was disappointing since it’s often that heavy beat or bass line that drives you on when you’re running. However, once I’d slipped the foam covers on the earphones, the bass response was much improved, making the overall sound far more cohesive and full.
Given how much of a positive difference the foam covers make to the sound, it’s a shame that Sennheiser only supplies one pair in the box. This is compounded by the fact that the foam covers are very delicate, and I managed to tear one of mine while fitting it – it still sits in place, but I’m expecting it to need replacing at some point soon. Even having just a second pair of foam covers in the box would make all the difference.
There’s also a carry case bundled, that’s branded with both Sennheiser and Adidas logos. Unlike many headphone carry cases I’ve encountered, this one feels very robust and has a Velcro seal to ensure that your headphone stay safely intact.
Sennheiser prices the PMX 685i Sports at £59.99, which is pretty reasonable considering the design and functionality. However, a quick look around the web showed that you can pickup these headphones from reputable retailers for under £45, which looks like a serious bargain.
If you’re looking for a set of headphones specifically for running, the Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports really should be high on your list. These headphones are incredibly comfortable, stay where you put them, are water resistant and sound pretty good too.
If you run mainly in the gym you might find the lack of sound isolation to be a problem, but if you’re more of an outdoor runner that relies on music to keep motivation up, the PMX 685i Sports could be the ideal training partner.
- Amazingly comfortable
- Good sound quality
- Remote control and microphone
- Water resistant
- No cable slap
- Great value for money
- Only one set of foam covers in the box
- Some may want more noise isolation