Bluetooth earbud alternatives?
August 10, 2017 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I don't like earbuds that create a seal in your ear because it makes a thumping noise when I run, and I prefer to be able to hear *some* ambient noise when I use headphones. Is there a wireless headphone designed for physical activity (like running) that isn't an earbud?

I bought a pair of bluetooth earbuds and I hate them. They're the kind that sit in your ear and make a seal to keep out noise, but I find the thumping of walking and running really distracting. It seems like all wireless headphones these days are either earbuds or large over the ear cans that don't seem right for physical activity.

I used to have a pair of the older-style apple earbuds that *didn't* make a seal in your ear, and I actually really liked those because they didn't make me feel like I was underwater listening to my own footsteps.

I appreciate any suggestions! I don't know very much about headphones, and when I try to search for non-earbuds I just get a bunch of earbuds. Thanks!
posted by hapticactionnetwork to Technology (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You could try some bone-conduction headphones. I don't think they really sound great but they are sufficient for audiobooks/podcasts, if that's your application, and they don't cut ambient noise or cause you to hear breathing/thumping at all. Try before you buy tho.
posted by ftm at 12:40 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have the same set of preferences and really like these sony headphones. They're not quite the same as the old apple earbuds, but they're pretty close and miles more comfortable than any other bluetooth earbuds I've tried.
posted by snaw at 12:53 PM on August 10, 2017

I don't know much about earbuds, but a friend of mine who does swears by these.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:55 PM on August 10, 2017

I like the wrap around the back of the neck in ear or over ear variant, personally. I have a real hard time getting earbuds to stay in my ear.
posted by edbles at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I use various different mpow earbuds, and none of them creates a seal that blocks out sound. You push the "wing" into the outer part of your ear to hold them in.
posted by Etrigan at 1:02 PM on August 10, 2017

Came in to post that I ordered headphones from Amazon a while back and quite like them... but it looks like they've stopped selling that model and if the "comparable products" selection is any indication, you're quite right that the trend seems to be strongly towards either bulky cans or earbuds.

Maybe these are an option?
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:08 PM on August 10, 2017

I used the wired version of these headphones, but one reason I like them is that they don't totally plug my ear holes so I can still hear ambient noise (like traffic when walking on the street) and they don't have the thumping noise when you run. If you can find headphones with that sort of inner ear clip, they would probably give you what you want.
posted by kendrak at 1:10 PM on August 10, 2017

Over the ear headphones are great for running on a treadmill (or elliptical, etc) (I'm talking of ones that look like this or this) - but outside I tend to hear distracting "whooshing" sounds of the wind unless my pace and the wind line up in the same direction. I remember a few windy days where I gave up the ear phones because I actually couldn't hear over the wind unless I brought the sound level up to physically painful levels. Sealed ear buds were way better for noise associated with moving around. Perhaps try different sizes of the silicon plug; I'm a big guy, but often I end up needing the smaller tips.

Currently I've adapted to actively not wanting headphones - switching from road/subdivision running to more trail running really sealed that deal.
posted by nobeagle at 1:16 PM on August 10, 2017

I've been happy with the jvc marshmallows- they have a similar material to the foam you find in ear-plugs. They seal sound well without the heavy suction I feel with standard silicon ones. Only drawback is the lousy bass. There are some bands and genres I usually won't listen to with them.
posted by Violet Femme at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2017

Bose Soundsport wireless headphones not only sound awesomely good, but are supremely comfortable and allow for some ambient sound too. I have had a number of decent conversations while wearing them.
posted by bearwife at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Photive has a bluetooth headset with the bendy ear wire and a connecting cord that goes behind your head. I like them because I can put the ear plugs on my ear, not in them and have the whole get up stay in place. I wear them biking on my commute. Because my ears are not plugged, I can still hear ambient noise easily though they are still a bit distracting. Bottom line is I can have a discussion with someone without shouting because I don't have my ear canal plugged up. Mine cause $70+ over a year ago, just saw them on Amazon for $25.
I've used them on phone calls and they work pretty well. The ear pieces are kind of largish so not the most aesthetic look. Sweat proof too. They've worn well and I'm completely happy with them other than the size.
posted by diode at 1:37 PM on August 10, 2017

If you do find an earbud that behaves for you, I'm the weirdo that runs with only one earbud in and uses a tiny hair clip to manage the other one. I'm on wooded trails for 3/4 of my workout and the hey-I'm-here audio cues can be more subtle. I haven't bumped into a deer...yet.
posted by childofTethys at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Almost all "sport" headphones will be the earbud style, as far as I can tell.

I can, however, highly recommend Sennheiser's sport headphones, if they're not outside your budget and you don't mind wires.

I have a pair of these, which I love. They're explicitly designed to allow some outside noise through, which is intended as a safety feature when running outside but should also solve your problem. The in-ear clip is way more secure than you'd expect, too. I don't think they've ever fallen out on their own.

They also have a neckband alternative, which is pricier for some reason..
posted by tobascodagama at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2017

I recently got a pair of the plantronix Backbeat FIT headphones (here) and I think they're exactly what you want. They appear similar to isolating earbuds but they do not isolate; the cups just sort of point into your ear. They stay in place wonderfully (for me anyway) and supposedly they're waterproof.

The downside of non-isolation is that they don't get very loud; I tried using them while mowing the lawn and could not hear the music at all, even at max volume. But if you're trying to hear ambient sound while exercising, they're just what you're looking for.
posted by dbx at 2:57 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to have a pair of the older-style apple earbuds that *didn't* make a seal in your ear, and I actually really liked those because they didn't make me feel like I was underwater listening to my own footsteps.

I'm not sure if you're not considering them, but in case you weren't aware, Apple now makes bluetooth earbuds.
posted by General Malaise at 4:23 PM on August 10, 2017

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