Ever wonder what your heart rate is when you’re running while listening to music? The ear provides a great platform for doing this kind of biometric measurement. Earbuds, rather than watches, tend to be the most accurate heart-rate monitors, outperformed only by traditional chest straps.
Essential reading: Best heart rate training chest straps
Headphones are also great for people who work out and want to check their steps, distance traveled, and calories burned, on the fly. Some smart earbuds even claim to be able to track brain waves through EEG and provide real-time feedback about focus, stress, sleep patterns, and relaxation.
Wearables suppliers are increasingly looking beyond the wrist, and the ears may very well be the next big growth area. The best technology is invisible. This the road we’re going down.
Samsung Gear IconX
Samsung smart buds offer a cable-free design with comfortable, stabilizing ear gels to keep the headset where it belongs. There is also a carrying case for storage and charging when not in use.
Users can stream music directly from their phone, or use the built-in music player and not have to worry about carrying their phone around with them. 4GB of on-board storage allows you to store up to 1,000 songs directly on the headset. With Ambient Sound Mode, outside sounds are passed through to keep you safe and aware of your surroundings.
Designed primarily with fitness in mind, there is a built in fitness tracker and heart rate monitor to help keep tabs on your activity. The splash resistant headphones will deliver hands-free reporting on distance, heart rate, calories burned and speed, all in real-time. Gear IconX with will also play nicely with a host of 3rd party fitness apps.
This is a great all-in-one training solution for sports, which features a built-in biometric heart rate monitor. The buds are built to provide high quality audio via Dolby enhanced sound and take a beating because they’re sweat and weather-proof towards US Military Standards.
This is one of a select few headphones that automatically measure your VO2 Max. A useful metric for runners, VO2 Max describes the maximum rate of oxygen that your body consumes during exercise and helps determine your endurance level. Analyzing your levels can be used to enhance your performance. For instance, a 5% improvement in your VO2 Max score would typically cut 5 minutes off of your 10k run time.
The accompanying smartphone app provides real-time audio coaching and lets you control your music and your training from a single source. With no wires, you can enjoy true freedom of movement. The buds also work with most popular fitness applications on iOS and Android devices to provide pace and distance alerts.
These biometric headphones were developed in an unlikely partnership between rapper 50 Cent and Intel. They use an optical emitter to measure the smallest changes in blood flow through the capillaries. This results in accurate detection of your heartbeat.
What sets these headphones apart from the pack, though, is the fact that there are no bulky battery packs to add weight and no charging is required. The headphones are able to harvest energy right from the sound jack. Bio Sport performs well in any environment boasting an IPX4 rating for resistance to sweat & water. They will also work with most popular fitness applications.
This is the first heart rate monitor from Bose that works with MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Endomondo and Runtastic. The headphones are designed to provide a secure and stable fit during even the most intense of workouts. The fit is crafted to form a gentle seal, which improves the audio performance of your favorite workout soundtrack.
The Bose Connect app helps you manage your paired devices and gives you real-time readings from the built-in heart rate sensor. You can connect to your device via Bluetooth or NFC, and use the inline mic and remote to control volume, skip tracks and take calls. Volume-optimized EQ gives you balanced audio performance at any volume.
Finally, the lithium-ion battery provides up to 5 hours per charge, which means Sound Sport Pulse will stay with you through those marathon training runs or long hours at the gym. User reviews are excellent for these buds, averaging over 4.0 on Amazon US.
LG Electronics HRM Earphone
Although not as slick as some of the other devices on this page, the LG Electronic HRM Earphones come in at a much lower price-point. These earphones connect to a lightweight medallion device that you can strap on your arm or clip on your waistband. This medallion serves as the data processing hub, sending real-time biometric information via Bluetooth to your compatible Android or iOS smartphone.
The headphones allow you to track your metabolic rate and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) rate and listen to your favorite music at the same time. The HRM Earphone Heart Rate Monitor continuously monitors a full range of data including distance, calories, steps, 3-axis accelerometer direction and more.
Bragi Dash allow you to stream music from your Bluetooth device, or load up to 1,000 songs directly onto the 4GB on-board music player. Passive noise cancellation begins as soon as the buds are inserted into your ears. With a swipe you can initiate ‘Audio Transparency’, allowing you to hear the world around you.
The integrated sensor technology also tracks your workouts. You can choose to receive live feedback during fitness activities on your heart rate, steps, cadence, strokes, duration, and more.
The smart earphones are water-resistant up to 1m so you can even listen to music while you swim. The Dash stays secure due to its snug fit.
An interesting add-in is the portable charging case which allows you to recharge up to 5 times on the go. The buds will run approximately 3 hours of power per charge.
Another highly rated product on Amazon, the Sony Smart-B Trainer is an all-in-one comprehensive fitness trainer and 16GB music player.
The compact, in-ear design houses six integrated sensors (including GPS) that dish out 11 different measurements. This includes calories burned, distance, time, speed, pace, pitch, steps, strides, route and altitude. An impressive list, indeed.
Smart B-Trainer periodically updates you with heart rate distance, pace or anytime you like at the push of a button. The smartphone app allows you to set goals and fitness level, and will then guide you day by day with target heart rates for efficient fat-burning and stamina increasing sessions.
Just to mention – the buds play music as well… Smart B-Trainer uses your target heart rate to automatically select tracks matching tempo to training, slowing you down or speeding you up to keep you on target.
A Kickstarter funded project, Aware is a Bluetooth headphone with a host embedded biometric sensors that measure data such as heart rate, calories burned, speed, distance, steps, and cardio zone. You can also wake up to a comprehensive sleep report each morning.
Furthermore, the Aware hearable claims to be able to monitor your brain waves through EEG and provide real-time info on focus, stress, sleep patterns, and relaxation. This enhanced awareness may help to increase focus and lower stress levels.
The perfect custom fit means no falling out, even with the most vigorous of activities. The outfit has developed a 3D ear scanner, which can scan your ear in under a minute. They take the file from that scan, and 3D print custom headphones that fit your ear perfectly.
While all this sounds great on paper, to the dismay of its Kickstarter backers the company has not started shipping yet. Information is sketchy, so you may want to hold off on pre-ordering for now. The original delivery date was set for June 2016.
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