I love AirPods Pro, for many reasons. But I gained a new appreciation for them when I took them to the gym.
They are, without a doubt, the best wireless headphones for working out that I’ve tried yet.
For years, I swore by the $60 Urbanears Hellas: over-ear headphones that are remarkably light and stable. In May, those got replaced by Powerbeats Pro, a pair of wireless earbuds from Apple-owned Beats. They wrap around the outside of your ears to stay in place, and they also favor bass, like all Beats’ stuff, which is great for working out to a beat.
But earlier this month, I picked up a pair of Apple’s AirPods Pro the day they went on sale, and they quickly became my de facto headphones for pretty much everything. I wear them while working at the desk, walking around outside, running errands, or watching my Apple TV late at night (since they pair so seamlessly with other Apple products).
At the gym, though, is where AirPods Pro really stand head and shoulders above other headphones.
The key is noise-cancelling
As I mentioned in my first impressions, AirPods Pro put all my other headphones to shame almost immediately. One of the main reasons for that is their versatility: Unlike the original AirPods, AirPods Pro can switch between noise-cancelling mode, which shuts out the world, and transparent mode, which lets sound in and actually amplifies it in a way that still lets you enjoy your music.
Noise-cancelling, especially, is why AirPods Pro are so good at the gym.
The first time I worked out with AirPods Pro, I put the earbuds in, and started playing my music like normal — in transparent mode. But once I started running on the treadmill, I pinched the stem on the right AirPod to activate noise-cancelling mode. Suddenly, everything went quiet, but my music was elevated.
I couldn’t believe it: I was running at full speed on the treadmill, and I couldn’t hear anything but my music.
My feet were pounding on the treadmill’s belt, there was one person also running immediately next to me, and another person behind me lifting weights, but I couldn’t hear any of it. I was in the zone.
A league of their own
Noise-cancellation is a game-changer for exercise, but most other noise-cancelling headphones don’t belong at the gym. Even Sony’s new “AirPods killer” earbuds, the WF-1000XM3, can’t handle sweat or water, despite sounding better than AirPods Pro. And I wouldn’t take any of my noise-cancelling over-ear headphones to the gym, because they’re not built for that. So in a lot of ways, AirPods Pro are in a league of their own, at least for now.
Compared to Powerbeats Pro, my most recent favorite pair of workout headphones, I find AirPods Pro more comfortable and more effective for the gym overall, especially because of that noise-cancelling. Powerbeats Pro may have been built to handle sweat, but I’ve had issues where one earbud won’t sync properly, or won’t charge properly. I’ve also had the feeling of water building up around one or both ear tips when I’m sweating a lot. I’ve had no such issues with AirPods Pro. They fit better, and thanks to noise-cancelling, sound way better.
I still see a lot of people wearing the original AirPods at the gym. If you’re one of those people, don’t do this. The first- and second-generation AirPods lack any kind of sweat- or water-resistance, and water damage isn’t covered by Apple’s warranties, so you’ll have to pay $60 to replace a water-damaged AirPods case, and $70 for each broken AirPod.
If you own the original AirPods, and really want to take them to the gym, consider upgrading to AirPods Pro. If you don’t have a good pair of workout headphones already, definitely consider these as well. Apple’s earbuds aren’t cheap at $250, but personally, I’ve gotten so much use out of them that I think they’re actually worth that price. They feel great for every situation, whether I’m sitting still or running as fast as I can. You won’t realize how fun the gym can be until you can tune it all out.