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In January of 2009, I made the token New Year's resolution to start exercising regularly. I kicked things off in late May. Instead of signing up for a gym membership, I bought a high-tech pair of sneakers and forced myself to run. It can be very difficult to motivate yourself to work out, but with a properly designed set of sports headphones, exercising opens up a unique and immersive musical experience.
Let's face it, listening to music is awesome. But for some of us, performing strenuous aerobic activity isn't. Anything you can do to make exercising more appealing is worth a try. Recently the renowned pro audio manufacturer Sennheiser teamed up with the athletic giants at Adidas to produce a new line of headphones designed specifically for sports. I was asked to test them out in the field, to see if I have what it takes to keep up with these tough new headphones.
There are four new models of sports headphones in the new Sennheiser/Adidas line. Which model best suits you depends on your personal taste in headphones. If you prefer headphones that clip to your ears, the OMX 680 is the way to go. If you gravitate toward headphones that wrap around your head, then PMX 680 is for you. If iPod-style earbuds are your thing, there are two options: the CX 680 features soft rubbery ear tips that nuzzle into your ear canal, and the MX 680 has standard foam earpieces. Both of the earbud-style models feature the exclusive new EarFin technology.
|EarFins keep the CX680 and MX680 from popping out|
I've always had trouble with earbuds not staying in my ears properly. Normally I would have chosen the PMX 680, because they're the most like traditional headphones. When I read about the new EarFin design, I was more interested in testing out the earbuds models. The EarFin is a soft rubbery protrusion that's supposed to stabilize the earphone inside of your ear, so you aren't constantly distracted with reinserting the headphones in your ears. The EarFins can easily be removed when they're not needed.
I got a hold of a pair of CX 680's and I immediately opened them up for a closer inspection. The overall quality level of the cabling and components is high. There's a nice assortment of included accessories, and a lot of thought seemed to be put into the design to make them more sports friendly. As I've found out the hard way, exercise can be a rigorous and demanding activity on the human body. It's even more demanding on a pair of headphones. When you exercise you produce a lot of sweat and your arms, legs, and torso flail around wildly. It can be a very traumatic experience for the participant, and it can permanently damage a pair of headphones that aren't up for the abuse.
|The various goodies included with the CX680's|
Not only is this new line of headphones sweat-proof, but it's perfectly okay to gently wash them off with tap water in a sink after your workout. If you prefer to wear freshly washed gym socks when you exercise, it makes sense to have clean headphones to stick in your ears as well. They're not designed for swimming, but running in the rain and sweating like a mailman in a heat wave isn't an issue. The strong Kevlar reinforced cables have a nice feel to them. The sporty yellow color is cool looking, and it makes you a wee bit more visible if you jog in the evening. The rear of the neckband on the PMX 80 also features a reflective strip for safety.
For those of you who mount your music player in an arm band, the first segment of earphone cable measures roughly around 30 inches (76 cm), which might sound long, but it's actually the perfect length for an arm band. An extension cable with volume control module is included, which makes it possible to comfortably store your music player on your waist or in a pocket. The volume control module is nice and beefy (which is makes it easier to handle while running), and it has a really useful clasp that I used to fasten it to the bottom of my shirt. An included sliding clip can be placed anywhere on the main body of the cable, which was also really useful for fastening (so the cables don't bounce around).
|That isn't me, but that's how I felt|
The CX 608's come with three different sizes of earpieces and EarFins. They come assembled with the medium size pieces attached. Just to be sure I tried out each size, but it turned out that medium fit me the best. I plugged them in and hit play on my iPhone, and while sitting on my couch I thought they sounded pretty nice. These are not audiophile headphones for critical listening, they're active headphones for running and exercising. It wasn't until I was several blocks from my home that I really started to appreciate the sound quality.
Usually when I jog, I count numbers in my head to keep a pace. However, with the CX 680's comfortably affixed to my jogging suit-- I just got lost in the music. I ended up running further than I normally would because I found that I liked how the repetitive motion complimented the electronic music of Booka Shade in my ears. Similar to how listening to music when you're driving a car is a completely different experience, listening to music while running outdoors offers a new perspective on your favorite tunes. If the sound quality of these headphones was really lousy, I don't think I would have lost myself the way I did. All in all I think these products are a solid choice. I have a new incentive for sticking with my resolution, and more importantly, I have a new avenue for appreciating music.