Awesome Headphones for Running – Life Acoustics Review
I’ve run a couple of ultra marathons, a marathon, and a slew of half marathons. All of these races require a lot of training in isolation. As much as I try to coordinate runs with friends, I never run dependably with others. For this reason, I listen to a lot of stuff from my phone as I run. Music, podcasts, I pass my time with others talking and singing into my ear holes.
Over the years I’ve run with a lot of different types of headphones for running with varying degrees of success. Headphones that wrap around the back of your head/neck are heavy, clunky, and restrict movement. Buds like those that come with an iPhone never stay in. I’ve had Yurbuds and they worked ok, but over time the rubber tips fall off constantly. I’ve worn Beats by Dre exactly 0 times (anecdotally, if you’re running with giant cans on your head, knock it off, you can do better).
But here’s the thing about headphones: they’re completely subjective. Fit is everything! It doesn’t matter if the headphones you’re wearing sound so good you keep turning around expecting to see Rod Stewart singing just for you. If your headphones aren’t on, sound quality doesn’t matter. Conversely, headphones that fit like a glove but sound terrible make it a frustrating experience as well. How I perceive a pair of headphones to fit and sound may be completely different than your (wrong!) opinion. I’ve been on a quest to find headphones that fit that sweet spot of comfort and sound perfectly, and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Introducing Life Acoustics
Recently I was introduced to a new company called Life Acoustics. Life Acoustics are in the headphone game and they’ve produced an interesting set of headphones they let me try. Partnering with an audiologist, they claim to have “revolutionized the earphone market.”
I judge headphones on the aforementioned two categories of fit and sound and they faired well in both categories.
Phenomenal and weird. Life Acoustic headphones have a “helix hook” that goes around the back of your ear and a “crevice” that goes on the inside of your ear. Basically, whereas most headphone buds go straight into your ear, these attempt to fit the mold (or crevice) of the cartilage of your ear. I was a little dubious of putting a piece of technology into my body – and the silicone tip does go in your ear – but after figuring out how they fit I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable they are.
Not only did they not hurt the inside of my ear or around the top, but I had free range of movement with my head. Normally if I’m running outside and need to turn my head to look for traffic (or crane my head around in despair as I watch a pacer catch up to me), the headphones I’m wearing will pop out ever so slightly and I’ll have to fiddle with them. I hate fiddling with any article of clothing or accessory while I run. I ran a lot with the Life headphones and rarely, if ever, had to fiddle around with them.
An audiophile I am not, but, I do appreciate a great sounding set of headphones. I have a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50X monitor headphones I use at home that produce phenomenal sound (especially at the price point). I expect less out of headphones that I run with simply because of the constraints of producing dynamic sound with a wide range.
The Life Acoustic headphones I demoded had some of the best sounding high frequency sounds I’ve ever heard on a set of headphones I would use for active pursuits. The bass wasn’t as punchy as I would have liked and it left me wanting, but it wasn’t bad per se. The headphones seemed especially suited well to podcasts – the voices were crisp and clear and bass doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s because of of the nature of the fit, but I also found that they did a commendable job of blocking out exterior noises. These are not noise cancelling headphones, not even close, but as I ran along a busy interstate (I494), I didn’t notice the traffic noise nearly as much as I normally do with other headphones. Not even close.
The cord is advertised as being otherworldly with lots of fancy things going into them (ultra durable and replaceable). I don’t know about that, but I can say that there’s two things I really appreciate about it:
- The jack comes out at a short right angle. That might not seem like a big deal, but it makes it harder to unplug it by accident, and, as phone sizes become tablet-esque, fitting my phone and a giant cord coming out of it into the pocket of my water belt is a slow death.
- Not enough cord to hang myself with. Maybe it’s because of the Y split in the cord, but I don’t feel the need to excessively wrap the cord around my phone or hand when I run to prevent it from bouncing all over the place. The length is perfect.
Life Acoustics does a really cool thing where they partner with an organization – Help Me Hear – where they provide two months of solar powered hearing to children in Mexico for every pair of headphones purchased. That’s pretty cool.
At the end of the day are these perfect headphones? No, but for me they’ve been the best headphones I’ve ever worn for running. The only quibble I have is the lack of rich sounding bass, but again, I’m running, not watching Jurassic World.
And, a word about pricing: The $250 price gave me a little sticker shock. To me, $40 is expensive for headphones. But then I thought about it’s per run cost. I spend roughly $120-$140 on a pair of running shoes twice per year, at least. Minimally, I spend $250/ year on shoes alone. Over a 4 year period I’m spending $1,000 just on shoes. 90% of the time I’m wearing those shoes, I’m listening to music. I have full confidence that these headphones would last me at least four years, dropping it $62.5/year. For as much time as I spend with things jammed into my ears, I’d prefer to have headphones for running that sound good and fit comfortably… what a novel concept.
Look, I’m not telling you to buy the headphones. I am telling you that I would if I were me.
One more Thing…
Want a good set of songs to test headphones against? Listen to these. These songs have a great mix of different kinds of songs that test audio range.
Note I: I realize this is compressed streaming audio and it’s not ideal, but it’s a start.
Note II: I never said I liked these songs. Well, some I do…..most I do.