I was skeptical when I first heard about SMS Audio's BioSport biometric heart-rate-monitoring earbuds. They measure your heart rate through your ears? Assuming they do, is the traditional method of strapping a heart-rate monitor to your chest so inconvenient that adding that feature to a pair of fitness earbuds justifies a $150 price tag? And finally, would the whole package sound like $150 headphones?
Well, my questions were answered: Yes, yes, and not really. The BioSports's heart-rate monitor — developed in conjunction with Intel — is located on the underside of the right earbud, where it rests against your ear and shines a light through your skin to determine your heart rate. Weird science, right? But it's very accurate. As for the convenience factor; well, I never wear my heart rate monitor at the gym because it's extra work to put on and I always forget to charge it. I'll get to the audio performance later.
Sporty, not sexy
The BioSports aren't anything special to look at. There are no physical clues to indicate that they're packing fancy biometric technology cooked up by Intel engineers; in fact, they look like typical sports headphones: Flat, tangle-proof cord; small built-in remote/microphone; and soft rubbery buds with a flexible "ear wing" fin that helps them stay put. The remote has just one button for play, pause, and skipping a track. You must use the controls on your device to control the volume, as the only other switch on the BioSports is for turning the heart-rate monitor on and off. The kit includes the usual accessories: Three different sizes of earbud covers, a detachable wire clip, and a color-coordinated zippered neoprene storage pouch.
The BioSports are bigger than your average earbuds, but they're still smaller than the wireless buds I've tested — that's probably because they don't have a built-in battery. The heart-rate monitor draws power from your phone's headphone jack (it's compatible with the Apple iPhone 4S and up; the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Grand II Duos, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S5; the LG Nexus 5; and the Motorola Moto X). The audio plug is a right-angle plug that's slightly wider than normal, so you may need to remove thick phone cases in order to plug these in. If you don't have a compatible device, the BioSports will still work as ordinary headphones (but why buy them if you can't use their signature feature?)
Despite being bigger than average, the BioSports are lightweight and are some of the most comfortable earbuds I've worn. The "ear wing" fin fits snugly into the cymba conchae (the little pocket right above your ear canal), allowing the BioSports to stay put even through intense cardio workouts. The optional wire clip sort of helps to control excessive wire movement when you're working out; but it's a little too loose and tends to slide up and down the wire, catching and pulling at inopportune times.
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