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SMS Audio BioSport earbuds review: Heart-rate-monitoring headphones are more convenient than you think

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | March 19, 2015
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?

You're paying for tech, not audio performance

Flipping a small switch on the BioSports' remote control activates its heart-rate monitor. Currently, the phones work exclusively with RunKeeper (Android or iOS), but SMS says compatibility with additional fitness apps is in the works (MapMyFitness support is promised for later this year). For now, you'll need to use Runkeeper if you want to track your workouts or see your heart rate at all.

The BioSports don't have active noise cancellation, but they do a great job of blocking outside noises.

To start tracking, open Runkeeper and start a workout in the app. Your heart rate, as well as your "activity zone," will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can use this for real-time monitoring throughout your workout. RunKeeper also stores the data in your log for reference. In my tests, I used a chest-strap heart rate monitor to determine the BioSports' accuracy, and the two monitors were never more than a couple beats off of each other.

The BioSports aren't terrible-sounding headphones, but it's clear you're paying more for the heart-rate monitoring feature than audio performance. Sennheiser's MX 686G sports earbuds sound considerably better at half the price ($70). Then again, top-drawer audio quality isn't the most important factor in sports headphones. Without a good comfortable fit, your earbuds won't stay in your ears long enough for you to enjoy the music anyway, so most people are willing to settle for "good enough" audio. The BioSports deliver muddy bass and flabby midrange, but surprisingly they're clear and detailed in the upper register. As a result, bass-heavy EDM tracks sound mushy and ill-defined on these headphones, but vocals sound excellent.

The BioSports don't have active noise cancellation, but they do a great job of blocking outside noises. That's great if you're exercising indoors in a controlled environment; not so much if you're running run outside. As I jogged through downtown Los Angeles, I could loud sounds such as horns and sirens, but subtler noises — ranging from bicycles to cars — were blocked. These are not the best headphones to wear if you need to be aware of your surroundings.

They won't make your heart pump

If heart-rate monitoring is important to you, SMS Audio's BioSport earbuds are more convenient than you might think. Not only do you not have to wear something on your wrist or around your chest, but you also don't have to worry about running out of batteries. If there's one thing that can totally kill your workout vibe, it's arriving at the gym only to realize that you forgot to charge your equipment. If heart-rate monitoring isn't a critical feature, or if you're already using another device for that and you're happy with its performance, there's little recommend to these earbuds.

This review was published as part of a roundup of fitness earbuds. Click here to read the accompanying buyers guide and find links to the other three products reviewed at the same time.

 

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