27
Apr
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Most earbuds are designed for use while mobile; after all, they're inherently more portable and discrete than headphones. But not all of them are made for heavy activity. Ever try running or hitting the gym with most off-the-shelf 'buds? I have, for years. It's usually not an enjoyable experience. They need to meet some pretty specific criteria:

  1. The earbuds need to stay put at all times. Any regular fitness fan will tell you that getting in a sort of rhythm is pretty important, and it's nigh-impossible to do so if you're stopping every few minutes to fix your earbuds.
  2. The cable needs to be just right. If it's too long, it becomes unwieldy and gets in the way - bad juju. Similarly, weight is of concern, as a heavy cable can be a serious distraction and, again, get in the way. Third, it shouldn't be too big. While a thick cable can be a reassuring sign of quality, it's also a distraction - not what you want for exercising.
  3. They need to be durable. In this case, that means being sweat-proofed and with the ends well-attached, so that they don’t wear out from the constant movement and stress. Sure, regular ol’ earbuds will certainly work for exercising, but they’re also likely to wear out prematurely.

So, they need to fit in the ear well and stay put without any intervention for the duration of a workout. The cables need to be just right - not too long or too short, nor too heavy or thick, nor too light or too thin. And perhaps most importantly, they can’t wear out quickly. Some picky criteria to begin with, and that's not even giving consideration to the audio quality.

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As an experienced gym rat, I can say that the MEElectronics S6's are a solid choice in the relatively niche market of earbuds designed for use during physical activity. But for casual (read: non-active) consumers? These probably aren't the 'buds you're looking for. There's a reason for that: MEElectronics had to make some sacrifices to keep the S6’s in the budget-friendly $50 range. After all, it takes some extra time, energy, and materials to cater to those strenuous circumstances.

I have two main complaints about the S6's. First and foremost, audio quality is good, but not great. The company includes 6 different tips in the box, and using the right tips (and getting the fit just so) is crucial to getting the best sound of the earbuds - a necessity, given that you're likely to use them while moving around quite a bit. Once you do so, the sound quality is respectable, but the low end seems flat and very overrepresented. Using an equalizer to tweak the lows down and the highs up provides a noticeable improvement, but no matter how much you tweak, the lows just lack detail. Thus, while the sound is good enough, it's nothing special.

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Second – and this is much more subjective than the audio quality, I admit - the arm band is terrible, at least from the standpoint of somebody who doesn't run. The strap is simply too small. I have it the biggest it will go and it's still not big enough - and my arms aren't exactly big, to be honest. Nor does it stretch... in fact, it has no give at all. That makes little sense considering your muscle changes shape and size as it moves, and gets larger as you work out. It gets worse: it's short, so even my 4.2” Galaxy R stuck out the top quite a bit, let alone the 4.7” One X. And finally, it's just fabric all around - no plastic at all, so you can't see the screen (except for the inch+ that sticks out the top). Want to skip a song or read a quick text? Have to pull it out.

That's not to say the S6's are without merit, though. The cable is short and light, though not too much of either. It also has a clip to keep it from getting in the way, and an extension in case you need that extra length - both thoughtful touches. And while the arm band is (clearly) not my cup of tea, it would certainly be adequate for some people  - namely, those with smaller arms, and distance runners thanks to their typically thinner builds, lack of arm “pump,” and a "set it and forget it" usage style. The earbuds, too, are well-configured to fit in the ear brilliantly and comfortably, and thanks to the design of the buds and the over-the-ear design of the cable, stay put like a champ. Further, everything is sweatproofed – the lack of which has been a problem for me with other earbuds in the past.

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To put it simply: if you're just looking for a pair of earbuds for casual use, you might want to look elsewhere; the $20 MEElectornics M6 earbuds offer nearly identical sound, and $50 non-active earbuds would provide audio that’s a notch better. But if your top priority is earbuds that will stay put and not distract you or get in the way no matter how vigorous your activity, the S6's deserve a serious look.

Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Monsta

    I own a different pair made by ME Electronics, and their sound quality is definitely top-notch. I'd say these are worth checking out. 

    • enoch861

      A151 have impeccable sound quality. I'd say even better than some 100-200 dollar options.

  • fixxmyhead

    give me a 10$ pair of earphones and call it a day. i dont need these stupid fancy earphones that dont do anything. i mean its not like its gonna make the music sound better and i dont mean "bassy"

    • Aaron Gingrich

      You couldn't be more wrong, my friend =

      • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

        Agreed, workout headphones are not quite as much about sound quality (even though this is important) but they are really about being sweat-proof, and being stable (not shifting while you are active).

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          I've yet to find a total proposition that beats the Sony HBH-IS800 - they're ultra portable and ideal for workouts. Sound quality is great too.

          • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

            I don't know. They don't say sweat-proof, and I sweat harder than R. Kelly during Girl Scout Cookie season while working out.

          • Aaron Gingrich

            That's because you don't sweat.

  • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

    Gym headphones are a difficult niche. I am a user of the Jaybird Freedoms, and I like them with the exception of exactly what you guys complained about in their review:

    http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/11/10/review-jaybird-freedom-stereo-bluetooth-headset-awesome-if-you-dont-actually-talk-on-your-phone/ 

    But my biggest qualm is not being wireless. I guess having a wire is fine if you are on something that keeps your upper body stationary, like a bike, or possibly busting out a million reps on the leg press, but if I am moving, I do not want to be lugging around my super nice cell phone that I am locked into for the next 22 months.

    If you are holding a small piece of plastic and glass that cost you several hundred dollars, and then go to pick up a 45 pound plate without alarm bells going off in your mind, you do not deserve the phone you have.

    I much prefer to take my wireless headphones and prop my phone in a corner pointed to maximize range without jeopardizing my baby.

    Also, when I see a person with a wire on at the gym, chances are one end is connected to a white iPhone 4 and the other end is mounted on a pair of non-waterproof Beats cans. Thanks but no thanks, I don't need to look more like a dickhead than I already do.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I've used probably 10 or so different phones with wired earbuds for music every workout (4-6 times per week) for the past 2.5 years and never once hit or hurt any of the phones, once. That's largely doing weight lifting via barbells, dumbbells, and plates, though there's some running/biking in there too.

      I think if alarm bells are going off in your head when you're moving a plate, you're doing it wrong. Seriously, how does a plate ever get near your tricep/bicep area? The closest I can think of is hoisting a plate behind my head to work my triceps, but even then I rest the plate on top of my shoulder. Nowhere near the phone.

      Edit: re-reading this comment, I look like an ass. Not trying to come across that way at all, apologies if that's the case. Rather ironically, I'm just mid-workout so I'm rushing to get to my next set ;)

  • Victor

    Look like my brand-new Shure SE215. Shapewise. 

  • Parker2004au

    I just brought the M6 version; came to $21.95 including shipping to Australia ($6.95).

    Coupon code was M6CL_GOOGLE_50OFF to get 50% off.

  • Northstar17

    I have M6P (phone version w. Mic and buttons) and overall decent sound but not outstanding.

    Any better options with a button in sub $40 range?

  • NemaCystX

    I need to get me a pair of ear buds that are active noise-cancelling. I tried my friends Bose noise cancelling active headphones (never tried noise-cancelling before).  I was amazed by the ZERO outside sound. (ie: not being able to hear yourself breath I hate that)

    I want to get earbuds for when I'm doing yard work and running the lawnmower.  I'm not sure what to get though, I would probably spend around $75 max for a good pair with excellent sound

  • Thomas

    WHY CAN*T I FIND ANY EARBUDS FOR MY ANDROID PHONE?!
    I really find this weird! I want something like monster cable or the bose...But it's all for iphone everything is for i i i i i i i i i i ..... seriously WTF! why doesn't anyone react to this??? I feel like the only one who can see that something is TOTALLY WRONG!

    Can anyone please help me??

    sorry and thanks-

    • closingracer

      Apple probably owns patents for those...

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