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JBL / Below Armor Sport Wi-fi Practice Score: Properly aged sound

JBL / Under Armor Sport radio train

“The audio quality of the Sport Wireless Train has withstood the test of time.”

Simple controls

IPX4 weatherproof

Exceptional sound quality

Tight fit

Mediocre battery life

Tech versus time is a war that goes on forever, though one on the other side is almost inevitably unharmed. It takes a special product to keep the clock from going out, and in the fast-paced world of portable audio, these products are increasingly difficult to come by.

Take the JBL / Under Armor Sports Train wireless headphones, which retailed for $ 200 when it was released in 2018 and have since dropped to $ 130. Sure, they seemed solid at the time, but how do they hold up against the unforgiving power of 2020? Let’s find out.

Out of the box

The packaging of the Wireless Train is dark black and matches the headphones. After removing the first cover, you will see a rectangular tote bag with the famous Under Armor logo on the front. Inside, the headphones as well as a charging cable, an additional audio cable and a quick guide are waiting.

JBL Wireless Sport Train headphonesNick Woodard / Digital Trends

Starting the Wireless Train for the first time is a bit weird, at least if you’re like me and adamantly refuse to read the fine print before trying out your new headphones. The power switch is a toggle switch that must be held down for two seconds before turning on. From there, however, the headphones will automatically go into pairing mode, so you can follow the standard procedure to pair your mobile device through the Bluetooth settings.

I’m not thrilled with the Wireless Train, which only supports Bluetooth 4.1 technology, as connectivity and range are not comparable to devices that support the newer, better Bluetooth 5 standard. This raises an important caveat about the wireless train: at the time of this review, they are already two years old. In technical time, that’s about a century. After reviewing the Adidas RPT-01, I looked for the best comparison I could find. The wireless train was the straight answer given its price and design. Unfortunately, these headphones are being rated for modern standards instead of their heyday in 2018.

That’s not to say the wireless train can’t yet be capable headphones – they can. However, it will be an uphill battle for these JBL cans against a comparatively brand new product.

design

For a slightly older product, the Wireless Train offers a more modern design for on-ear headphones with a sports focus. In fact, there aren’t many differences between these headphones and the newer Adidas, other than aesthetic choices like the shape of the ear cups and the logos that appear on each pair of headphones.

JBL Wireless Sport Train headphonesNick Woodard / Digital Trends

A key difference here is weight. The Adidas came onto the market with 209 grams, the Wireless Train with 240 grams. It is not noticeable that every headphone distributes the weight well. However, if you are trying to keep your headphones as light as possible, this is one thing to keep in mind.

One unfortunate resemblance between these headphones: the inescapable tightness that comes with on-ear headphones designed to stay in place during intense workouts. If I were to wear them for a quick trip to the gym, I could probably handle the pressure on my skull with no problem. But when I wear them for long periods of time like I did for testing, the wireless train almost causes a headache when it gets stuck on your head. I experienced the same feeling with Adidas – it’s a generally uncomfortable feeling.

The ear pads of the Wireless Train are made of “UA breathing material”, as JBL calls it, and are washable. This is the key to headphones that you will inevitably sweat anywhere. The button controls on the ear cups next to these pillows are easy to use, so you can control the volume and switch songs between repeats. I train at home these days for obvious reasons, but I have had no problem using these buttons to execute commands on the go.

The button controls on the ear cups next to these pillows are easy to use, so you can control the volume and switch songs between repeats.

properties

The wireless train really shows its age in this category. They have the same IPX4 weather resistance as the Adidas, which frankly is the minimum level of protection these headphones should come with. Even so, it’s a fair rating for the exercise rats of the world as it protects against sweat and splashes.

JBL Sport Wireless Train headphonesNick Woodard / Digital Trends

However, the wireless train has a maximum of 16 hours of playback per charge. The Adidas allows you to get up to 40 hours of battery life before needing to be recharged. Maybe 16 hours of battery for headphones was a solid two years ago. From a 2020 perspective, however, this is far from acceptable when comparable models offer more than twice the battery life.

Despite the battery-related deficiencies, I really appreciated the multifunctional TalkThru button integrated in the Wireless Train. When you press the Under Armor logo on the right ear cup, the music volume is lowered and the surrounding sounds are played. This allows you to have a quick conversation without removing your headphones when you need to.

To be clear, these headphones are not active noise-canceling headphones and have decent passive noise isolation at best. Even then, it has proven valuable to me. If you have not already found yourself in this situation, you may not understand how nice it is not to put headphones on your head after talking to a passerby for several seconds on a walk. It’s a near impossible maneuver when you’re holding the reins of a small pack of dogs, and luckily I didn’t have to get by on the wireless train.

Pressing the Under Armor logo on the right auricle lowers the music volume and plays the ambient noise.

Audio quality

Let’s throw away the mostly outdated features of the Wireless Train for a second and consider what is still one of the most important aspects of headphones, or at least what should be – how do they actually sound?

JBL Wireless Sport Train headphonesNick Woodard / Digital Trends

Because of my intensive listening to both headphones, I have the feeling that the Wireless Train has a clear sound advantage over the Adidas. The RPT-01 featured bass-heavy tracks, but otherwise sounded average when it came to more balanced genres. The included app and equalizer helped solve the problem to some extent, but it was difficult to work around anyway.

The wireless train might not have gotten as deep into the low end as the Adidas could, but they still had solid, refined bass. More importantly, they just filled in the rest of the frequency spectrum better. The wireless train has 40mm drivers with a frequency range of 16-20,000 Hz and is just as powerful as these specifications suggest.

Songs like Dierks Bentley’s Burning Man or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ By The Way suggested that the Wireless Train could avoid getting muddy or tight. There are better sounding headphones – many of them even – but they were more than adequate for exercise doses.

I caught my breath long enough between workouts to make a few calls on the wireless train. While they weren’t exactly meant to throw that part of the experience out of the park, they were fine in terms of maintaining an acceptable level of clarity on both ends of the calls. It could have been better, but as I recently discovered when testing other doses, it could have been far worse.

Our opinion

The UA Sport Wireless Train is far outdated in terms of equipment. That being said, the audio quality of these cans has stood the test of time, and that could earn them the occasional spot in the lineup as battle-hardened veterans.

Are there any better alternatives?

I preferred the sound of the Wireless Train, but there is no question that the Adidas RPT-01 has great features, with the battery life being a highlight. For high-quality headphones outside of the sports category, the $ 200 Razer Opus are a personal favorite because of their mix of price, features, and sound quality.

How long will they last?

With a one-year warranty and a seemingly protective carrying case, you don’t have to worry about knocking these headphones off after just a few workouts. Keep them charged and they should be everyday fitness equipment.

Should you buy it?

Not at their $ 200 retail price. The Adidas RPT-01 is $ 30 less and is a more valuable purchase for the money. At its current $ 130 discount, I would consider the UA Sport Wireless Train for its exceptional sound quality – if you can live with features that are decidedly out of date.

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