Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones mean freedom.

Well… in a manner of speaking. Running is liberating, but I am shackled by my attachment to technology, efficiency, sound, and — most of all — that pesky wire connecting my ears to my phone.

Since starting running 2ish years ago, I’ve progressed in my listening habits now that I run more capably, more often, and for longer times. In order:

  • running to the rhythm of my belabored breathing
  • running with familiar songs to keep me inspired
  • running while surveying new music to keep current
  • running while listening radio shows, podcasts, and audiobooks

All that time, I had a precise routine for how to set up my old Skullcandy headphones for running. Earbuds In my ears, wire wrapped around my neck clockwise, threaded inside the loop in front, down to my left hand, with a slack loop pinned to the front of my phone, then finally plugged into the headphone jack. This configuration was deliberately designed. It shortened the cord to the appropriate length to minimize snaring on my swinging arms. Looping around my neck removed a substantial percentage of the wire’s jostling weight from being supported by the earbuds wedged in my ear canals (and such looping was safe from choking because there was no knot and upon tension the earbuds would fall out). Pinning a loop onto the phone removed tension from the notorious wire-to-jack connection so that snaring the wire would tug on the robust wire itself. My setup for biking was similar, only with my phone carried in my backpack or inner jacket pocket instead.

And it was a functional routine  — if not absurd — until my sweat seeped into the mic. Now, the headphones spontaneously boot Siri. =(

Upon this catastrophe, I agonized over the advantages of purchasing high-quality headphones for running. Could I afford such luxuries while accumulating med school debt? However, I realized that, these days, running plus biking constitutes the majority of time I use headphones. It also keeps me healthy! Additionally, I have never lost a pair of headphones; all 5 previous ones have broken after at least a year of regular use, often at the wire-earbud or wire-jack interface. It was decided.


I’ve bought JLab’s Epic2 headphones for $100 as recommended by the excellent product review website thewirecutter.com. I’m unqualified to do a serious audiophile’s review or comparison between brands and models, but you can read their thorough review here. What I can describe is how wireless headphones mean freedom.

The headphones connect effortlessly and robustly to smartphones via bluetooth. The sound quality is fine; streaming music quality is more limiting anyway. They offer an array of different earbuds to fit snugly in most ear canals and a moldable firm wire to hook around most pinnae. The earpieces are bulkier than expected but impressively light. The well-placed on-wire control is functional and intuitive. 12 hours is ample battery life (med student aside: if your cardiovascular fitness and glycogen reserves can outlast 12 hours, you are an unreasonably fit human being).

Summary: wireless headphones are a mature technology. They work as I’d want: I spin two earpieces into my ears, loop a light tethering wire behind my neck, and suddenly there is sound magically broadcasted to my head.

Really though, the headphones feel like an extension of my ears. Bouncing around during high-knee raises, rapid head turning while biking, inversion yoga poses, vigorous headbanging, all of these motions barely make the headphones budge. But there’s more! My arms can swing any which way now. I can pocket my phone anywhere without fearing damage to the protruding connection. And (by golly who have I become) I can slip off my shirt while running without entangling with wires. I can cook with headphones now! Bike without a jacket/backpack! Move luggage into overhead compartments! I could go to the gym lift and move untethered between weights and machines (but I still won’t)!

originally i planned to pour water on my head to simulate sweat. was not feelin’ it.

I didn’t realize how chained I was to my absurd headphone habits until recently. All these precautions to protect a delicate and obtrusive wire? Running should be liberating, especially in Manhattan! When combined with Citibike, running frees me from the drudgery and frustration of waiting for buses and trains. I should be able to travel under my own power, do so rapidly, and enjoy my preferred sonic entertainment. Now — thanks to wireless headphones — I am unfettered.

PS. Rarely do I write praise for products I get; the last time was for my camera setup 3 years ago. That’s how great wireless headphones feel.

My JLab Epic2 haven’t endured longevity testing nor have I compared them to any competition, but I’d recommend them easily. Buy here, and you can try my referral 20% off code. The funny thing about all my explicit promotion and extremely technical photos, I do it without JLab’s approval. Hope they don’t mind!

PPS. A caveat: wireless headphones are not for everyone. If you lose headphones often, obviously this would be a poor $100 investment for you. The shape of wireless headphones is so cumbersome that the only good place to carry it is on your head. Loose-fitting pockets serve well, but those are rare in running clothes. JLab packs a semi-hard carrying case, but it’s bulky and ill-fitting and I don’t expect to use it.