Many motorcyclists have a long-standing debate surrounding the use of earbuds, and listening to music while they ride. Basically it should boil down to if it is legal to wear earbuds where you ride, and if you are the type of person who wants to pump their jams into their helmet, then hey, you do you. It’s all good.
Now that we have settled that, let’s talk about earbuds, and which ones you should buy.
Motorcycles are, by their very nature, noisy. Gloriously noisy. So are the roads that we ride on. Between the sound of our bikes, traffic, honking and other ambient noise, riding can be a real racket. If you want to blast some music into your earbuds while you ride, you are going to want to dull that ambient noise down and buy noise-cancelling earbuds. These earbuds work by using noise cancellation or active noise control (ANC) which reduces unwanted sound with the addition of a second sound specifically designed to cancel the first.
You are also going to have to choose between wired or Bluetooth headphones. Both have their merits, and both have their downsides, so really it is up to you. For example, wired headphones are tethered to your device, so you’re mildly limiting your mobility. However they can also be plugged into an intercom, so you can get better sound out of your com system. They also do not need charging.
Bluetooth is hands free, so you don’t have to think about any wires getting tangled, but it can also drop in and out during your ride, so you might end up missing the second chorus to “Back In Black”.
I tested out 5 popular earbuds for your helmet, and here are the pros and cons to each of them.
For about 10 bucks, you can get a set of these headphones delivered to your door from Amazon. They come in small, medium and large and come in 15 different colors. They are wired noise-cancelling earbuds that come with 3.6 Feet cord.They are smartphone compatible with Apple (iphone/ iPod/ iPad), Android and Blackberry Audio devices.
The first thing you notice is that they are extremely comfortable. The ErgoFit earns its name, and you can easily wear these with a helmet without feeling like they are being pinched to your ears. The 3.6 ft of cord is more than enough if you have your device in a jacket pocket, and the crystal clear sound is enough to drown out the ambient noise from your bike and traffic.
Actually, the full name of these earbuds on Amazon is Purity True Wireless Earbuds with Immersive Sound, Bluetooth 5.0 Earphones in-Ear with Charging Case Easy-Pairing Stereo Calls/Built-in Microphones/IPX5 Sweatproof/Pumping Bass, but that seemed like a bit much. However, for around 20 bucks Amazon will put them in your hands and ears.
The name of the earbuds may be long, unnecessary, but they do tell the whole story. They are wireless Bluetooth earbuds designed for the gym, but they are also great while riding. You can get them all sweaty, and it won’t harm them due to their waterproof construction, and they bring the bass just like they claim. They have a 4 hour lifespan on a single charge, and come with a charging case.
Clearly earbud makers think more is better when naming their products, but who am I to judge. The Tozo buds (see, much better) feature noise-cancelling Bluetooth connectivity, waterproof construction and 8 hours of playtime, so you can easily wear these for a long adventure ride and never worry about losing your beats. They are fairly comfortable and come with a charging case, just like the Purity earbuds, however they will set you back about 60 bucks compared to the 20 bucks for the Purity earbuds. Are they worth 3 times the price? I think so. Especially if you like a deeper,tighter bass sound.
The Anker Soundcores are wireless Bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds that feature two microphones each, a waterproof design and 7 hours of use. They cost about 40 bucks on Amazon, so they sit somewhere in the middle between the TOZO buds and the Purity set. They are marketed towards people working from home and for office use because of the cool dual microphone set-up, however they are also waterproof, so you can still wear them while riding. They’re comfy, and I don’t have any complaints per se’ however they are clearly not sport earbuds and would be more at home in your office.
The Sony contenders are by far the most expensive set I tested. Amazon will get them to your door for about 100 bucks for the blue ones, 120 for black and 90 for an orange set. Why do they have such drastically different prices depending on the color? I have no idea. They all feature Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a microphone for taking calls and Alexa voice control, so they’re all the same except for the color. Go figure.
You can use them for 9 hours on a single charge, however unlike the Purity, Anker and TOZO models, the Sony set are constructed with a sweat and splash-proof design, so they aren’t claiming to be waterproof. This may be a dealbreaker because earbuds get stinky when under a helmet, and you are going to want to wash them with almost every use. Plus they are way more expensive than their counterparts.
So Who’s The Winner?
Ultimately, it’s up to you, but for my hard-earned cash, I’m going with the Purity set. This is because for 20 bucks, they do a good job in less than ideal conditions, which is what riding with earbuds is. Sure, if you are at the gym, or listening to your music at home, work or in a quiet space, then you don’t mind forking out a bit more loot for better sound quality.
However, when you’re on a bike, even the best noise-canceling technology is going to have a hard time battling the sound of your ride barrelling down a highway, surrounded with traffic, 18 wheelers, horns and other ambient racket. At best, you’re still going to get some roadside bleed. Additionally, the Purity earbuds last for 4 hours on a charge, and for most rides, that’s plenty. No they aren’t the best, but they are the best for the price.