Intel and 50 Cent want to win your heart by tracking it. The SMS Audio BioSport earbuds have an optical heart-rate monitor built into one of the buds, so it can read your heart rate while you work out, and at the same time pump your favorite tunes into your head. Although the audio quality doesn't wow, these earbuds will get you sufficiently hyped during your next run.
Designed in a funky shape to mimic the opening of your ear, the BioSport buds are odd at first glance and feel even weirder when you first insert them. However, this misshapen rectangular design is similar to that of Jabra's Sport Pulse earbuds and is common among heart-rate-monitoring earbuds.
Semicircular secure-fit ear gels stick out the top of the earbuds, and slide under your inner ear to keep the buds in place. They're flexible and, compared to the bulbous buds, they practically disappear in your ear.
The optical heart sensor lies inside the right bud, and the beauty of it is that it doesn't need charging. SMS says that the energy needed to power the heart rate monitor is obtained from the headphone jack when the earbuds are plugged into your device.
The BioSport earbuds are rated IPX4 water resistant, which means splashes of water and sweat will not affect these headphones. Another plus: The thin, flat cords are tangle resistant — rolling them up, shoving them in my coat pockets and retrieving them was quick and easy. I do wish, though, that the inline remote had volume controls to complement the heart rate and mic controls.
Comfort and Fit
The BioSport earbuds come with small, medium and large sized buds, so you can find the one that fits best in your ear. However, unlike the Jabra Sport Pulse wireless earbuds, these buds don't totally seal off your ear, which makes them slightly uncomfortable. After trying all three sizes, I chose the mediums, and while they stayed put during my workouts, I still felt as if the buds were going to fall out of my ears.
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The SMS Audio BioSport earbuds measure your heart rate with an embedded optical sensor, but you must turn this feature on first. Before working out, you slide the toggle on the inline remote up to activate heart rate monitoring.
While the packaging of the BioSport earbuds says they are compatible with "leading mobile fitness applications," these headphones currently work only with RunKeeper. SMS Audio provides a month free of RunKeeper Elite when you buy these earbuds, which lets you see advanced workout reports, compare workouts and share stats with friends over social media. When the month is up, you can renew for $10 per month or just use the free version of RunKeeper. The Jabra Sport Pulse earbuds have their own app, too, but with those earbuds you can also feed your heart rate information to RunKeeper, Endomondo, MapMyFitness and Strava.
You'll need to connect the BioSport earbuds to RunKeeper before working out; otherwise, your heart rate information won't be recorded. Open RunKeeper, go to Settings, and under Apps, Services and Devices, you sync the earbuds as "analog headphones" in just a few seconds. Then the RunKeeper app's home page should show a small heart in the top right corner that flashes when it's warming up and grabbing your current pulse. It then remains a steady pink color when it's ready to go.
Overall, the BioSport earbuds tracked my continuous heart rate accurately. While I worked out on a Star Trac elliptical, the machine measured my heart rate as 144 beats per minute, and the earbuds measured a close 142 beats per minute. Compared to the $179 Jabra Sport Pulse wireless earbuds, the BioSports were much more consistent and accurate in measuring my heart rate.
I wore Magellan's Soft Strap heart rate monitor around my torso for comparison during another workout, and the results were even better. Both the BioSport earbuds and the chest strap read my heart rate as 123 bpm in the middle of my workout.
While you can check heart rate during a workout by looking at RunKeeper's little heart icon, the app also tells you through the earbuds' real-time stats. You can choose what you want to hear in the app's settings, as well. The only peculiar thing is that the app speaks over your music to update you; Jabra's Sport app lowers the music and then speaks through the earbuds to fill you in.
One major drawback of the heart rate function is that you cannot make or receive calls from the BioSport earbuds when this function is activated. As someone who has a chat every morning with her mother while on the treadmill, I found turning off heart rate monitoring just to use the mic frustrating.
The SMS Audio BioSport earbuds can get you pumped for a run with boisterous sound, which is important for when you want to block out the sounds of falling weights at the gym or honking car horns on the street.
Depending on the type of music, these earbuds shine. They pounded my head with strong bass as I listened to Flo Rida's "GDFR" and the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow."
I basked in my love for Spanish music even while sweating it out on the elliptical. I listened to Juanes' MTV Unplugged album and was thrilled to hear the crisp strings of the acoustic guitar and the buzzing sound of the electric keyboard during his performance of "La Paga."
The BioSport earbuds didn't fare as well with country music. Listening to Florida Georgia Line's "Anything Goes" was a hollow experience, with vocals that echoed. Only when I turned up the volume to deafening levels did the audio improve.
Michael Jackson's "A Place with No Name" also suffered. While the King of Pop's breathy, melodious vocals were crystal clear, the background instruments were muffled, as if they were fighting to be heard.
Overall, the Jabra Sport Pulse earbuds had better sound quality across all genres of music, and they blocked out environmental noise better than the BioSport earbuds did.
The $149 SMS Audio BioSport earbuds are solid, accurate heart rate monitors that double as fairly good headphones. These earbuds are for the runner who doesn't leave for a run without a music player, and who also wants to track heart rate without a dedicated device. The $165 Jabra Sport Pulse earbuds provide clearer and more powerful audio, but I found they didn't record my heart rate as accurately. Overall, the SMS Audio BioSport earbuds will give you the extra push you need to run that last mile.