I'm not sure when a company will truly perfect a pair of wireless sports headphones, but Denon is taking a crack at it with its new Exercise Freak in-ear Bluetooth headphone line that's due to hit stores in September for $149.
I got a chance to try a pair of Exercise Freaks at a preview event in a hotel suite in Manhattan and I was generally impressed with their design, comfort level, and sound quality, though I didn't get a chance to take them out for a jog. They come in blue, yellow, and black, and ship with a carrying case that's equipped with a detachable carabiner.
The Exercise Freaks are sweat-proof, and have articulating in-ear pieces and a flexible "backband" that sits loosely on the back of your neck (there's a reflective strip on the backband, a nice touch). This one also has the requisite built-in microphone for making cell phone calls from virtually any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.
I found the earphones to be comfortable and they fit securely on my ears. However, in the short time I had with them I wasn't able to get a really tight seal with the medium-size soft eartip that I was working with. One of the Denon reps said Exercise Freak earphones weren't necessarily designed to have a tight seal because a lot of runners and bikers want to be able to hear ambient noise, namely traffic, for safety reasons. But with most in-ear headphones, the tighter the seal you achieve, the better the bass response.
According to Petro Shimonishi, Denon's senior global product manager for headphones, the company's designers paid special attention to the fit of the Freaks, recruiting close to 100 "frequent exercisers" to test early prototypes to ensure that the final design would deliver the "most secure and lightweight fit."
One unique feature Denon is highlighting is that you can simply tap the earpiece to switch from music to calls and back again. There's also a patent-pending air cushion that the company says both mitigates "the centrifugal force of pressing a button to control music while jogging" and provides "ventilation in between the earpiece and your head."
I didn't get a chance to test the tap-to-accept-a-call feature, but the controls seemed well-designed and easy enough to operate blindly.
In terms of other specs worth highlighting, this is a Bluetooth 3.0 device that has a built-in rechargeable battery that's rated to deliver up to 7 hours' use; Denon indicates that's long enough to get through a marathon, even if you're running pretty slowly.
Like a lot of companies, Denon is also touting a set of free companion apps, including the Denon Sport app, that allow you to track your workouts.
As I said, the Exercise Freak earphones arrive this September and carry a list price of $149. That's a little steep for Bluetooth sports headphones (the Arriva Leo headphones, for example, can be found for around $75), but hopefully the street price will be a bit less because these will certainly be worth considering if you're on the lookout for wireless sports headphones.
Once I get my hands on the final product and take it for a real spin I'll post a full review.