Many are sure to complain about the cheap components, though, and bass is all but absent. Then again, at least the price is right: Workout headphones generally run you much more than the 685i's online sale price of around 55 bucks. Moreover, these earbuds let in enough outside noise that you can safely enjoy some Britney while prancersizing or biking around town.
If you can tolerate the goofy design and you're willing to handle them with care, the Sennheiser PMX 685i are actually great exercise companions for athletes on the streets.
Wear backwards to look like Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge
Unless you've worn this type of "neckband" headset before, the PMX 685i will probably strike you as super weird. Be sure to wear them with the band in the back, lest ye fall prey to Star Trek jokes. Dorky design aside, these are actually pretty comfortable earbuds—and they even fit under bike helmets.
Just slip the band around the back of your neck and let the speakers sit in each ear. Be sure to wrap each earpiece with the included foam covers for a more comfortable fit. You may feel funny at first, but just get going—I ran a mile in these and they didn't come loose once.
An included shirt clip may come in handy, too. I've heard some users complain that excessive sweating can damage the remote control, causing it to short out or send unwanted signals to your device. By attaching the shirt clip to the cable, you may be able to get that remote out of harm's way with just the right positioning.
As to the actual parts, they're very cheap. The cable looks dangerously fragile—don't fling this rig into the ol' smelly gym bag, willy nilly, and expect things to hold up for long. You'll want to make use of the included carry case for sure. I do like the three-button remote, though. The big rubber buttons are easy to discern from one another, making it simple to skip songs, control volume, and take calls. Just bear in mind that this product is geared specially for iOS devices. The 685i works for Android too, but with abbreviated remote functionality (no volume or song skipping).
Lastly, as a safety measure for those who jog and bike around town, the speakers sit rather loosely in each ear. The fit certainly isn't such that the speakers will fall out, but it does allow outside noise to come in. That way, athletes can get a good workout without blocking essential outside sounds like honking horns or screeching tires.
Need big bass while you squat thrust? Better keep browsing.
While the PMX 685i are geared towards athletes, be sure to carefully consider this product's particular attributes: These earbuds do not block much outside noise in order to keep joggers and bikers safe on the road, and for the same reason, they also greatly reduce bass.
That means that if you only work out in the gym, or if you want earbuds for exercise and the office, you may want to shop for something else.
That said, the sound quality in question is quite balanced, save the notable lack of bass. As a result, vocals, violins, cymbal crashes—you name it—are all very clear and detailed, but unsupported by low notes in general. As you jog down the street, you'll easily hear approaching traffic, barking dogs, and yelling pedestrians—meaning you can safely enjoy music while exercising in potentially hazardous outdoor environments.
Therefore, unless you're one to get fit on the street, sacrificing bass notes just won't be worth it. In fact, these Sennheisers also leak plenty of sound—meaning anyone next to you can hear your tunes. This won't matter on a bike ride or in a noisy gym, but it's just one more reason these are only fit for getting fit.
Looking a one-trick budget pony in the mouth
If you're into fitness and you need a new set of earbuds, ask yourself one question before you leap for the Sennheiser PMX 685i earbuds: Do you workout strictly in the gym, or do you find yourself out on the road routinely, too?
If the former, the 685i earbuds probably aren't the right choice—keep browsing. Since they're built to allow lots of outside noises in, these Sennheisers barely have any bass—that way joggers and bikers can hear oncoming cars and such. If you never exercise outdoors, why sacrifice all that bass? And while the build is meant to let outside noises in, it also means that your music pours out—so the PMX 685i aren't right for plane rides or offices either.
That said, if you want to enjoy music and stay safe during your outdoor workout, these Sennheisers are a fine choice. They even fit underneath a bike helmet. This rig isn't as durable as some alternatives, but this is also a money saving product: The PMX 685i earbuds stay in place during jogs, they're light as a feather, and you can find them online for just 55 bucks.
For a more detailed look at core performance, we present the Science page. While the Sennheiser PMX 685i fails to steal top marks on every test, some of that is intentional.
For instance, testing revealed a balanced frequency response, except that bass is nearly nonexistent. The low end is purposefully omitted so that runners can safely hear their surroundings. For the same reason, the 685i are terrible isolators.
For these reasons, the 685i are really only geared towards one group of listeners: outdoor runners, walkers, and bikers.
Bye bye, bass.
In the consumer headphone market, bass is all the rage, but the Sennheiser PMX 685i forego the fanfare. Fore the aforementioned safety reasons, the 685i drastically underemphasize that entire portion of the range.
Aside from bass, these earbuds actually follow a very popular trend, producing a frequency response that traces an equal loudness contour. Not sure what that is? Basically, this sort of sound quality emphasizes every frequency in such a way that all notes sound equally loud to the human ear. But since bass is given so little emphasis, music on the 685i lacks any sense of rich, low-end support. Meanwhile, high-end frequencies of between 6kHz and 10kHz are a bit overemphasized, meaning very high notes on trumpets, violins, and cymbals can sound rather abrasive at times.
Poor results, but to little effect
Testing for distortion revealed what we would normally deem poor results, but this is a unique scenario: The 685i produces as much as 8% of distortion throughout its bass range, but since that range is drastically underemphasized to begin with, this really isn't anything to complain about.
The rest of the frequency response tested with very low amounts of distortion, so these are acceptable overall results. Take note, though: If you boost volume to more than 99.5dB, distortion crawls up past 3% across the board, so be sure to manage volume duly—and never listen above 100dB for extended periods either way.
Toot toot, beep beep
As I've pointed out, the PMX 685i are not ones to deliver any sort of peace and quiet from the outside world. These earbuds are specially engineered so that athletes on the road won't miss the sound of rushing traffic or beeping horns.
In fact, rumbling low-end noises like roaring trucks and passing trains won't be blocked at all. Upper midrange sounds like high voices are only reduced by about half, and screeching, high-pitched noises are hushed to nearly 1/8th. That means you can enjoy music safely while you charge down city streets and sidewalks.
Meet the tester
Former Managing Editor@
Virginia is a former Managing Editor at Reviewed.com. She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.
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