Sennheiser PMX 685i Review: The Best Running Headphones Just Got Even Better

Back in April, the Sennheiser PMX 680i headphones became our pick for the Best Headphones for Running. We just got our ears on Sennheiser's 2013 models, the PMX 685i, and, oh my. They're a small evolutionary step, but a little evolution goes a long way.

What Is It?

The new running headphones from Sennheiser and Adidas.

Who's it For?

Runners. Specifically, runners who listen to music while they run.

Design

A behind-the-neck style almost identical to last year's model. But they're four grams lighter, the band is thinner, the 3.5mm jack is now at a right angle, and the buds themselves shrunk to fit in your ears more comfortably. They were blinding yellow-green; now they're dark blue.

Using It

Plug into a 3.5mm jack. Run. They don't budge! Decent call quality on the built-in mic, and clearly designed volume and pause/play buttons.

The Best Part

Noticeable improvement to already great sound quality. The highs and mids have cleaned up in a major way, and it still retains that juicy thump you need to keep your legs moving. Extremely well balanced, and not quite as loud as the 680s, but still way louder than just about any other earbud.

Tragic Flaw

Your ears still get sore. These are definitely more comfortable than the 680s, but they aren't as comfortable as we'd like them to be. Even with the new foam covers, they start to ache after about 30 minutes or so, and you can't really adjust them much.

This Is Weird...

If you forget you're wearing a behind-the-neck band, and you lean back on something, the buds will pop out of your ears rather violently.

Test Notes

  • Even in a slight breeze, the older PMX 680i sounded like a tornado was blowing into your ears. These do not suffer from that problem. But, they don't fully cover your ear canals, so you still hear enough ambient noise to maintain good situational awareness.
  • They really sound terrific. Can't say enough about it. Sennheiser redesigned their 14-millimeter transducers to bring out natural-sounding highs and mids without sacrificing the bass. They proved terrific for hip-hop, classic rock, jazz, classical -- everything. Plenty powerful and didn't distort at higher volumes, either.
  • As one of our hardcore audio geeks put it: "These are running headphones? I can't believe how good these sound."
  • You can only adjusted them on one axis, but tilting the band up and down. Might be nice to be able to rotate the buds themselves.
  • It's basically impossible to shake these out of your ears. I really tried.
  • They're fully rinsable, so if you sweat all over them you can just stick them under a tap.
  • The in-line volume controls only work on iOS devices.
  • While the behind-the-neck band is great for running, if you're doing some gym work, you might want to look at the MX 685 -- sport headphones that use the same audio drivers, but trade the band for a slide-to-fit holding mechanism. We haven't tested those (yet) so we can't vouch for them, but we'll update when we have.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. These are hands-down the best headphones for running we've ever used. It's not even close anymore.

They could be a little more comfortable, but they're not bad at all. They sound so good, and fit so securely, that they will be anchored to our skulls on all of our upcoming runs. They'll be available January 7 for $US80.

Sennheiser/Adidas PMX 685i Specs

• Weight: 18 grams

• Sweat/water resistant: Yes

• Cord length: 1.2 metres

• Hands-free: Yes

• Price: $80 MSRP

• Gizrank: 4.0 stars


Comments

    "Your ears still get sore." To me, that doesn't match with their description as "the best". The best should not hurt (unless that's what floats your boat).

    The most comfortable earphones I own are a set with molded earpieces made from room temperature curing silicone (2 part silicone, stuff it in your ears until it sets). You can buy the kits online for $10-20. I drilled a small hole from the nub that goes into the ear to the outside then enlarged it a little. They now take any standard sized earphones which use foam/rubber tips and, as I've said, are incredibly comfortable. The sound quality is great too.

    Sennheiser is the audio equivalent of Apple. Total herd mentality.

    These are indeed the best headphones around, for running. I'm so happy that you guys got this right. It's hard for runners to trust reviews by non-runners as quite often the headphones have only been tested on a few half hour jogs. But as someone who has run 1.5-2hrs/day using these over several months I can confirm that they are the best I've used - for runners. Personally I usually listen to podcasts so picking up spoken words clearly is the priority for me.

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