Indoor training season has mercifully ended but it’ll come around again, and then you’ll want some nice sweatproof Bluetooth headphones, like BlueAnt’s $129 Pump. Lets see how it stacks up.
For me, the most important feature of any earbud is fit. You need a tight fit to get decent bass, and you need a secure fit ‘cause it’s annoying to constantly shove the earpieces back in. The Pump does well on both counts. It comes with two pairs each of three sized tips, as well as ‘awareness’ tips that let in ambient noise and lowers your obliviousness index. With the properly sized tip the sound was excellent to my non-audiophile ears.
The unit is much larger and heavier than Jaybird’s Blue Buds or Freedoms, but they don’t swing around, so the weight isn’t noticed. They don’t require constant readjustment–once they’re on they stay on. The connecting cable is nice and short and sits up and out of the way instead of catching and dragging on your collar and pulling out an earbud. I don’t jog, as it’s a gateway drug to you-know-what, but a quick test prance proved the fit to be solid. Optional ear hooks are included but I didn’t feel the need to use them.
Signal reception is excellent–you pretty much have to smother your phone with your hand to get a glitch. Having your phone and the Pump’s receiver on opposite sides of your body also has no effect on reception. Range was good to the claimed 100 feet as long as there’s a clear line of sight, with walls and doors in the way you can still get a good 40-50 feet, which is damn good for Bluetooth. This is a great feature if you’re walking from room to room streaming a podcast from your desktop.
Pairing is easy and straightforward, just hold down the power button until the indicator light flashes and then find the Pump on your device. Unlike Jaybird’s Blue Buds (which only paired with my phone), the Pump plays well with my iPhone, desktop, laptop, iPad, and even Jaybird’s Universal Bluetooth Adapter. This means I can ride the rollers while watching a variety of devices or regular ol’ TV, depending on which part of the apartment I’m banished to at the moment.
Controls are simple and intuitive, ascending notes indicates power on, descending ones power off. Another alert indicates pairing mode. Volume buttons double as track forward/back when held for two seconds. Buttons are pressed in against your skull, which sounds uncomfortable but is actually preferable–you don’t need to brace the other side of the unit with a finger and the button press won’t knock the unit askew.
I didn’t confirm the claimed 8 hour battery life, but 4 hours of use did correspond to 50% power. There’s a convenient battery level icon when paired with an iPhone.
The Pump is waterproof to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Bluetooth doesn’t work under water so why are you down there anyways? I washed mine under the tap with no ill effects, just make sure the plug for the charging port is well closed.
Having owned Jaybird’s Freedom and Blue Buds, I can attest that the Pump has superior fit and reception compared to the Freedom, and superior fit, wider compatibility and a lower price tag than the Blue Buds. They may appear identical to Motorola’s SF600’s but have longer range and are more waterproof. I’d say they’re my go-to headphones for working out, but these days they’re mostly used to block out annoying parents as I while away the hours watching my daughter play tennis. And yes it does a marvelous job there.