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Computerized Investing > August 16, 2014
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$129.95

Water-resistant Bluetooth sports headphones.

A few years ago I reviewed the BlueAnt Sense Bluetooth Speaker. BlueAnt, for much of its history, has been producing Bluetooth devices for hands-free calling. I have always liked their quality and value, so I jumped at the chance to review their new line of Bluetooth headphones, the Pump HD Sportsbuds.

As someone who listens to music when I am working out, I appreciate a set of headphones that are rugged, well-fitting and can withstand heavy sweating. According to BlueAnt, the Pump Sportsbuds are the only wireless headphones with an IP67 rating. This International Protection Marking classification means that the Pump offers complete protection against ingress of dust and offers water protection in up to three feet of water (1m).

Out of the Box & Setup

The Pump HD Sportsbuds are not the first Bluetooth earbuds I have reviewed, but they certainly have the best styling. Before reviewing the Phiaton Chord and Phiaton Bridge headphones, I endured Phiaton’s PS 210 and PS 20 in-ear headphones that slightly resembled one of the wireless mics I often wear when giving presentations. Both looked like standard wired headphones, except the wires went to a little Bluetooth receiver box, which you either wore around your neck or put in your pocket.

In sharp contrast, the Pump HP Sportsbuds remind me of two over-the-ear Bluetooth headsets that have been paired via a heavy-duty tether. In fact, I found the earpiece design to closely mimic that of the Plantronics Legend, minus the microphone boom. The Bluetooth receiver is in the right earpiece, so there is no extra “box” that you have to figure out where to put. The slight trade-off is that the earpieces themselves are more bulky that those of the Phiaton PS models. However, once you have them on they are there to stay, which is a useful feature for headphones designed to be worn when running, cycling and training. BlueAnt ships the Pump with three sizes of ComfortSeal noise-blocking eartips to help you find the best fit, as well as one pair of “awareness tips,” which are made to ensure you can remain alert to your surroundings if you wear them outside. Lastly, you also receive two pairs of stabilizers, a cable zip to shorten the connecting cable for the two ear pieces, a product manual and a micro-USB charging cable.

The Pump Sportsbuds are extremely light at only 1.1 ounces. This means that you can wear them for hours on end, which I have done on the train from Chicago to Michigan, without any fatigue. The speaker enclosures are made of Kevlar and Teflon, while the exterior is rubberized.

The right earpiece is where you find all three of the control buttons. The top and bottom buttons are the volume up and volume down buttons, respectively, while the middle button is the “play” control button, which you use to power the Pump on and off, put it into pairing mode and pause/play music. On the bottom of the left earpiece is a micro-USB charging port that is protected by a rubber gasket.

The Pump has Bluetooth version 3.0 and pairing it with my iPhone 5 was very easy. You start by holding down the play button until the indicator light next to it starts to flash. Then, making sure the Bluetooth radio is activated on your device, look for BlueAnt PUMP under the available devices and select it. You can pair the Pump with up to five devices, but you can only use it with one device at a time.

Performance

It is important to know what you are getting if you decide to buy the BlueAnt Pump Sportsbuds. These are Bluetooth headphones intended to withstand the rigors of workouts and the outdoors, so I was not expecting to be blown away by the sound quality. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. The 12.5mm speakers provide above-average audio performance. In fact, the sound quality is good enough for me that I take them with me for my daily commute as well as to the gym or when I am out and about. The mid and high ranges are sufficiently clear, although I do find the bass to be a bit heavy at times (which is saying something, since I prefer more bass to less). If you are expecting true “HD” sound as the name suggests, however, you will probably be disappointed.

The key to good sound from any in-ear headphone is a secure fit. BlueAnt offers three different sizes of eartips to help you achieve the best fit. Once I settled on the right size, the Sportsbuds fit snugly and securely in my ears. Even during the sweatiest and most intense workouts, the earbuds never popped out of my ears. However, after a few months, the eartips starting falling off the earpieces. I eventually had to apply a touch of superglue to each eartip in order to keep them secured to the earpiece; definitely not an optimal solution.

The button setup and control takes some getting used to. The volume controls are easy enough, but the all-in-one control button presents some problems. On more than one occasion I activated Siri on my iPhone when merely trying to advance a song track. Like most things, I got better at it with practice.

Another feature worth mentioning is the fact that the Pump Sportsbuds have a range of roughly 100 feet, compared to the typical 30-foot range of most Bluetooth devices.

Even if the sound quality isn’t the best when compared to other Bluetooth headphones, the real utility of the Pump Sportsbuds, in my opinion, is their ruggedness and water resistance. The headphones will block sweat and rain and can survive being immersed in over three feet of water.

Battery Life

According to BlueAnt, the Pump’s lithium-ion battery delivers up to eight hours of playback time and two weeks of standby time. Furthermore, it takes roughly two hours to fully recharge the battery. While the battery life is a bit paltry compared to other Bluetooth headphones I have reviewed, I was still impressed given the compact design.

Overall

The mark of a good device or gadget, in my book, is whether or not I keep using it after I review it. The BlueAnt Pump Sportsbuds are such a product. For such a compact design, they offer above-average sound quality that is good enough for me to use every day. For Bluetooth earbuds, the Pump has the best design I have seen, which makes them perfect for commuters as well those who don’t want to deal with corded headphones.

The Pump Sportsbuds really set themselves apart with their waterproof design, which makes them perfect for workouts or the outdoors. They will withstand sweat, and they fit securely into your ear.

If you are someone who places a premium on sound quality, you are probably better off looking elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a reasonably priced set of Bluetooth headphones that will resist the rigors of working out, the BlueAnt Pump Sportsbuds are an appealing choice.

Pros

  • Snug, secure fit
  • Water resistant
  • Good value
  • Good battery life, given compact design
  • 100-foot range

Cons

  • Somewhat awkward to put on
  • Bass can be a bit heavy
  • Eartips started falling off after a few months of use

BlueAnt Pump HD Sportsbuds

$129.95 (Currently $106.87 from Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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