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Best work-out headphones

Consumer Reports tested headphones for sound quality and ability to monitor surrounding sounds for safety.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — An editor at CR started running again during the pandemic as a way to escape her small studio apartment. But to feel safe, she felt she needed to be more aware of her surroundings—especially when wearing headphones. That’s when she first tried her partner’s Shokz.

"Shokz headphones feature a unique bone-conduction technology. Bone-conduction headphones have blocks that are pods, which send vibrations into the sides of your head," said Elias Arias, Consumer Reports headphone expert.

The editor recently upgraded to the Shokz OpenRun Pro, for $180. Despite their cult following, three different models of Shokz don’t do very well in CR’s ratings.

"Generally, bone-conduction headphones in CR’s tests have been found to have sound quality that falls toward the bottom of the portable headphone ratings," said Arias.

 However, Shokz did receive Excellent ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on Consumer Reports’ member survey.

If you do want to hear your surroundings—but also care about sound quality—CR recommends the Sennheiser CX Plus, for  $130, and the more budget-friendly 1More ColorBuds 2, for $70. Both of these noise-canceling headphones have ambient sound monitoring—which allows you to adjust how much ambient sound you hear.

Some people own more than one pair of headphones—different types for different uses. 

If you want to take your music with you wherever you go and share it, Consumer Reports recommends three cylinder-style speakers, all of which can fit into a purse, backpack, or even the water bottle pouch.

The SONY SRS-XB23 is $90 and the JBL FLIP 5 is $100 dollars, they're both CR best buys.  For about a hundred dollars more, there's also the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3. It gets solid scores across the board and is louder than the others.

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