1. Solid sweat resistance
2. Good sound
3. Great price
Since I listen to a lot of podcasts, the horrible sound quality didn't matter as much. But I can't deny the power of good music. There is a whole realm of running musical bliss that I always thought was beyond reach. A good song has the power to make you run faster. It can shift your focus away from your effort and make you lose yourself in the music. I knew that this running nirvana existed, because I'd experienced it a few times before I killed my previous sets of headphones by sweating on them. So I just accepted the fact that I'd either have to put up with wires to get the good sound quality, buy a new set of headphones every two weeks, or do without.
Then I discovered Beats' PowerBeats2, the first set of wireless headphones that both sound great and can take any amount of sweat that you can throw at them. Honestly, I came to Beats kicking and screaming. I had tried some Beats Tour in-ear headphones back in 2011 that I thought sounded horrible, and I swore off Beats forever. Plus, I'd seen Beats headphone quality getting blasted by customer reviews for falling apart after a few weeks. But I was getting desperate for some good music to play on my runs, and desperate people will do desperate things.
So I decided to give the new PowerBeats2 headphones a chance, and I'm glad I did. The sound is rich and full with no more of the old bass-heavy flavor that Beats is famous for. Don't get me wrong, the bass is still there. There's as much low-end as my wired Bowers & Wilkins C5s. It's just that you also have the mid-range and highs represented, so the sound is much more accurate. I also go a step further and will use aftermarket ear tips on all of my headphones. The flimsy silicone ear tips that are typically packaged with headphones don't ever give me a good seal in my ear, so I prefer to use something like the Comply Foam Tips or Monster SuperTip Gel replacements.
I also really like the flexible ear hook that the PowerBeats use to keep them in position. The constant up and down bouncing of running can make just about any set of in-ear headphones gradually work themselves loose. These PowerBeats make that impossible, and the hooks are soft and flexible which allows for comfortable one-handed mounting. You can grab one side and use a finger to spread the hook around your ear.
The only thing I don't like about the physical design is that the power button is difficult to find by touch if the headphones are mounted on your head. The button is completely smooth and is flush with the surface. It's not a big deal though, because I generally turn them on before putting them on my head anyway.
From a software perspective there has been some controversy regarding bluetooth lag when watching videos. I'm a little confused by this because I did detect some lag, but, it was no worse than any of the other Motorola models. I wonder if the reviewers slammed these because it was their first experience with wireless headphones? Furthermore, Beats released a firmware update for the headphones in December that tightened up the lag a bit in response to the criticism. So if you buy a pair of these, be sure to visit the Beats website and connect your headphones to your computer. The website will detect the presence of your PowerBeats and ask you if you'd like to update them.
The one thing I find missing from the PowerBeats2 is any kind of indication that it has successfully paired with your phone. Motorola will always tell you upon startup the second it has successfully paired with your phone. It's a nice sounding British lady who says "Motorola connected." It would be nice if Beats did something similar.
And now for the report on how sweat resistant these are. In short, I'm impressed. When I first got my set, it was the month of July and I had a 30-day return window for a refund. My plan was to deliberately go for long, sweaty runs in the heat of the afternoon so that if they were going to die, I'd find out right away and get my money back before it was too late. Did I mention that I live in the heart of the steamy deep south? Plus, I sweat A LOT. I've returned from hour-long runs where my shoes were squishing when I walked as if I'd just been through a rain storm. I've killed more than one set of headphones on their maiden voyage through the bayous of Louisiana in August. Six months later, my PowerBeats2s are still going strong. They have taken everything I can dish out and sound as good as the day I bought them. In fact, I didn't feel I could honestly write a review on these until they at least made it to the six-month mark.
Anyone looking for a good set of exercise headphones automatically has to have sweat resistance as the number-one priority, because it doesn't matter how cheap they were or how good the sound is when they are at the bottom of your trash can. The real decision you have to make is what is more important, sound quality or price? I finally got to the point where sound quality outweighed price, and my runs are all the more enjoyable now.
My comparison of Powerbeats2 vs Jaybird X2 - Yes, the Powerbeats are better.