There are an increasing number of options for those who want a dedicated pair of headphones for sport, be it in the gym or out pounding the pavement. One of the recent companies to throw themselves into sporting endeavour is Philips, joining the likes of Sennheiser (who makes the Adidas range) and Jays in offering sport-specific headphones.
Various styles are available and the ActionFit SHQ4000 on test here are of the neckband type, meaning the headphones are connected by a plastic band that passes around the back of the head. This allows stability without them having to hang off your ear with a hook, or be too firmly wedged into the ear canal. The SHQ4000 will easily sit around your neck securely when you don't want them in your ears - at the end of a run or walking back to the changing room, for example.
Sport inevitably exacerbates the effects of body movement on headphones: cables swing more vigorously, the head moves more and there is sweat to deal with too. All these things mean support is more essential, otherwise your headphones will just be an irritation as you run, rather than piping in those fresh hot tunes.
Philips have got the balance right here, the SHQ4000 are very light in weight. There is a choice of three different sized silicone tips in the packaging to get the ones that provide the best fit for your ear canal. These tips are a little more lightweight than some of Philips' standard headphones, softer and thinner, so they aren't as effective at providing that isolating seal in your ear as some regular headphones are.
They are comfortable though and we found that we were able to wear them for long periods without even feeling we had them on. They are easy enough to fit, although it was obvious with a bit of fiddling that if you fail to get the position right, then you lose some of the bass - likely down to the lighter silicone tips.
The advantage that those lighter ear tips bring is that your ears don't get quite as hot internally as they will with some heavier models. You might find that you get sweat in your ear canal, so you might have to unplug, shake your head and plug back in, although in our experience, once you've reached that stage, the build-up of sweat is often too prolific: once you've opened the hurtbox nothing can save you.
The 1.2m cable provides plenty of slack if you are going to connect to an MP3 player mounted somewhere on your person, with a cable clip to reduce bounce and swing. The clip is big enough to coil up slack cable and fix to your t-shirt. This is important when running, otherwise you'll find you probably swipe the cable with your hand and rip the headphones off.
The cable is long enough for gyms that offer a music system on their equipment, although if you are one of those people who tends to drift backwards on the treadmill, you might find you run out of cable. Get those knees up and keep pace with the machine, you slacker! Or switch to a bike.
Well, bikes are one area where headphones like the SHQ4000 perform less well. The neckband means that if you have to tip your head back, it will hit your neck and move the headphones. If your gym bikes are mostly of the sit-up-and-beg variety where your torso and head are mostly upright this isn't such a problem, but on spinning bikes where you are changing positions, and your body is leaning forward more, you might find they just won't work for you.
The same applies to anything with a back or headrest, so that may include recumbent bikes and a range of different weight machines (leg presses or benches, for example). So the SHQ4000 are really going to be popular with runners, but perhaps less effective for others.
The SHQ4000 are finished in plastic, with red and greys. The red cable feeds into a red rubberised section on the left-hand side, which helps provide some of the friction against your head, with a matching section on the right-hand side. The look is sporty and attractive and they come with a cloth bag, so they won't be getting tangled up with your dirty socks in your bag.
They are also constructed to be waterproof. We didn't get into the shower with these headphones, but they are happy to be rinsed under the tap. They are also injected with anti-bacterial agent, which claims to kill 99.8% of bacteria within 24-hours, something we couldn't test reliably.
In terms of performance, as we mentioned, getting the right position brought out the bass nicely, giving a rich balance to music, ideal for sports. Bass delivery isn't as adept as some of Philips' regular headphones, but given that you are trading stability and lightness we feel it is just about a fair compromise. Better audio performance is available from regular headphones, so if the sports aspect doesn’t interest you, you might want to investigate some of your other choices too.
The Philips ActionFit SHQ4000 have been sensitively designed to meet the needs of sports enthusiasts. Having put them through their paces, we were impressed with how light and comfortable they were when out on long training runs.
The SHQ4000 come in at an affordable price as a second set of headphones for those who want music on the run with destroying their existing headphones. If you are used to wearing your standard iPod white headphones, you'll find the SHQ4000 to be vastly superior too.
Lightweight and performing well, we'd recommend the Philips SHQ4000 to runners who like to take their music with them.