In a break with column policy, I'm actually working up a sweat today while giving two sports-related headphones a test run.
Let's start slowly with a spectator sport and the Scuderia Ferrari P200, a pair of Formula 1 racing-tribute headphones from Logic3 whose main attraction is a resemblance to the pit-crew headsets.
Are you excited Formula 1 fans?
The resemblance, at least from a distance, is convincing. Up close, however, the reality of headphone manufacturing — even with a $249 pair — becomes obvious. That's simulated carbon fiber, all plastic, on the outer earcups. The familiar Scuderia Ferrari logo, in Modena yellow? Plastic. The chrome bordering a Ferrari-red strip? Plastic.
But padding for the ears and the head is leather, the arms are machined metal and the drivers are 50 millimeters, big enough to guarantee that, if nothing else, the P200 should not run out of horsepower in the lower frequencies.
Logic3 includes an in-line remote with microphone for telephone calls, but why bother? The P200, big and cumbersome and incapable of folding into a compact size, will unlikely ever leave the home or pit. (Another member of the Scuderia Ferrari Collection, the P300, adds active noise cancellation.)
Even if the P200 looked more like pit-crew gear and sounded like other sub-$250 headphones, they'd still appeal to a finely tuned demographic. Logic3 doesn't quite deliver the Ferrari-caliber sound. The P200 hits the low notes, though often lacking clarity. It's otherwise laid back, even tepid, in the midrange and essentially abandons the higher frequencies that give music some sparkle.
This is what live music sounds like to someone suffering hearing loss related to extended exposure to loud noise — like a longtime Formula 1 spectator!
Go ahead, Formula 1 fans, but the P200 is a very expensive novelty.
Now it's time to really sweat with Audio-Technica's SonicSport series of in-ear headphones. The ATH-CKP500, which retails for $75 but is often available for about $60, has an unusual way of anchoring to the ear. It uses C-tips that wrap into the outer ear, not behind the ear like other sport headphones. (Audio-Technica's $50 ATH-CKP200 SonicSport headphones have that familiar behind-the-ear loop design. The $100 ATH-CP700's back-band design wraps the cord behind the user's neck.)
This was my first experience with C-tips, but the ATH-CKP500 are among the most comfortable, and stable, sport headphones I've tried. There will be no complaints about fit, either. Audio-Technica supplies three sizes of C-tips, four sizes of isolating silicone earphone tips and three sizes of ribbed ear tips designed to allow the user to hear ambient sound — like the horn of an approaching school bus.
For modestly priced sport headphones, that's a lot of options.
The ATH-CKP500 is the full package: Aside from the accessories, these are well-built earphones with surprising sound for the price. They will sound best, not surprisingly, with silicone ear tips that provide the best seal in the ear. The ribbed ear tips are safer for a run through city streets, but the looser fit compromises sound, notably in the lower frequencies.
The ATH-CKP500's IPX5 waterproof rating doesn't mean you can dive into the pool with these headphones, only that you can spray-wash them after finishing a morning jog or late-day session at the health club.
These headphones certainly won't hit the low notes like the Ferrari Scuderia P200, but I liked the ATH-CKP500's balanced sound and greater immediacy. As sport headphones, they do not have an in-line microphone for phone calls. The cabling is somewhat awkward, with a short main cable supplemented by a 2-foot extension.
The short cable seemed too short, unless the user likes to strap an iPhone to an armband, and the extension too long. The cables also picked up a lot of noise from sudden movement. That's fairly common, though.
The ATH-CKP500 is no novelty. These are excellent sport headphones at an attractive price.
Logic3 Ferrari Scuderia P200 headphones (top)
Price: $249, ferrari-by-logic3.com
Hot: A look borrowed from Ferrari's Formula 1 pit crew!
Not: Big, impractical for mobile use, dullish sound, expensive.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKP500 SonicSport in-ear headphones
Price: $65 amazon.com
Hot: Comfortable, secure fit, excellent sound for the money. Great selection of eartips and C-tip anchors for the outer ear.
Not: Awkward-size cords.