The Philips ActionFit SHQ5200 are on-ear headphones aimed at gym-goers, runners and pretty much anyone who needs some audio motivation when trying to keep fit. At £65, they are not the cheap and despite their lightweight, sweat-fighting credentials, these might be headphones best left out of the gym bag.
The SHQ5200 headphones will remind you of those free headphones you get given on an airplane. These are not exactly the pinnacle of cutting-edge design, but then that's not what the sporty headphones are about.
Built predominantly from plastic, the headband is made from a rubbery, flexible silicone material. Philips claims this make the headphones non-slip when your workout starts getting intense. It's entirely sweat-resistant and rain-proof making them ideal for the great unpredictable British outdoors.
The soft ear cushions are made from moisture wicking fabric to keep them dry and comfortable on the ears. They are also removable so you can wash them after a workout. It’s a bit of a struggle trying to take them off and feels like the plastic could easily snap.
The Kevlar reinforced cable comes in two parts, letting you use the shorter part when wearing an armband and the longer part if you keep the iPod in the shorts pocket.
At 100g, they are extremely light and you can barely notice them when they are on. The ear cushions are snug and sit secure providing little irritation. Despite the non-slip claims, we did notice that for those with shorter hair, simply looking down to change settings on a treadmill or to tie the laces on our trainers the headphones can slip forward. When running it's less noticeable but it's still enough to want to fiddle around with it.
For £65, they do look very cheap. We know that’s not really a big deal for most people, but when you are spending a reasonable amount of money on a specialist pair of headphones you will probably wear everywhere, we’d expect more in the looks department.
The Philips ActionFit SHQ5200 are powered by 40mm neodymium drivers to deliver a bass-heavy sound. It’s suitable for up-tempo music and mid range levels are decent but when you crank up the volume the audio starts to suffer. Vocals can sound crackly and distorted. If you are picky about having audiophile-grade sound to run to, these really struggle to deliver.
Another major issue is the amount of sound the SHQ5200 headphones leak. It doesn't have to be at reasonably loud volumes to begin to notice the sound leaking is pretty bad. If you are planning to use these sitting at your desk or on the way to work you are going to be 'that' guy with the music everyone can hear.
The problem with the Philips ActionFit SHQ5200 headphones is that there aren’t many other alternatives to really compare them to. Most of the sports headphones you can buy are the in-ear type. This is generally the case because in-ear headphones with the right design are less likely to budge.
Sound quality is clearly secondary to fit and comfort with these headphones. You can almost forgive the disappointing sound if everything else is great but sadly that is not really the case. Nobody wants to be messing around with their headphones and having to move them back into position.
If you can get past the idea of putting earbuds inside your ear, there are some cheaper alternatives that offer a comfortable, secure fit, sweat-resistant design and deliver great sound. The Pioneer SE-E721 priced at £40 will stay put and offer a great bassy sound. The neckband-style Sennheiser/Adidas PX685i (£40) are light, durable and offer rich, detailed sound.
The Philips ActionFit SHQ520 are light and comfortable to wear, but the sound quality is disappointing and the leaky sound is guaranteed to irritate gym users nearby.
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