The SMS Audio BioSport are smart in-ear sports headphones that track your heart rate without a chest strap or wrist-based monitor.
You’ll still need your smartphone to make them work and unfortunately they're not wireless like the excellent heart-rate-tracking Jabra Pulse Wireless. The BioSports are cheaper, though, and don’t need to be charged to track the extra layer of biometric data, as they draw power from your phone.
Priced at £129, you still have to spend big, and from our time sweating it out in the gym and braving the cold, we aren’t convinced you should part with your money for them.
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The BioSports aren't as bright and brash as some of the sports headphones we’ve tried, but they do come in three different colour options, which run from the earbuds through to the headphone cord. They’ve also been slapped with an IPX4 certification, which means they're sweat and water resistant to hold up in the rain or from a tough workout. Just don’t go swimming with them or throw them in the wash.
The flat, tangle-free headphone cord is similar to the cord on Monster’s iSport headphones, making them easy to chuck into the bottom of your bag without worrying about unravelling them. It’s a long cord as well, so you’ve got plenty to play with if you want to thread them underneath a gym shirt.
At first glance, the earbuds look quite big, which immediately rings the alarm bells about whether they're going to sit securely. There’s three sets of silicone tips that sit over the buds with springy, crescent-shaped ear hooks that tuck inside your ear. These hooks need to stay in place, as they're key to activating the heart-rate tracking.
The technology used to deliver the heart-rate data to your smartphone is similar to that seen in the Jabra Pulse Wireless. This involves packing optical light sensors into the earbuds that can detect pulse and oxygen levels from the blood vessels inside your ear. This can then relay heart-rate data to indicate the intensity of your workouts.
When you move further down the cord, you’ll find the inline remote control with a switch that lets you move between heart-rate tracking and phone mode when you want to take calls. There’s some basic music playback features here as well, such as pausing and skipping tracks. Disappointingly, there’s no volume control, so you’ll need to reach for your phone to crank things up or down.
The BioSports have one last trick up their sleeve and that’s the gold-plated 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s special because it draws the power needed for the heart-rate tracking and means it’ll go the distance as long as your phone is battery'd up.
The BioSports are light, but there’s a big problem with the fit. Switching between the three sets of tips included, it really was a struggle to find an option that felt like they weren’t going to move out of place. If you're wearing them in the gym over a shirt, it’s generally not a problem. As soon as you try to feed the cable under a shirt or a rainproof jacket when you're running outside, it’s more of an issue.
On countless occasions we were left fiddling with them to make sure they stay put. At one point, it was so frustrating that we took them out and continued running without them. Monster and Yurbuds offer better solutions and it’s disappointing that these fail one of the first basic tests for a pair of sports headphones.
Another problem is that the BioSports' heart-rate data can only be fed through the RunKeeper app. In the box you’ll get a free month of the Elite version, which gives you lifetime reports, advanced stats and the ability to live broadcast runs, among other things. The in-ears are only compatible with iPhones from the 4S up and running iOS 7 or later, plus the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S4, S5, Google Nexus 5 and Motorola Moto X. In our testing, we used the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5 and initially both worked fine.
Once the Runkeeper app is installed and you’ve set up your profile, you’ll need to pick the Analog Headphones option in the device settings and wait for the small heart icon to glow red.
We’ve already discussed our gripes with the secureness of the fit, and this impacts on the reliability of the heart-rate tracking. Despite lining up the Mio-powered Adidas MiCoach Fit Smart and Polar’s H7 heart-rate monitor chest strap for comparison, we just couldn’t get the BioSports working consistently enough for a decent test. In the few occasions they did work, their tracking was at least accurate, as the screenshots below show, but it didn’t last for very long.
Heart-rate reading comparisons: Adidas MiCoach Fit Smart (left) against Runkeeper with the BioSport headphones
For sound quality, these are good, but left us wanting more – especially for a £129 pair of headphones. Monster’s iSport and Jabra’s Pulse Wireless are the best-sounding sports headphones we’ve used, although both are more expensive than the Biosports.
The BioSports are loud but bass response isn’t the most accommodating for high-tempo tracks. We were hoping for better mid-range performance as well and clarity is a little disappointing. If you're hoping to drown out the world when you work out, these aren't great for noise cancelling. Some users will no doubt prefer the safer, ambient noise approach, but it would have been nice to have the option at least.
Based on the many issues, we’d find it tough to recommend the BioSports. It’s a shame, because they're more affordable than Jabra’s Pulse Wireless and we’d happily live without the wire-free listening and superior sound to save a decent chunk of money.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem here. There’s also the frustratingly troublesome fit, and support for just one fitness app isn't really good enough.
If you want to buy a pair of sports in-ear headphones with heart-rate tracking, Jabra’s are the ones to go for. They're expensive, but they deliver on all fronts.
SEE ALSO: Best Headphones Round-up
The SMS Audio BioSport earphones' troublesome fit means their killer feature is a big let-down. These are sporty in-ears to leave out of your gym bag.