Big, cumbersome over-ear cans aren’t usually the best choice of headphones for fitness fanatics. Regardless, a glimpse around the gym floor or a walk down the high street and you’re greeted by plenty of people wearing them while exercising. It’s a trend helped by the likes of Dwayne Johnson constantly posting weight training photos while wearing Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, lifting exorbitant amounts of weight.
The Soul Combat+ is a pair of over-ear headphones that goes after this market and on the surface are better placed for the intensities of exercise by having impressive construction and sweat resistance. Two qualities that immediately make them a better choice than wearing your Beats or Bose headphones to the gym.
The Combat+ is marketed as a companion for athletes, so is designed to be worn during different fitness activities including running and weight training. The headband therefore has a split design to let heat escape and a compression fit, designed to fit tightly around your ears. The earpads are circumaural, meaning they surround your ears rather than resting on them.
You get two pairs of earpads, one pair of custom Comply foam and one mesh-based pair. The former do a good job of blocking out external noise, whereas the mesh earpads will still let some external noise in, which is important if you need to be aware of your surroundings such as when road running.
They’ll also allow your ears to breathe more comfortably than the Comply earpads, which made our ears rather sweaty during training. The mesh earpads only fared slightly better, however, and we found ourselves having to temporarily remove the headphones in order to let our ears cool down. This is admittedly a problem we’ve encountered with most over-ear headphones while exercising.
There was no risk of the earpads moving off our ears during exercise as the headband provides ample tightness, but we did find that the headband would slip backwards during any activities where you’re lying down, such as the bench press. Some texture on the inside of the headband may have helped in this regard.
The Combat+ uses a Kevlar tangle-resistant cable that includes an integrated three button remote and microphone. Call quality using the microphone was perfectly acceptable. Usefully there’s a small clip attached to the cable to help reduce cable movement and to stop it infringing on your exercise activities.
The cable detaches at the base of the left earcup, reducing the chance of damage if you get them caught on exercise equipment – a sensible move that should mean fewer warranty claims. A decent hard carry case is also included to protect your headphones between sessions and the headphones coillapse down to save space.
Sound quality was very respectable for headphones where you’re not likely to be listening to your music in an analytical way. There’s the expected bass emphasis to give you the extra adrenaline boost to get you through a workout but mids and trebles were decently represented. They performed best with energetic hip-hop and electronic music as they produced more delicate tracks with the grace of a battering ram, but this is fine for their purpose.
If you are hell-bent on wearing over-ear headphones while exercising, the Combat+ is a decent choice. Aside from just how sweaty your ears will get, they’re reasonably comfortable to wear but you’ll always feel like you’re having to deal with the cable. Admittedly Bluetooth wireless would add to the overall cost. The sound quality is respectable and the hard carry case is a useful inclusion. At £160, however, they’re pricy and we would much rather go with a wireless pair of in-ear headphones such as the BlueAnt Pump HD Sportbuds during an intense session.