The Denon Exercise Freak headphones see the premium audio manufacturer venture into new territory, but do they deliver the goods?
Fitness tech is big business these days with the likes of Monster and Sennheiser getting in on the act and the Denon Exercise Freak headphones are the latest sweat-fighting pair hoping to keep you motivated when you are pounding the pavement or jumping aboard the cross trainer.
To find out if the Bluetooth 'phones were up to the task, we took them running and spent some time in the gym to see if they passed the fitness test.
Denon Exercise Freak: Design
Shaped almost the same size as your ear, the Exercise Freak headphones feature a wraparound design that is very similar to Sony's Bluetooth sports headphones. Available in blue or yellow, the Bluetooth earphones are held together only by a flexible backband which features a shiny reflective strip that is a nice touch for added night time vision.
On the outer edge of the earphones there's a button for play/pause and on the other bud a built-in mic to take hands-free calls. The volume control sits on the top edge of the right earbud.
Denon Exercise Freak: Comfort
Despite its initial cumbersome looks, the Exercise Freaks are surprisingly light and comfortable to wear once you have eventually negotiated them over your ears, while the neckband is so lightweight it is barely noticeable. There are four sets of anti-microbial ear tips supplied in the box to get that perfect fit but we went for the ones already attached, which sat in snug and secure in the ear.
When we took them out for a run and to the gym, this is where things changed. About thirty minutes into a running session, we found ourselves constantly re-positioning the right earbud, which ultimately meant making the decision between running with or without music as the fiddling was so irritating.
Denon Exercise Freak: Performance
Things didn't get much better in the sound department where there is an over emphasis on bass more than anything else, which means it lacks the kind of clarity we have experienced with the Monster Livestrong and Sennheiser sports headphones and is more noticeable when in use indoors than outdoors.
We had no problems with regards to Bluetooth connectivity hooking it up to an iPod Touch in a sports armband, but we were underwhelmed by the sound quality when answering calls. The control buttons are well positioned and responsive when you want to change the volume or take a call and are real bonuses in spite of the disappointing sound.
The rechargeable battery will give you seven hours of running time making sure it will get you through a couple of marathons before hooking it up to charge via the USB power cable, which does mean keeping that cable handy if they are lying in your bag.
There's an accompanying smartphone app powered my Mapmyfitness that is catered specifically to the Exercise Freak headphones, bringing the ability to track by GPS, access a workout journal and online community support.
It worked seamlessly when we put it to the test and is a refreshing approach to adding more integrated smartphone support.
Denon Exercise Freak: Verdict
We can't help but feel ultimately disappointed by the Denon Exercise Freak headphones. The design and fit initially made us optimistic as did the app integration tailored specifically for the headphones, but it failed to tick the important boxes that all sports headphones really need to, and that is comfort and sound.
There are definitely signs to suggest that if Denon worked on the sound and more durable testing of the fit, things could improve for the second generation Exercise Freak headphones, but in their current guise, there are definitely better options to consider if you are looking for a pair of sweat-beating, great sounding sports headphones.
Denon Exercise Freak release date: Out now
Denon Exercise Freak price: £149.99