The complicated and over catered for sports headphone market is certainly jam-packed with products competing for your aural dollar. Most of the headphones are simply ‘sportified’ copies of the standard headphone (with a price tag to match), with limited, if any benefit to a multi-sport athlete. Most of us will appreciate the frustration the first time you try to run without an ear loop on your headphones and the tinny base marketed as a safety feature! Kuaiwear the company responsible for the KuaiFit headphones take a drastically different approach to the market, their multisport headphones are developed as a training enabler, providing real-time feedback, coaching, and improvement plans all while providing a decent set of headphones to blast Tay Tay to your heart’s content.
Models, Options & Pricing
The KuaiFit headphones currently come only in a sweat resistant run, bike and gym dry land multi-sport model, which is the focus of this review. Kuaiwear tells me that there is a swimming model due to be released Q1 2018 rounding out the appeal for triathletes, something we will update you on when they are released. The KuaiFit headphones current retail for $159 USD on Amazon. You can also buy the headphones with an ANT+ Cadence sensor for $209 USD or the Cadence sensor later for $49 USD, which when compared to the standalone and compatible Garmin GSC-10 is a bit at the expensive end of town.
Update: – Amazon currently have both the swimming model available for pre order and the base non swimming version.
Unboxing, construction & Fit
The first thing that strikes you when opening up the Kuaifit box is the size of the headphones, and they’re huge. This has to do with Kuaiwears decision to enable changes to the heart rate, plan and in-flight programme and music without the need for an app, more on this in a minute, but the inclusion of physical switches is a welcome one. The large loop fits snugly over your ear (excuse my ear and grey hair in the picture), and I couldn’t help feeling that these would look great next time I was to get assimilated by the Borg.
I did multiple runs and bikes with these headphones with some significant efforts thrown in, and they stayed in place throughout, an impressive feat, granted I did get some strange looks and a few questions!
The earphones come with the standard set of interchangeable earpieces, depending on the size of your ‘ere oles’ and they all feel very comfortable.
The headphones can be recharged using a standard Micro USB charging port under one of the earbuds, as you can tell this design will certainly keep the sweat out.
Update – Post review Kuaiwear tell me that the USB port has been waterproofed to 5m to provide an added layer of protection for the base unit.
Background and Framework
KuaiFit was successfully funded on KickStarter back in 2015 and shipped in 2017. They are more of an integrated system than a pair of headphones with multiple parts which I will talk about individually. In summary, its comprised of a set of sports headphones with an integrated Heartrate Monitor, a website used to track stats and plans, a phone App (Apple and Android) for real-time visual feedback and a desktop App for syncing music and maps (in the future).
The first step is to establish a user account on the Kuaifit website, used to download plans, manage your activities and settings. The App on your phone, is your real-time visual interface into your headphones, displaying metrics such as Heart rate and cadence. Finally, you have your headphones, which you pair with your phone as a regular set of Bluetooth headphones. The process isn’t particularly onerous and well documented. However, you do find yourself jumping around websites and phone functions a fair bit with the overall process taking me 20 minutes or so. The headphones strangely come pre-loaded with some euro trance music and ‘train-esque’ easy rock which plays during setup and whenever you start the App, presumably to get you in the mood.
Headphones, Sound Quality & pairing options
A good pair of sports headphones need to be able to blast out your tunes to keep you motivated, right? Well, the KuaiFit headphones are surprisingly full-featured. The headphones have 8GB of memory inbuilt, enough for 1,500 songs (more than sufficient for an Ironman build), but it can also actively stream music over Bluetooth. Once the tunes are cranking through the headphones, they provide clear audio, high volume, and solid bass. Something that’s important when you’re trying to blast out 150 BPM running bangers. Overall even without the training capabilities, these are a solid set of sports headphones.
One thing to take into consideration is that most of the earpieces for me almost entirely blocked out any external sound. I didn’t mind this running. However, it did make me feel uncomfortable riding outside. Now I’m not a big fan of riding with headphones anyway, however, if you do, best to keep one out.
Kuaiwear tell me they have multiple earbuds available to help choose the amount of noise let in. They were not present on the review unit, but suffice to say they should give you some control over the noise.
Stated playtime is 7 hours, and I found that the be pretty much bang on, so props there.
An innovative feature in the integrated heart rate monitor (HRM) within the headphones themselves. It’s an interesting decision to do so, and I initially wondered how it could produce an accurate measurement given the position. However, the science supports it seamlessly and accurately captured my max heart rate and in-flight heart rate as accurately as my Garmin does. When you are ready to go, you just select the activity using your controls and start the session using either the headphones standalone or via the mobile app.
Once in a session, you use the buttons on the side to adjust heart rate zones with the earphones providing real-time feedback as to where you are currently are against the zones. If a training plan is in place, it will dynamically range and alert you if you are overperforming or underperforming.
The headphones also act as an ANT+ receiver, automatically detecting ANT+ devices near the unit and presenting them via the mobile App. There is no way to set up a manual paring, which is a huge oversight by Kuaiwear – it gives us an indication as to the target market. More on this later.
The Kuaifit ear phones also send data via ANT+ and Bluetooth, allowing Gym equipment and Garmin devices to use the earphones as a heart rate monitor. A cool feature that could conceivably see you removing the need of a dedicated Heart rate monitor.
I initially tested the device at my squads Mag Trainer session, the device automatically picks up sensors within range, whilst simple to use, it can cause some issues if there are multiple devices around. This issue needs fixing in a future release.
Paring with devices is simple in concept however I had trouble connecting to my earphones to some devices, in particular, power meter’s (Rotor and Vector) and could only get a cadence sensor reading from a Garmin GC – 10. Some ability to troubleshoot connectivity would be welcome via the mobile app.
Most likely your first point of call is the KuaiFit website. The bare-bones interface gives you access to your history with the standard set of activity stats. It also gives you the ability to customise individual alerts for each of the sports, calorie burn, heart rate levels, etc. The website and App doesn’t allow you to change your heart rate zones for each sport (you can overall), which again is a major problem for cyclists. Our achievable maximum heart rate on a bike is often 10-15 beats per minute lower than running, something that you cannot adjust. Therefore the cycling programmes and heart rate will always be higher than where it should be.
The website also gives you access to a series of training plans for both cycling and running which are well constructed with real-time feedback. However, there are only six plans available, focused towards beginners, with plenty in the pipeline
The mobile App provides real-time feedback depending on the activity. It captures heart rate and cadence and is easy to understand. It’s quite limited in its stats so far. However, I’m sure this will improve over time.
As you can tell the headphones are very clearly a version 1 release product. As a runner I find these headphones quite a competent set, providing solid sound to keep me entertained. However, would I ditch my Garmin for them? No way…not yet anyway. The real-time feedback is nowhere near what I need as a runner (admittedly one obsessed with stats), and if anything, it just gets in the way of my tunes. The coaching features are simplistic and will work if you’re building up to your first 5km. As a cyclist, I found the device connectivity to be troublesome (Power Meters in particular) and with limited troubleshooting I found it to be a frustrating experience.
So would these work in the context of being a Triathlete? Not really, partially as these don’t support swimming as of yet and the features don’t meet my needs for the individual component sport, particularly cycling.
But would I buy a pair? ..well Yes. If you’re in the market for headphones, the build and audio quality put these at the top end of the market, competing at an audio level way beyond the price point. The real interesting aspect is that the headphones are a solid platform for Kuaiwear to build on. The proof will be in the pudding to see if Kuaiwear continues to invest in the platform and deliver on the promise. Looking forward to seeing the swimming version in the near future and the improvements to the overall framework!
A solid set of Sports Headphones with great future potential.
- Solid set of headphones
- Great bass
- High levels of potential
- Generation 1 product
- Cycling support misses the mark
- No swimming support (yet)
Zwift Set to Revolutionise Indoor Running
Zwift, the fitness platform born from gaming, has expanded its product offering to the running community with the launch of Zwift Run Free Access. Until this week Zwift Run was an Alpha product, available only to paying members of its indoor cycling service. Zwift Run will be now offered free of charge to everyone, in the run-up to a subscription service rollout, scheduled for late 2018.
Since launch in 2014, Zwift has revolutionized the indoor cycling market. The community-driven fitness platform has connected half a million cyclists worldwide to socialize, train and race in its rich virtual 3D environments. This January the Zwift community logged an average of 1 million miles (1.61 million km) per day, with major events attracting up to 3,500 participants. Zwift is now set to shake up the indoor run market in the same way by providing the most complete training solution for runners around the globe.
“Zwift Run is fantastic news for the fitness industry. In three years we’ve transformed the indoor cycling space by making the home ‘turbo trainer’ a super desirable product to own and an essential part of a cyclists training regimen. We’re going to give the same make-over to the treadmill.” commented Eric Min, Zwift CEO and Co-Founder. “Whether at home or in the gym, Zwift Run will make your indoor run workout experience more social, more motivating, more structured and more measurable.”
Zwift’s success in cycling originates from the massive multiplayer technology of the gaming industry and a track record of building huge online training communities. To date, Zwift has given birth to over 150 Facebook community groups with the largest making up 45,000 members, spanning pro athletes in search of the very best training experience, to everyday consumers looking for greater motivation to get fitter, stronger and faster.
Research points toward Zwift being able to boost participation in the fitness industry. To date, members of Strava, the social network for athletes, signing up to Zwift, on average, cycle 10% more per annum.
“We know many of our athletes are working out indoors as well outdoors, and Zwift has helped make indoor workouts more fun and motivating for many of our members,” notes David Lorsch, Strava’s VP of Strategy and Business Development. “Many of our new members are runners and we’re excited that runners on Zwift can now share their runs with their friends on Strava.”
Zwift also plans to bring its transformative effect to the hardware industry. “Hardware sales and innovation levels in cycling are rocketing because of Zwift. Manufacturers understand that closed connectivity is a thing of the past if they are to stay relevant. It’s well known in the cycling industry that sales of indoor training hardware are experiencing 100%+ YoY growth; in the most part due to Zwift’s trade marketing effect on indoor cycling. It’s our ambition to deliver this kind of value to treadmill manufacturers.”
Zwift Run will feature a library of training plans tailored to runners of all abilities. Zwift’s ‘Workout Mode’ is visually motivating, making nailing those intervals even more rewarding. Group Runs are broken down by pace, so Zwifters can find a run that best suits their needs. Zwift’s ‘gamified’ experience also challenges members to earn experience points and move up levels to unlock virtual goods. Zwift is collaborating with a number of running industry brands like New Balance, Hoka and Under Armour to bring in-real-life footwear and apparel to its virtual world.
Integration with Strava allows Zwifters to share runs with their community of friends, recording virtual miles and keep record of best times across Strava segments. As of February, virtual miles recorded in Zwift can also count towards Strava challenges.
Zwift Run is compatible with all treadmills by using Bluetooth or ANT+ footpods. Footpods are connected to iOS devices, Apple TV, or laptop/desktop computers and calibrated to the treadmill speed in the Zwift App. A rising number of Bluetooth ready treadmills can also connect directly to Zwift, without the requirements of footpod. Digital connected footwear is also part of the picture with Zwift collaborating with Under Armour on its smart shoe range.
“Technogym believes in connected wellness. Our offer, centred on the MyWellness open cloud platform, is a complete ecosystem of smart connected equipment surrounded by content and services to provide unique and engaging training experiences” said Nicola de Cesare, Digital Division Director for TechnoGym. “Now, Technogym’s MyRun and MyCycling compatibility with Zwift allows both runners and cyclists to enjoy the very dynamic, engaging and interactive environment of the Zwift platform with a consistent training experience across the two products”
Essentially a Beta product, Zwift and the user community will further refine the run app in 2018, adding new product components and expanding the current schedule of events, races, and group workouts.
Zwift Run Free Access can be downloaded from www.zwift.com or via the App Store.
Under Armour Launches UA HOVR, a Next Generation Cushioning Platform Built to Make You Better
Under Armour, a global leader in innovative performance apparel, footwear and equipment, launches UA HOVR, the brand’s latest innovation in footwear cushioning technology. The UA HOVR platform is launching with two running styles — the UA HOVR Sonic and UA HOVR Phantom — and will continue to expand into other key footwear categories in the coming seasons.
This new pinnacle cushioning system delivers on the need to have a shoe that provides not only a cushioned ride but also energy return. The UA HOVR midsole is made of a proprietary foam compound, made in partnership with the innovators at Dow Chemical, possessing a super-soft durometer with incredible cushioning and shock absorption for every single foot strike.
A key component of the UA HOVR cushioning system is the ‘Energy Web,’ which is a mesh fabric that wraps the cushioning core to deliver strong responsiveness and energy return. This ideal combination of advantages makes runners feel and perform better with less fatigue. With UA HOVR, the shoe is absorbing some of the impacts an athlete’s body would normally feel, aiding in comfort and keeping legs fresh for the road ahead.
“The development of UA HOVR was inspired by the insight that every step a runner takes has the impact of 2-4x their body weight, holding them down. When designing UA HOVR, we set out to create the perfect combination of cushioning plus responsiveness and energy return – to essentially lift you up,” said Dave Dombrow, Under Armour’s Chief Design Officer. “The HOVR underfoot returns that energy and makes every stride feel light and effortless. I could not be more proud of this product and for HOVR to usher in a new chapter in the Under Armour design and innovation story.”
The UA HOVR Sonic and UA HOVR Phantom styles will be available with a high fidelity sensor embedded in the shoe. These sensor-enabled versions are digitally connected to the newest evolution of the MapMyRun app and provide the added benefits of an untethered run while tracking detailed data including stride length, cadence, pace, distance and shoe life. Traditionally, consumers would need to invest hundreds of dollars in equipment and wearables to have access to this level of data. With UA HOVR’s sensor technology, this information will sync directly from the shoes to MapMyRun – all while never needing a recharge. The digital versions of UA HOVR Sonic and UA HOVR Phantom also include an annual MVP subscription to MapMyRun with access to the world’s largest digital health and fitness community of 225 million registered users, coaching and training plans, live tracking, advanced analytics, as well as multi-language VIP support.
“Under Armour is focused on delivering runners around the world – from world champion Natasha Hastings to runners completing their first 5K – innovative solutions that provide an unparalleled running experience,” said Topher Gaylord, General Manager of UA Run. “We obsess over every detail in our running footwear to ensure supreme comfort, unrivalled performance, and the ultimate underfoot ride. With beautiful design converging with state-of-the-art digital capabilities, HOVR technology empowers athletes everywhere, at all levels of the sport, with performance advantages previously available only to the world’s most elite athletes. Put simply, Under Armour and UA HOVR make you better.”
Weighing in at 9.6oz / 272g, with an 8mm offset, the UA HOVR Sonic has a light and responsive ride, for runners who put distance first. The UA HOVR Phantom weighs 10.6oz / 300.5g and has a plush and responsive ride, for runners who want all-around cushioning. With the UA HOVR Phantom, UA leveraged its apparel DNA to create a knitted collar for superior comfort and adaptation around the ankle with a 5/8” collar and knitted sock-like feel. The UA HOVR Sonic will retail for $100 USD and $110 USD; the UA HOVR Phantom will retail for $130 USD and $140 USD for non-connected and connected, respectively.
Both styles are now available for purchase on UA.com, at Under Armour Brand Houses and at sport speciality stores across the globe. You can also access Under Armour’s Connected Fitness Community by downloading the MapMyRun app on the App Store or Google Play™ store. To join the conversation follow @UnderArmour and use hashtag #UAHOVR. For more information visit UA.com/HOVR.
Under Armour also created an innovation film, which ushers in the UA HOVR Phantom and UA HOVR Sonic running shoes in high-energy fashion. Under city lights, a lively crew of runners sprint and leap their way through urban streets, while macro-level visuals of the foam and ‘Energy Web’ technology capture the way in which HOVR lifts you up – the cushioning and responsiveness help you physically feel lighter, minimizing the impact on your body and keeping your legs fresh. Emotionally, you feel as though you are being lifted up – the energy that comes from having achieved the euphoric runner’s high.
New MIPS F2 and E3 Bike Helmet Safety Products Launched
MIPS, the premier brain safety technology company, continues to expand their platform with the new MIPS-F2 and MIPS-E3 solutions. Like all MIPS products, the core technology addresses the rotational forces that are linked to brain injuries, like concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, with the decades of research and study that went into the flagship MIPS-C2 system. This new product designs add additional safety benefits to more helmet designs, expanding the reach of the MIPS technology across more brands and models.
The MIPS-F2 system is built on the standard MIPS low-friction layer that provides the crucial 10-15 millimetres of omnidirectional movement in the two to three milliseconds following an impact. Unlike the MIPS system seen to date in active sports helmets, the low-friction layer in the MIPS-F2 is situated between the outer shell of the helmet and the foam liner on the interior. A series of Flexible Retention Organisms (elastomers) and nylon brackets that are moulded into the EPP allow the foam liner to move independent of the low-friction layer and the outer shell, resulting in at least a 10% reduction in the damaging rotational forces resulting from oblique impacts.
The other new product is the MIPS-E3 GlidWear liner, a dual-ply textile based insert that acts as a low-friction layer. Glidewear is composed of two facing, low-friction surfaces, multi-directional stretch fabric layers. The key sliding motion is enabled when both surfaces move independently of each other. The fabric can be either sewed or welded together to fit inside the helmet. When inserted between the comfort padding of the helmet and the energy absorbing helmet shell (EPS/EPP), the MIPS-E3 GlideWear liner provides broad coverage from rotational impacts without sacrificing comfort or sweat absorption.
“MIPS now has a long history helping to improve brain safety and risk of injury in the cycling and snow sports communities,” says Johan Thiel, CEO of MIPS. “With the broader range of solutions, we can expand on that and make it so more companies can easily and affordably incorporate MIPS into their existing designs, protecting still more athletes of all abilities and ages.”
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR received a 2017 Good Design Award
Suunto Spartan watches continue to gain recognition for their design as Spartan Sport Wrist HR, introduced to the public in March last year, received the appreciated 2017 GOOD DESIGN™ Award. The winning watch has been designed in Finland by Suunto Industrial Designers Tuomas Reivo, Jere Lallo and Timo Yliluoma, together with the Suunto Design Team.
Timo Yliluoma, Suunto Design Manager: “Suunto has been known for great contemporary design throughout its long history. It is an honour to continue this tradition with Spartan Sport Wrist HR, and we are proud to receive the Good Design Award as a recognition of this success. Thank you and congratulations to the entire Design Team”.
GOOD DESIGN™ programme is hosted by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. Founded in Chicago in 1950, GOOD DESIGN™ remains the oldest, prestigious, and most recognized program for design excellence worldwide.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is a premium multisport GPS watch for demanding athletes that value durability, functionality and elegant, contemporary design. All Spartan Sport watches are hand-built at Suunto’s flagship factory in Vantaa, Finland, and are made to last in the toughest conditions.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is listed on the award’s website, and the watch is now part of the museum’s prestigious Permanent Design Collection, together with all other winning products and graphics from GOOD DESIGN 2017.
Kinetic Fit Power-Training App Offers TrainingPeaks App Integration
Kinetic, the leading manufacturer of premium cycling trainers, announced significant updates to the Kinetic Fit training app for iOS and Android allowing Smart Subscribers to import and ride TrainingPeaks interval workouts and opening up Fit-app compatibility to virtually all smart trainer brands.
With Kinetic’s Fit app synced to a TrainingPeaks account, riders can import a TrainingPeaks workout, ride and record it with the Fit app and export it back to their TrainingPeaks account. Round-tripping workouts between apps allows riders to get the best from each platform. While Kinetic Fit features training plans and built-in workouts, the app’s biggest strength is workout execution—riding guided, FTP-based workouts with data recording. The TrainingPeaks platform excels as an environment for planning, working with coaches, building workouts and training plans and data analysis.
“Using the Fit app and a smart trainer to ride TrainingPeaks workouts eliminates the need to print out or write down your workout details like interval numbers, lengths and associated power targets,” said David Simpson, Kinetic Marketing Manager. “The two apps save you time and work together like a coach looking over your shoulder, keeping you on target, motivated and recording your progress.”
Workouts designed in the TrainingPeaks workout creator can be ridden in ERG mode on smart trainers with the Fit app and exported back to TrainingPeaks for analysis. Exporting workout data back to your TrainingPeaks account brings everything full circle for sharing, review and analysis. “At TrainingPeaks we’re always looking for ways to help athletes train for events in the most efficient way possible,” said Ben Pryhoda, Sr. Director of Product, Device and API Integrations at TrainingPeaks. “With the Kinetic Fit app integration, cyclists can stay honest, even during their hardest intervals, and hit their training targets every time.”
Recent updates to the Kinetic Fit app for iOS also include support for Wahoo, CycleOps, Tacx, and Elite trainers via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Support for Kinetic Fit for Android is slated for later in January. Virtually all smart trainers will work with the simple but powerful training app that includes structured workouts, training plans, and video integration.
Suunto Launches Suunto 3 Fitness – a Smart Fitness Watch for Active Lifestyle
Suunto, a global leader in sports precision instruments, introduces the new Suunto 3 Fitness, a smart and robust fitness watch for people who lead an active lifestyle and value health and wellbeing. A beautifully designed personal training companion and elegant timepiece for everyday use, the Suunto 3 Fitness delivers individual training guidance based on fitness level and even adapts to training rhythms, inspiring you to keep moving.
Suunto has a long heritage in building reliable, premium sports instruments that are trusted by professional athletes around the world. Our goal is to equip and inspire everyone to lead an active lifestyle, regardless of their sports level or background, and with Suunto 3 Fitness our sports expertise and watch craftsmanship is made available for an even wider audience. With Suunto 3 Fitness we wanted to create an affordable watch that is not only an activity tracker but a solid training companion and source of inspiration for its user,” says Sami Arhomaa, Suunto Head of Portfolio. “It has always been Suunto’s principle to design watches that are a joy to wear all day, and Suunto 3 Fitness is no exception. It serves as a beautifully designed timepiece from gym to the office.”
Adaptive training plans and real-time guidance
Packed with Suunto’s hallmark sport expertise, Suunto 3 Fitness comes with convenient wrist heart rate measurement, provided by Valencell Inc., and a heart rate-based fitness indicator that determines your current fitness level.
Training with Suunto 3 Fitness is easy. The watch automatically creates seven-day training plans, using your fitness level and overall exercise history as a base. However, if you miss an exercise, or get excited and do a little more than planned, Suunto 3 Fitness automatically adapts your training plan accordingly, so you don’t need to stress about keeping up with the plan. Additional real-time guidance with heart rate zones during every workout help ensure you train at the right intensity.
Balance exercise and rest to support overall wellbeing
Suunto 3 Fitness provides 24/7 activity tracking for steps and calories, and easy-to-follow summaries provide a view of your daily activity, helping you balance training and rest. Sleep quality tracking indicates how well sleep supports your recovery, enabling you to keep up with your active lifestyle.
Suunto developed sleep quality tracking, as well as fitness level indicator and adaptive training guidance in cooperation with Firstbeat Technologies, Suunto’s long-term partner in sports sciences.
Keep up with training goals via connected Suunto app
Suunto 3 Fitness connects to the all-new Suunto app, which will be introduced in detail later in the spring. The new app logs all your activities and keeps you up to date on your weekly training goals. The smart mobile connection also delivers incoming calls, text messages and calendar notifications to the watch.
- Adaptive training guidance
- Activity tracking with steps, calories and sleep
- Built-in sports modes for running, swimming, cycling, gym training and many more
- Accelerometer-based speed, pace and distance for walking and running
- Water resistant to 30 meters, swimming proof
- Five fresh designs for everyday wear
The Suunto 3 Fitness will be available in the spring in five different models: Gold, All Black, Ocean, Sakura and Black. Gold and All Black ($229 MSRP) present an elegant, urban feel with gold- or black-plated stainless steel bezels and pushers. Black, Ocean and Sakura come with polished stainless steel bezels and offer a fresh, lively look at an MSRP of $199. Full product details will be released later.
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