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  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Best Earphones

    Portable sound for the active lifestyle.
    Will Palmer

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Skullcandy Chops

    The Chops ($50) pump out full­range audio with deep bass. The ear clips keep them dependably in place, and the tangle-­free cord adds durability, though we heard some crackling from a loose connection. As with all the models here save for the Underwater Audio, a mike in the cable lets you take calls without breaking stride.

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Normal Earphones

    You order these exciting newcomers via a smartphone app that captures images of your ears. A custom pair is then 3­D­ printed and shipped to you ($199). Unlike premium, molded earphones, these don’t sit deep inside your ear canal (which is risky for your hearing), but they do slot nicely into place. They’re also some of the best­sounding ’buds we’ve ever heard.

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Outdoor Tech Orcas

    The sweatproof, Bluetooth Orcas ($100) are our go­-to model for bouncy runs, with a secure fit (aided by stiff snap­on fins) and feather weight. The sound is a small step below the pricier models here but well above average, and the rechargeable Orcas will keep pumping through at least a half­marathon.

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Underwater Audio Swimbuds Sport

    Most submersible earphones sound tinny (cheap components) or muffled (a water-proof filter that also blocks sound). The Swimbuds ($70) use high-quality parts and a filter that lets through crisp, well-­rounded audio. A short cord lets you plug them into an MP3 player clipped to your goggles. Available with a waterproofed iPod Shuffle for $175.

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

    Bose SoundSport

    Bose’s water-resistant workout ’phones ($150) are more finely tuned instrument than extreme athlete’s gear. They let in some ambient sound instead of blocking it out entirely (some listeners prefer this) and focus on clarity over bass—think Schubert, not Flea. That said, the highs and mids are as lush and textured as you’ll find.

  • Photo: Michael Karsh

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    Bowers and Wilkins C5 Series 2

    For concert-hall sound, you can’t beat the sleek black C5s ($180). B&W improved on the already stellar Series 1 with redesigned drivers that bring out booming, undistorted bass. The powerful innards make them a bit heavy, and they can be challenging to secure in your ears, but it’s worth the effort.