The 9 Best Workout Music Players of 2021

Exercise and jam with these workout music players

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The best workout music players are designed to be used while running or at the gym. There are plenty of music players out there, but not all of them were specifically made for heavy activity. Workout music players are typically engineered to be lightweight, water-resistant, and easy to control while your focus may be elsewhere.

Conveniences like a touchscreen aren’t necessarily as important in a workout music player, since sweaty fingers and touchscreens don’t really mix. The best workout music players emphasize practicality and durability over the bells and whistles so the player can put up with time at the gym, drops on a run, or tosses onto the floor. 

Workout music players are ideal for anyone who regularly walks, runs, or performs other exercises like weightlifting or cycling. They can also be useful in outdoor conditions, as they tend to be more durable and include ergonomic features such as clips that attach the music player to clothing.

If you're on the hunt for a general music player, check out our list of the best MP3 players. But you are looking to play your tunes while you're at the gym or spending time outdoors, you're in the right place.

The Rundown
It's tiny, lightweight, IPX5 water-resistant, and it fastens to your clothing or your gear bag with the included sturdy clip.
This is a great multi-use player that gives you a lot of the same functionality as your smartphone at a fraction of the price.
It has an IPX8 certification, which means it's waterproof up to 3 meters (or about 10 feet) underwater.
A 3-minute charge provides an hour of playback, which is convenient when you’re about to go on a walk or a quick run.
Best Advanced Features:
Apple Watch Series 6 at Amazon
There are plenty of third-party apps supported, a solid operating system, and options for music controls and notifications.
The Mighty Vibe stores around 1,000 songs, and the square device is only 1.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
The battery lasts for up to 30 hours, which is impressive for an MP3 player that costs less than $30.
The NWE394/R is relatively small, measuring 3.6 x 2 inches, but it still manages to have a TFT color screen built in.
They are an all-in-one, self-contained unit with 4GB of storage.

Best Overall: SanDisk Clip Sport Plus MP3 Player

What We Like
  • Water resistant

  • Holds up to 4,000 songs

  • Clips to your clothing

What We Don't Like
  • Small buttons

The SanDisk Clip Sport Plus has a battery that lasts for about 20 hours on a single charge, and it supports both lossy and lossless audio files. It's tiny, lightweight, IPX5 water-resistant, and it fastens to your clothing or your gear bag with the included sturdy clip.

As a result of its small size, the buttons and screen are also very small and can be hard to get to when you're in the zone. But if you just want to set it and forget it, you'll be good to go. The 16GB of onboard storage will get you around 4,000 songs, though the lack of a MicroSD slot is a downer. Of course, if the music you have loaded isn't what you're looking for, the included FM radio might have something you like, as well.

Overall, this is a solid choice because of its size and additional features. Our reviewer Erika Rawes appreciated the color screen, and she was able to see it from a distance despite its small size. Erika took this music player with her on a walk and the clip stayed securely fastened to her clothing as she listened to an audiobook of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Display: 1.44 inches | Audio Formats: MP3, WMA (No DRM), AAC, (DRM free iTunes) WAV, FLAC | Battery Life: 20 hours | Water Resistance: IPX5


"The SanDisk Clip Sport Plus MP3 player has some perks, like water resistance, a durable design, and support for several file formats, but the lack of a MicroSD card slot is a major shortcoming." Erika Rawes, Product Tester

SanDisk Sport Plus MP3

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Smart Device: Apple iPod touch (7th Generation)

What We Like
  • Full iOS functionality

  • Supports messaging and FaceTime

  • Comes in a variety of colors and capacities

What We Don't Like
  • Large for a workout device

The Apple iPod touch is basically an older-generation iPhone without phone connectivity. This means you can connect to the internet using Wi-Fi, send messages, play games on Apple Arcade, and use a variety of iOS features, but you unfortunately can’t make phone calls.

Aside from that, what you're essentially getting is a 4-inch iPhone that can run the full suite of App Store apps, including Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. That's very powerful for a package that costs a lot less than a modern iPhone.

It is fairly large for a workout player, though. Even with a 4-inch screen, it's the largest on our list. This has no SD card expansion, but it comes in a variety of colors and storage options up to 256GB. Overall, this is a great multi-use player that gives you a lot of the same functionality as your smartphone at a fraction of the price.

Our reviewer Jason Schneider appreciated the design and versatility this device has to offer, noting the metal backing provided added durability, and that there’s an array of features available beyond those you get with a traditional MP3 player.

Display: 4 inches | Audio Formats: AAC-LC, AAX, AAX+, Apple Lossless, Audible 2, Audible 3, Audible 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, FLAC, H.264, HE-AAC, Linear PCM, M-JPEG, MP3, Protected AAC | Battery Life: 40 hours | Water Resistance: N/A

“The whole back is built of aluminum, while the front is completely glass. This gives you a much more premium feeling than even another smartphone at this price level."Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Apple iPod Touch (2019)

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Best for Swimming: H20 Audio Stream Waterproof MP3 Player

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • 360-degree clip

  • Tiny

What We Don't Like
  • No screen

The H20 Audio Stream 2 is well named because it's completely waterproof, making it functional for swimming and water sports. The Stream 2 is small, with no screen and physical buttons for controls. It has an IPX8 certification, which means it's waterproof up to 3 meters (or about 10 feet) underwater.

That certification also includes the bundled earbuds, so you actually can take this device with you while swimming. You'll get around 10 hours of playback for the 2,000 songs it holds (via the 8GB of storage). The tiny device also has a 360-degree swivel clip on it, which means you can clip it just about anywhere.

Since there’s no screen on this little guy and the buttons are a bit smaller than we'd normally like, it works better for continuous play than for individually selecting songs from your playlist. But, those are perfectly fine compromises when you consider this music player can go anywhere with you, including the pool.

Our reviewer William Harrison noted the waterproof earbuds were some of the most comfortable he’s encountered, and when he tested the sound quality under water, the audio was clear and vivid. However, William’s testing also found that the Stream 2 didn’t get very loud even at full volume.

Display: N/A | Audio Formats: MP3, WMA, FLAC, APE | Battery Life: 10 hours of play time | Water Resistance: IPX8

"The H20 Audio Stream MP3 player is a neat device that makes its mark by being light, easy to use, and most importantly—waterproof."William Harrison, Product Tester

H20 Audio Stream Waterproof MP3 Player

Lifewire

Best for Running: Sony Walkman NW-WS623

What We Like
  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • Onboard storage

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Not great for those with glasses

The Sony Walkman was the iconic cassette tape player of the 1980s and the brand still survives to this day. However, today’s Walkman comes in different forms, including this stereo Bluetooth headset that has its own onboard storage. This means you can play your music, podcasts, and other entertainment from your phone, or you can leave your phone at home and hit the road with just this headset. 

The headset has a unique design that isn't suited for everyone, though. Our reviewer William had a tough time finding a good fit in their ears, despite all the different ear tips they tried. Also, if you wear glasses, this headset can be a bit difficult to position correctly.

William never had the headphones fall out on their own, even during running and weight training, but it felt like they were going to. That's enough to make you uncomfortable, and when you're working out, that's not a great feeling.

On the plus side, the device has a 12-hour battery life, and a 3-minute charge provides an hour of playback, which is convenient when you’re about to go on a walk or a quick run.

Display: N/A | Audio Formats: AAC (Non-DRM), FLAC, Linear PCM, MP3, WMA (Non-DRM) | Battery Life: 12 hours | Water Resistance: IPX5

"The device impresses thanks to a durable, sleek design, outstanding battery life, and quality of life features—particularly the ambient sound mode that makes your gym workout more tolerable."William Harrison, Product Tester

Sony Walkman NW-WS623

 Lifewire

Best Advanced Features: Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6
What We Like
  • Robust health/fitness tracking

  • Speedy and responsive

  • Fun, diverse watch faces

What We Don't Like
  • Modest upgrade over Series 5

As Apple's latest and greatest smart fitness watch, the Apple Watch Series 6 is loaded with robust fitness and health tracking features including a blood oxygen sensor, ECG, and fall detection. You'll also get sleep tracking, step tracking, and GPS functionality to track your runs and routes when you're on the go.

With its focus on overall wellness, the Series 6 is an ideal option for those who want more than just fitness tracking features. There are plenty of third-party apps supported, a solid operating system with reliable updates, and options for music controls and notifications. You can sync content from your iPhone to the Apple Watch, and then listen to music and audiobooks with a pair of Bluetooth earbuds when you’re away from your phone.

Hardware hasn't changed dramatically since the previous version, but you have some new color and style options. The screen is as bright and colorful as ever, and the performance is slightly improved with the dual-core S6 chip. However, if you have the older Series 5, the upgrade likely isn't big enough to warrant the splurge.

But otherwise, for iPhone users, the Series 6 is one of the best accessories available. Our reviewer Andrew Hayward still had 40 to 50 percent battery capacity remaining after using the device all day, so this is a good choice for those who want a wireless option that offers a lengthy battery life and additional fitness features.

Display: 40 to 44 millimeters | Audio Formats: N/A | Battery Life: Up to 18 hours | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

"I love how it automatically starts tracking once I’ve been on a brisk walk for 10-or-so minutes, meaning I don’t even have to manually begin the process to track my activity." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Apple Watch Blood

 Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best Compact: Mighty Vibe Portable Music Player

What We Like
  • Small and durable design

  • Has a clip

  • Spotify and Amazon compatibility

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre battery

The Mighty Vibe MP3 Player gives you the freedom of streaming music without being confined to a phone or needing internet connection. The Mighty Vibe stores around 1,000 songs, and the square device is only 1.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide. The music is synced to the device, so it can play while offline, and a "Stay Fresh" feature updates your music whenever you are connected, so you can keep your playlist up to date.

On the downside, coming in such a tiny package comes with compromises. A thousand songs isn't a lot for a modern music player, nor is the 5 hours of playtime the device provides on a single battery charge.

Additionally, Spotify and Amazon Music are well-regarded services, but the device leaves out other popular streaming platforms such as YouTube Music, Tidal, and Apple Music. However, since this device is microscopic, it clips to clothing, works offline, and it’s drop- and water-resistant, we feel it still makes a solid workout companion.

Display: N/A | Audio Formats: Offline streaming | Battery Life: 5+ hours | Water Resistance: IPX4

Best Budget: AGPTEK Clip MP3 Player

What We Like
  • Lengthy battery life

  • Includes clip, arm band, and silicon case

  • Supports MicroSD expansion

What We Don't Like
  • Small monotone screen

The Agptek Clip offers a lot in a rather affordable package. It comes with the MP3 player, earbuds, a sweat-proof silicon case, and an arm band to clip the player onto while you work out. Out of the box, it includes 8GB of storage, but you can expand the storage by up to 64GB via the MicroSD slot.

It supports lossy and lossless formats, and there’s a tiny screen for displaying song lyrics. However, the screen is monotone, and our reviewer Erika noted that it’s quite difficult to see the small screen from a distance. 

On the plus side, the battery lasts for up to 30 hours, which is impressive for an MP3 player in this price range. During testing, Erika was able to get 14.5 hours of straight music playback before running out of battery. The Agptek clip supports Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio, as well as e-books on the txt format. This is an ideal choice for someone who wants a cheap device they can use while running or at the gym, as it costs less than $30 and includes several accessories.

Display: 2 inches | Audio Formats: MP3, WMA, APE, FLAC, WAV, AAC | Battery Life: Up to 30 hours | Water Resistance: Sweat-proof case

"The Agptek can go from volume levels 0 to 31, but it loses sound clarity after level 22 when you use the included earbuds. I didn’t see an equalizer in any of the menus either." Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Agptek Clip

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Value: Sony 8GB Walkman MP3 Player

What We Like
  • Small with a screen

  • Affordable price

  • 35 hours of playback

What We Don't Like
  • Hard-to-use controls

The Sony Walkman NWE394/R is relatively small, measuring only 3.6 inches tall and less than 2 inches wide, but it still manages to have a TFT color screen built in, which makes navigating music easier. Plus, the player has up to 35 hours of continuous playback, and charging takes only around 2 hours.

The controls take some getting used to. There's a five-way rocker for navigation, along with buttons for home and options. There are switches on the side as well, for volume and locking the player (so you don't interrupt a workout). All of these buttons on such a small frame can make this player a little unwieldy. But that also means the player has a lot of functionality, so there's definitely a trade-off.

This player comes with earbuds, and they actually sound good, but the Walkman doesn’t clip onto clothing easily like some of the other models on this list, so this might be a better choice for walking or light exercise.

Display: 1.77 inches | Audio Formats: PCM, AAC, WMA, and MP3 | Battery Life: 35 hours | Water Resistance: N/A

Best Headphones: Sony Walkman 4GB Headphone

What We Like
  • Self-contained unit in the

    headphones

  • 12 hours of playback

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • Small storage

The Sony Walkman 4GB headphones basically act as a wearable MP3 player, as they have local storage that lets you play your music while leaving your phone at home. They are an all-in-one, self-contained unit with 4GB of storage. This is enough to hold about 1,000 songs, and a single charge will give you approximately 12 hours of playback. 

The headphones are waterproof, meaning you can take them in the pool up to 2 meters deep. You can take them in saltwater too, which is comforting for those who like to surf or exercise on the beach. On the downside, these headphones do not have Bluetooth connectivity like many of the others on the list. What you store on the headphones is what you have to choose from. That's an understandable compromise, but we still miss it. Overall though, if you know what music you like to work out to, these might be a good fit.

Display: N/A | Audio Formats: MP3, WMA, Linear PCM, AAC | Battery Life: Up to 12 hours | Water Resistance: Up to 2 meters

Final Verdict

All told, our top pick has to be the SanDisk Clip Sport Plus (view at Amazon). It's a small, versatile player with a screen that clips to your clothing and won't get in the way. Plus, the price is right, and 16GB of capacity will store a ton of music for your workout.

If you have a little extra money, the Sony Walkman NW-WS623 (view at Amazon) is another great choice. Not only do the headphones have Bluetooth, but they also have local storage, which means you can work out with your phone or not. A close third place is the Mighty Vibe (view at Amazon), which is tiny and connects to online music sources, keeping your music fresh.

About Our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 150 gadgets, including ones on this list. She is an expert in consumer and smart home technology, and she currently writes for Digital Trends and Lifewire.

Jason Schneider is a writer, editor, copywriter, and musician with almost ten years' experience writing for tech and media companies. His areas of expertise include Apple iPhones, iPods, and accessories, and he reviewed the iPod Touch on this list.

William Harrison has written for Lifewire since January 2019 and is an expert in portable audio equipment. He has reviewed several of the products on this list.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. He reviewed the Apple Watch Series 6 on this list.

FAQs

How are workout music players different from normal music players?
Music players designed for working out have design elements that support an active lifestyle like the ability to clip to clothing, a certain amount of durability, and water resistance. People working out get sweaty and tend to put their devices in precarious positions, so the music player will need to stand up to those conditions.

Can't you just use your phone?
Yes, you can! However, a dedicated music player is almost always going to be smaller, lighter, more durable, and more affordable than your smartphone. That's important when you're working out. Smartphones can be unwieldy when you're trying to run, lift weights, or even do stretches. A workout music player provides you with a bit of extra freedom, while also keeping your phone safe from moisture and drops.

What kind of headphones can you use?
That depends. Most music players still have the 3.5mm headphone jack, while others rely on Bluetooth connectivity. Many come with earbuds included, while others are headphones in themselves. You'll want to check your specifications.

SanDisk Sport Plus

 Lifewire / Erika Rawes

What to Look For in a Workout Music Player

Water-resistance

Workouts tend to involve moisture in one form or another. Usually that's sweat, but this can also include sports such as swimming. Depending on your workouts, you'll want to look for properties like "sweat-proof," "water-resistant," or the best, "waterproof."

Physical Controls

When you're working out and sweating, touchscreens tend to be difficult to use. Physical controls are important because sweaty hands can have trouble controlling a touchscreen.

Apple iPod Touch

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Storage

This refers to how many songs you can keep on the device. The longer your workout, the more songs you'll listen to. Variety is the spice of life, so in terms of storage, higher is always better. If the device has a low amount of storage, see if it supports MicroSD expansion.

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