Headphones are such a personal decision, that we can't give a single answer to this question. Since opinions differ amongst some of our team, we thought we'd share them with you.
Steven (CEO, asensei)
"My setup depends on where I'm training with asensei.
Even though I have a Concept 2 setup in my garage gym, I like the discipline of going to a gym to do my workout. Plus, it's a great way for others to get to try asensei with me! When I'm at the gym, I've really taken to my Beats Solo 2 headphones. Bill gives me such a hard time that I have spent money on brand that doesn't make the sound quality any better, but I feel good about my decision :) I never thought I'd like over the ear headphones for working out, but as it turns out, one of the core parts of the asensei experience for me is "getting in the zone". I put these headphones on, crank up the volume, and it's just me, the erg, the coach in front of me and asensei over my shoulder watching my every stroke. The headphones pair really easily with the phone, and the fast charge is a life saver ... I grab 'em on the way out the house, notice that the charge is low, and 5 minutes of charge in the car on the way to the gym gives me 3 hours of continuous use.
So many people have told me how much they love their AirPods, I had to go and try them. So far, I'm really impressed with the quality of the audio and with how well they sit in my ear. If you've watched the vision video we made for asensei when we started the company 4 years ago, the AirPods come really close to our vision of an unobtrusive coach in your ear (true story -- the earpiece in that video that the yoga instructor is wearing is a frozen pea we found in the freezer of the Airbnb we rented for filming that we touched up in Adobe After Effects. We got the pea stuck in Vanessa's ear and had to defrost it with some warm water).
When I train at home, I'm not going to lie, I'm probably 90% using my Beats headphones. But, I did setup a TV in front of the erg, and I just run an HDMI cable into the lightning connector on the phone. I'll crank up the volume on the TV and love having the big screen in front of me. Airplay to an Apple TV unfortunately doesn't work very well .. the slight lag is noticeable because asensei's real-time feedback is like REALLY real-time. I'm trying out a number of different screencast HDMI dongles though, and would love some recommendations."
Ross (Chief Product Officer, asensei)
"So I mainly practice with asensei on my erg at home, so I've got a couple of options.
When the kids are in bed, I'm more of a fan of in-ear headphones. I worked out of New Zealand for 9 months, and while I was there I picked up this pair of headphones here. These headphones just work, they are robust, sweatproof and come with a bunch of different in-ear fittings. The audio quality is OK, but it wouldn't satisfy an audiophile. I prefer the form factor of an in-ear bud, but in fairness my ears don't sweat as much as Steven's. While I wouldn't like the cord connector between the headphones if they were for day-to-day music/hands-free calling, I really like having the cord for working out. I think if you're looking for something lower budget and functional, earbuds like these are a great way to go.
We ran hundreds of user trials of asensei, and so I'd be visiting gyms and CrossFit boxes all over New Zealand and the UK letting people test the product. For that purpose, I bought a little bluetooth wireless speaker from JBL, and it's awesome. I can crank that up and the coach, asensei and the sound of the flywheel all blend beautifully into an audio coaching experience that's immersive for me. What I really love about this speaker, is that I can just sit it on top of the flywheel - it's like there was always meant to be a speaker there. I have the black one, and it just looks like it's built into the erg now.
If you want to run the asensei challenge at your gym, boathouse or box - maybe as part of a fundraising ergathon, or a come and try session, the JBL speaker is a great way of drawing a crowd of people who want to see what's going on, and then inevitably want to give it a try for themselves!"
Bill (Chief Technology Officer, asensei)
"Steven places way more value on his headphones looking good than I do. Our approaches to Karate are the same.
I wear headphones all through the day; I'm constantly listening to audiobooks on Audible whether it's while I'm out walking the dogs, or doing errands around the home. I didn't want a different pair of headphones for asensei, and so these over the ear headphones from Philips are my top recommendation. It's personal preference, but I prefer this style of having a foam that sits on top of the ear rather than cupping the ear ... I tend to workout in my home gym, so I'm not as worried as Steven is about cutting out the distraction of the gym around me."
-- That's what we think. What setups work best for you?