Splish, splash, are you dripping with cash? Waterproof headphones are an absolute must if you’re a regular swimmer, letting you add some tunes to your exercise routine, no matter how deep you dive beneath the water.
Not so long ago participating in most water activities meant doing so without music because headphones on the market could not withstand the damaging effects of extended water exposure. Sure, some of them were water-resistant, but that only meant they were safe during the occasional rainfall or sweat. It was completely out of the question to listen to your favorite audio-book or album during activities like swimming, diving, and triathlons that require you to go underwater.
That’s why we’ve tested out some of the best waterproof earbuds on the market right now, some of which complete with built-in music players, clever bone conduction technology, and comfy, secure designs.
So, if you’re headed to the pool (or any body of water, for that matter) anytime soon, be sure to take a pair of the best swimming headphones along with you.
IPX7 vs. IPX8 Waterproofing
The IP waterproof system is a rating scale that helps you determine the water-resistance of your devices. For Bluetooth headphones for swimming, you don’t even want to entertain anything that is rated below IPX7 — your headphones will get ruined. An IPX7 rating means your headphones, or any device with that rating, can handle being submerged in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes, which makes an IPX7-rated device suitable for activities in and around the pool.
You’d think that IPX8 would be a step up from IPX7, and in some regards it is, but not quite how you might think. IPX8 ratings are determined by the manufacturer. Devices that are IPX8 essentially go through the same testing protocols as IPX7 devices, but manufacturers can bump it up to an IPX8 rating if, let’s say, a device handles submersion for longer than 30 minutes. Either way, if you plan on doing anything in the pool, you should only be considering IPX7 and IPX8 headphones.
5 Best Waterproof Headphones 2021:
1. Finis Duo
Undoubtedly the leading SwiMP3 player on the market, the Duo waterproof headphones come from a US company that’s famous for its high quality swimming accessories. Two colors are available: black/acid green (pictured) and dark grey/mint.
What’s great about the Duo is that it uses bone conduction technology to transmit sound underwater via your cheekbones. This saves you having to fiddle around putting headphones in your ears which can easily come out while you’re swimming.
Large buttons are provided on one of the ear pendants – including fast forward, rewind, shuffle and play/pause – and sound quality is remarkably clear and loud underwater (you can’t use the Duo on land).
Charging is via a magnetic, USB-based dock although you will need to clean the very small charging points on the device out regularly as they can get clogged up.
- Easy to wear
- Great sound underwater
- Not suitable for land use
- Relatively expensive
The classic design of the H20 Surge+ waterproof headphones makes you fall in love with them practically right away. It doesn’t stop here, however – this device delivers a great sound and provides a high waterproofing rating.
This means that you can dive as deep as 3 and a half meters and still have your favorite tune playing in your ear. Besides, the earbuds are bound to sit comfortably in your ear thanks to their ergonomic shape and the 5 sets of high-quality earplugs that can accommodate every ear shape.
These headphones were created by and for athletes, meaning that the approach to manufacturing was taken seriously. There is no discomfort to be found while wearing this model for hours at a time and no slippage from your ear. The Surge+ won’t disappoint you even in the deep swimming pool where the idea of a sound seems impossible – its waterproof dynamic speakers dispose of the compelling sound that is maintained all throughout your swimming session.
- The availability of 5 different earplugs helps you choose the right fit for your ears
- Allows you to dive deep and compete in lengthy swimming competitions
- The cord is excessively long
Vista’s are made from a plastic shell and soft rubber that feels nice in your ears. Despite their bulky size, you can wear these for hours and feel no discomfort. Fit is also very secure, thanks to the included ear hooks.
Earbuds come with a mobile app, where you can tweak many things. There is a section to change commands when pressing the physical buttons. Of course, you can also pick your favorite EQ or make a new one.
These are incredibly rugged, sporting the IPX7 rating and MIL-STD-810G military standard. That means you don’t have to worry if they fall on the floor or in the water.
As mentioned, first impressions aren’t good. But after playing with EQ, you can bring a lot out of these. After doing so, you can hear lots of details, with very natural sounding vocals and instruments. Bass has a good punch and can be very agile, even for metal.
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent stability, even with small ear fins
- Good Bluetooth 5.0 connection
- Robust build quality
- IPX7 rating and MIL-STD-810G standard
- Proprietary silicone ear tips
- Treble stays grainy, even after EQ
SwimBuds are one of the most popular brands of underwater headphones available, and for good reason. Their Sport Waterproof Headphones not only offer a short cord, and include loads of accessories, but they also deliver incredible sound.
What makes SwimBuds Sport stand out is their short cord. Measuring in at a mere 1.3 ft, the shortened cord alleviates having to wrap long cords around goggles and under swim caps. Swimmers really liked the way the shortened cord reduced drag on straightaways and stayed in place during flip-turns.
The short cord is a great start at keeping underwater users comfortable, but SwimBuds takes it a step further by including a bunch of extras such as spare mushroom and flanged tips, a waterproof extension cord if you want a long cord, ear hooks, and even a small tube of vaseline to help you create the perfect seal.
We see why SwimBuds continue to be the most popular underwater headphones. Their adaptability and sound quality are unmatched by any other headphones in the category.
- Good stability during sports activities
- Comfortable, even for more extended listening
- Durable construction with an IPX7 rating
- 9-hour battery on a single charge
- Ear tips are too short to fit everyone
- Bulky design brings wind noise
JBL makes a lot of sport-oriented headphones, and Reflect Flow are one of the best. On them are patented Freebit ear wings for maximum stability during sports activities. They’re lightweight, too, meaning they’re barely noticeable when you wear them.
Of course, the most important is the water-resistant rating. Earbuds are rocking an IPX7 rating, so you can fully submerge them underwater. There are also additional features that might help if you exercise outside, like TalkThru and Ambient Aware.
Another impressive thing is Reflect Flow battery life. With up to 10 hours of playback per charge (and an additional 20 hours in the charging case), they can easily last you through a day.
The sound quality remains very detailed, despite a noticeable boost in the low-end. It’s quite powerful, and it can dig quite deeply into the sub-bass. Thankfully, the rest of the frequency response stays clean and enjoyable.
- JBL signature sound
- Useful features
- High water protection
- Great stability due to ear fins
- Plain design
- Black version is more expensive
What to Look for in Waterproof Headphones
- Comfort: Waterproof headphones come in wireless and wired versions; earpieces come in various shapes and sizes (including over-the-ear and in-ear models). You’ll want to make sure you pick a pair that fits well with pieces that won’t slip out while you’re moving.
- Sound: If crisp, clean audio is important to you in a pair of waterproof headphones, pay close attention to sound quality. Some models are also equipped with noise-canceling technology, which can be great for travel or if you find yourself working in a noisy coffee shop.
- Functionality: Certain headphones are made to be submerged underwater, while others are just made to withstand sweat and rain. The distance to which they can be submerged varies, too, so think about how you’ll be using them before you buy.
Things to Consider Before Choosing
- IPX Rating. The IPX rating system was created to give consumers a better idea of how protected their products were from water damage. This piece of information is usually found on the retail packaging, but can also be found by calling the store or manufacturer.
- Fit. Water activities are usually pretty vigorous, so it’s important that underwater headphones stay in place. Underwater headphones generally come in two shapes: flanged and mushroom. Flanged shaped tips look like a Christmas tree.
- Construction. Waterproof headphones have to be able to withstand the corrosive effects of water, whether being used while surfing in saltwater seas or swimming laps in a local freshwater pool. They should be made of high-quality plastics and rubber that’s not easily damaged by salt or chlorine.
How we picked
Although we’ve directly reviewed a vast array of products here, we haven’t gotten around to all of them. After all, we’re only human and are inherently subjective. To counteract our unavoidable bias, we do quite a bit of research by perusing online forums, reading other reviews (PCMag, CNET, etc), conducting Twitter polls, and more.
In short, this list is the running conclusions of thousands of hours of use from a growing list of contributors over many years. This is a living document, and it’s updated every time a new model knocks an existing one off their pedestal.