Listening to music while in the water requires waterproof headphones made for swimming. And while most earbuds are made to handle some moisture — like protecting against a sweaty workout — they are not made to handle extended periods of time in or underwater.
A few things often set waterproof headphones apart from the rest. For one, they’ll have an IPX8 rating, so you can use them in the water as much as you want. Also, they usually (though not always) use bone-conduction technology and include a headband or use wired connectivity if they follow a more traditional earbud design. That way, you won’t end up losing one of your wireless earbuds at the bottom of a pool or worse.
Since waterproof headphones are such a niche in the audio market, we’ve gathered the best ones for swimming to help you find the right ones for you. You’ll find some budget as well as expensive models, not to mention models with different forms of connectivity to get around the fact that Bluetooth doesn’t work well in water.
Source: H2O Audio
H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with PLAYLIST+Best overall
This updated version of H2O Audio’s triathlon-geared headphones are an ideal option for extended workouts thanks to their five-hour battery life, IP68 rating, and secure fit, no matter if you’re swimming, biking, or running. While they come with a built-in 8GB MP3 player, they also have H2O Audio’s unique Playlist+. This patent-pending tech can store playlists, podcasts, and music from streaming services, so you don’t even have to bring a phone.
Zygo SoloPremium pick
The Zygo Solo are one of the best, if not the best, waterproof headphones for swimming thanks to their IP68 rating. They also have excellent sound quality, which they achieve by using an FM transmitter to play whatever you want off your phone sitting poolside while you do laps. However, they are very expensive. And, having to keep your phone nearby and hooked up to an FM transmitter can be limiting, even if the Solo are extremely light.
Source: H2O Audio
H2O Audio Surge SX10Best value
If you plan on only using headphones for swimming a few hours a week at best, consider the budget-friendly H20 Audio Surge SX10. Unfortunately, there’s no bone-conduction tech, built-in MP3 player, or wireless connectivity, so you’ll need to carry your audio source. But, if you already have something that can go in the water, there’s probably not a cheaper option as good as these since they come with an IPX8 rating and drivers tuned for underwater use.
Sony NW-WS623Best for Bluetooth functionality
The Sony NW-WS623 might be expensive, but for good reason. They are a feature-filled affair, with 4GB of onboard storage and Bluetooth connectivity. They also have hands-free call functionality. Of course, there is a limitation or two. For instance, they don't have the most comfortable fit for those with larger heads. However, these headphones are pretty great otherwise. They even have fast-charging capabilities and an ambient mode, so you can hear your surroundings.
The Shokz OpenSwim use bone-conduction technology to reproduce sound in the water, and they sound good while doing so. They’re also very lightweight, possibly the lightest bone-conduction model here, and come with enough storage space (4GB) for you to load up more than enough music. While the price isn’t amazingly affordable, it’s solidly mid-tier, making these a value proposition if you’re trying to hit that sweet spot between cost and performance.
Source: H2O Audio
H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport
The Tri Multi-Sport are multi-faceted bone-conduction headphones that can handle swimming, biking, and running with equal distinction. They don’t have the Playlist+ tech of the newer and more expensive model, but they’re lightweight, comfortable, and have an 8GB MP3 player for when Bluetooth connectivity won’t work (Bluetooth doesn’t work in water). They sound pretty decent for their form factor, though there are issues, such as the on-unit controls having problems registering certain presses and the subpar call quality.
Source: Underwater Audio
Underwater Audio HydroActive Waterproof
Skipping bone-conduction tech, the Underwater Audio HydroActive Waterproof headphones instead use multiple protection chambers to keep the internals dry. Hybrid silicone earbuds also form a watertight fit in your ears. You’ll need to provide your own MP3 player as one isn’t included; there’s a short cord (and an extension cord) to connect and a wrap-around the headband to secure said MP3 player. Just be aware some users report reliability issues after extended use.
The AGPTEK IPX8 may not be our value pick, but they are the cheapest option on this list. For less than $20, you can listen to music while swimming. These are traditional wired earbuds that come with waterproof ear tips. Additionally, those ear tips create some solid passive noise cancellation. There’s not much else in terms of features. But, considering the price of the AGPTEK IPX8, that’s no surprise.
H2O Audio Sonar
These bone-conduction headphones have 8 GB of internal memory and an internal audio player, which supports proprietary and free formats. They have a rather unique build among bone-conduction headphones as you clip them onto your swimming goggles for extra stability. In addition, they have IPX8-grade waterproofing protection, making them one of the best underwater consumer audio devices out there. The sound is good enough considering you’re hearing it underwater — slightly muffled but otherwise loud and enjoyable.
What to look for in waterproof headphones
There are different considerations regarding headphones and earbuds for swimming, but ensuring that whatever you use is waterproof is top priority. Whatever you pick should have an IP rating of 8 (you'll often see it written as IPX8 with the X sometimes listed as another number to represent dust resistance). Anything less, like most earbuds, and you're dealing with something that might be water-resistant, meaning they can handle some sweat or even being submerged momentarily but will stop working when underwater for an extended amount of time.
You should also think about how you want to get your music, as Bluetooth connectivity can be spotty underwater. Many of the options on this list come with built-in MP3 players, use an FM transmitter, or have a cable meant to plug into a portable MP3 player. If you want to keep streaming so you don't have to go through the trouble of uploading music to the headphones like it's 2008, consider a pair with an FM transmitter.
Also, consider if you want to go the bone-conduction route. Headphones with bone-conduction sensors don't sound as good as typical earbuds and are often more expensive. However, they're less intrusive because nothing goes in your ears (you'll often get earplugs to be used in conjunction with them if you want to), so you can hear your surroundings the same as if you weren't wearing any headphones.
Our shortlist of great waterproof headphones and earbuds
The H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport with Playlist+ top our list mainly because of that unique Playlist+ tech and multi-functional utility. The Zygos Solo are very expensive, but they are our premium pick for quality and the fact they have an FM transmitter, so you don't have to abandon Spotify every time you go for a swim (something only matched by that previously mentioned Playlist+ tech). However, if you're on a budget and have an MP3 player, we recommend our budget pick, the H2O Audio Surge SX10.