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The best waterproof headphones 2022: Enjoy big beats to soundtrack your swims

best waterproof headphones
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best waterproof headphones are, as you might have guessed, tailor-made for swimmers. All able to play music and podcasts underwater, they’re designed to help you get as much enjoyment out of swimming as you might do with any other gym session, blocking out the ambient noise of the public pool or beach, and enabling you to soundtrack your swims. 

The best running headphones, while rain- and sweat-proof, are usually only marketed as water-resistant to varying degrees. If a pair of running headphones has an IPX5 rating, it is considered splash-proof rather than waterproof. For waterproofing, you need to be looking for IPX7 ratings and above, which is what this buying guide chiefly looks at. It’s an extra layer of statistic to think about compared to a set of running headphones, which chiefly just need to stay in place and sound good during strenuous exercise. The water is also going to pull backward on any headphones you wear, so a snug, comfortable fit is going to be essential. 

Next, you’ll need to think about where your music is going to be playing from. Your phone is unlikely to be either waterproof or convenient to carry while swimming. At the same time, some wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth tend to struggle underwater, although it’s not unheard of to stream music from your Garmin watch to your Bluetooth waterproof headphones. 

While it’s possible to find standalone waterproof MP3 players, most successful swimming headphones tend to integrate an MP3 player and internal storage into a single unit to let you carry your tunes with you to the pool.

The big exception is the Zygo Solo – our pick for the best waterproof earbuds right now – which uses an FM transmitter to stream audio from your phone instead.

Some waterproof headphones work like conventional in-ear headphones, while others use bone conduction technology to transmit sound without blocking your ear canal so you can still hear ambient noise. We've rounded up a mixture of both, so you can choose the style that best suits your needs. 

The best waterproof headphones

Zygo Solo waterproof headphones

The Zygo Solo headset uses FM radio to receive audio from your phone underwater (Image credit: Zygo)
The best waterproof headphones to use with your phone

Specifications

Waterproof standard: IP68
Battery life: 3 hours
Storage: N/A
Audio formats: Any
Additional info: Bone conduction, saltwater safe, streams to 50 meters

Reasons to buy

+
Streams audio underwater
+
Easy to set up
+
Excellent sound
+
App includes coaching tips

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs lots of gear poolside
-
Works best with earplugs
-
Headset lacks playback buttons

The Zygo Solo is the only set of waterproof headphones we've tested that can actually stream music and podcasts from a phone that's sitting by the side of the pool. Bluetooth signals can only penetrate water for a very short distance. The Zygo Solo gets around this problem by using an FM radio transmitter – an unusual but effective approach.

The transmitter is quite large, but the ability to enjoy music, podcasts and coaching tips (provided by the Zygo app) without messing around with MP3 files is a real bonus.

The headset itself isn't as compact as the others in this guide, but in our tests it proved comfortable, and remained secure even when making turns underwater. The sound quality is impressive, too. Like the Aftershokz Xtrainerz and Sony NW-WS413 below, the Zygo Solo uses bone conduction to transmit sound to your auditory nerve, and while it sounds a little tinny on land, once you're in the pool the sound has an impressive amount of bass.

We're also big fans of the Zygo mobile app, which offers instructor-led workouts an drills to give you training some variety. In the future, the company plans to add Peloton-style interactive sessions, which will make use of the headset's built-in accelerometer to track your progress in the pool. The best waterproof headphones you can buy today.

Read the full review: Zygo Solo

Sony NW-WS413 in turquoise

The Sony NW-WS413 waterproof headphones work equally well in the water and on land (Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony Walkman NW-WS413

The best swimming headphones you can also use on land

Specifications

Waterproof standard: IPX68
Battery life: 14 hours
Storage: 4GB or 8GB
Audio formats: MP3, MP4, WAV, and WMA
Additional info: Multi-sport design

Reasons to buy

+
Multisport use
+
Excellent sound
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
In-ear fitting won’t suit everyone

A set of Sony headphones with a built-in MP3 player, the Walkman NW-WS413 are marketed for general active use and work much like any others. The fact they’re waterproof and ideal for swimming is a massive bonus.

Available with 4GB or 8GB of storage, this plus the buttons on either side does make them a tad larger than normal, but not irritatingly so. They arrive with four sets of earbuds – two standard ones and two matching swim-specific versions – although mixing the two up won’t result in damage.

Once popped on, a sprung connective clasp around the back of your neck ensures both sides remain secure in your ears. This is perfectly acceptable in the pool, and if you’re very fast off the wall, a cap will further lock these swimming headphones in place.

Depending on how the water sloshes around your ears, sound quality can either be excellent or a bit muffled. However, people who care about such things are likely to find it an improvement over that provided by bone conduction waterproof headphones. There’s even an ambient sound mode that improves your ability to hear what’s going on around you.

They also sound great on dry land and can double up as a pair of running headphones. If you’re a swimmer and only want to own one set of headphones, these should be well up your list. Although you can’t connect them to your phone, they’re otherwise great for both sporting and general use. With top sound quality, normal looks, and a comparatively low price, there’s a lot to recommend them.

Shokz OpenSwim in blue

The Shokz OpenSwim are lightweight and comfortable, and great for use out of the water too (Image credit: Aftershokz)
Lightweight waterproof headphones with a secure fit

Specifications

Waterproof standard: IPX68
Battery life: 8 hours
Storage: 4GB
Audio formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC
Additional info: Bone conduction, saltwater safe

Reasons to buy

+
Light and secure fit
+
Excellent ambient sound perception

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of Bluetooth connectivity
-
Sound bleed above water

An excellent choice for all-around sporty types, these slim-fitting bone conduction waterproof headphones work both in and out of the pool. Containing an inbuilt MP3 player they let you take your tunes with you when swimming, while also allowing you to exercise to music away from your phone.

When swimming, we found the the Shokz OpenSwim (which were known as the AfterShokz Xtrainerz until the company rebranded in December 2021) are best paired with swimming goggles or a swim cap to keep them in place. Like many of the best waterproof headphones, they use vibrations to transmit sound to your auditory nerve without blocking the ear canal. The bit of the headphones that manages this sits just in front of the ear, and three small buttons behind the right ear let you navigate, play and pause your tracks.

With a dedicated swim mode, the sound provided is clear enough, while not only will your ears be free from potential irritation incursions, you’ll be able to hear ambient noise, like the lifeguard blowing their whistle at you for excessive splashing.

This same facet means that sound does tend to bleed out when above water, so although great for cycling or running, they’re likely to annoy anyone you sit next to on the bus.

Although offset by the other benefits, the lack of Bluetooth does mean you’re left to plug the headphones in to upload songs or podcasts, and they’ll be no pairing with your phone to take calls. Still, if swimming is your main concern, these are an excellent choice.

Read the full review: Shokz OpenSwim

H2O Audio Sonar in blue

You can stream audio from an Apple Watch to the H2O Audio Sonar, but only if you attach the watch body to your goggles (Image credit: H2O Audio)

4. H2O Audio Sonar

The best waterproof headphones that attach to your goggles

Specifications

Waterproof standard: IPX8
Battery life: 7 hours
Storage: 8GB
Audio formats: MP3, M4A
Extra info: Bluetooth

Reasons to buy

+
Stream music from a smartwatch
+
Generous 8GB storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for land use
-
Can't be worn without goggles

The H2O Audio Sonar are bone conduction waterproof headphones that clip securely to your swimming goggles and transmit sound to your auditory nerve without the need for earplugs (unless you choose to wear a pair).

The buttons are large with raised markings, allowing you to operate them with wet hands and to switch tracks by feel.

Unlike many competing waterproof headphones, the H2O Audio Sonar can also play music via Bluetooth – though this is limited by the range of Bluetooth underwater. The signal will only stretch around 4in when the receiver is submerged, so you'll need to attach your smartwatch to your goggles for this to work (streaming from a phone isn't feasible). 

It's good to have another option if you use your watch for streaming music regularly, but the Audio Sonar's generous 8GB on-board storage will be plenty for most swimmers. If you have an Apple Watch, check out H2O Audio's Interval headphones, which hold your watch's body at the back of your swimming cap so you can stream tunes from Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and others.

Finis Duo in gray

The Finis Duo attaches to your swimming goggles, so the Bluetooth signal only has to travel a short distance (Image credit: Finis)

5. Finis Duo

Swimming headphones that hold securely and sound great

Specifications

Waterproof standard: IPX8
Battery life: Up to 7 hours
Storage: 4GB
Audio formats: MP3, WMA
Additional info: Fits to your googles

Reasons to buy

+
Secure fitting
+
Solid sound underwater

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for land use
-
Relatively expensive

The Finis Duo waterproof headphones have been around for a while now, but are still a good choice. Like the Shokz OpenSwim above, they use bone conduction technology to transmit sound underwater via your cheekbones. The Finis’ twin units attach to either side of your goggles, while large buttons are provided on one of the ear pendants to allow you to fast forward, rewind, shuffle, and play or pause your tracks.

With 4GB of flash memory, you’ll be able to store up to a thousand songs depending on file size, while the battery provides around seven hours of continuous use. Audiophiles might not be bowled over by the sound quality, but on the plus side, you’ll likely have less fiddling around than with more conventional in-ear headphones.

Back on dry land, charging and uploading are achieved via a magnetic, USB-based dock. Although we found it necessary to regularly clean the very small charging points on the device as they can get clogged up.

Still a solid option, the Finis Duo now faces competition from smaller and less obtrusive looking systems. Attaching to your goggles also means that, unlike some other waterproof headphones, they’re only usable for swimming and not other activities. Worth considering if time in the water is your only concern, they’re quite a specialized product.

How do I choose the right swimming headphones?

The first thing to consider when buying a pair of waterproof earbuds or headphones is the style you prefer. 

If you like the fit and feel of regular in-ear headphones, a pair of earbuds might be your best bet. However, if you like to keep your ears free to tune into your environment, a pair of bone-conducting headphones will work best.

It's also worth thinking about how you want to access your music. If you want to keep your phone by the side of the pool, a pair of swimming headphones with a built-in FM transmitter like the Zygo Solo are your best option - regular Bluetooth earbuds just won't cut it underwater.

If you don't want to rely on your phone, you'll need a pair of swimming headphones with a built-in MP3 player; be sure to look into how much storage you're getting as well.  

Can you swim with Apple AirPods?

Can you use Bluetooth headphones while swimming?

Not usually, because Bluetooth signals don't travel far through water. If you can attach your smartwatch to a pair of swimming goggles, you may be able to use it to stream music to a pair of headphones, but not all watches and headphones support this.

How we test waterproof headphones 

We've tested every pair of waterproof headphones in this list and in order for them to be included in this very select and specific roundup, we needed each pair of headphones to excel at a number of things. 

The first thing, of course, is effective waterproofing – you need these swim-specific headphones to survive multiple dunks in the drink. But that is closely followed by audio performance, battery life, wearer security, comfort and ease of use. An IPX7 rating should not mean poor sound quality and we made sure to check for that.

From there, we looked at Bluetooth connectivity – or alternatives to it, such as onboard storage or (anyone familiar with smartphones knows that generally, they don't play well with water) or FM radio transmitters. Elsewhere, on-device controls, comfort, value for money and of course decent sound quality helped us to reach our verdicts. 

Our testing is independent – there are no sales teams involved in our review process. That is why if you take the plunge (see what we did there?) and buy a set of waterproof headphones from this buying guide, you can rest assured you're purchasing a TechRadar approved product. Happy shopping – and safe swimming. 

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)