For a lot of people—active people, that is— waterproof headphones are a no-brainer. You may be a swimmer in need of some speed tracks to help you get through your laps.
Maybe you’re a surfer who wants to paddle out while listening to some scuzzy L.A. rock. You may be a sweaty person who wants non-drownable earbud technology. (Having the ability to wash something you stuff deep into your earholes before doing cardio wouldn’t hurt, either.) Since there are so many waterproof headphones and earbuds designed for people who swim and sweat, the first step is to learn how waterproof ratings function.
Let’s take a quick look at some audio requirements that are both technical and significant. Like waterproof speakers, waterproof headphones have IP ratings that show how much water contact the hardware can withstand.
These are written in the format “IPXX,” with the second X indicating how waterproof a pair of headphones is on a scale of zero to eight. For swimmers and sweaters, the closer to eight the better. A pair of IPX7 headphones can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to one meter of water, while IPX8 headphones can be submerged for longer.
If you should take it into salt water, the manufacturer will tell you. IPX4 earbuds, on the other hand, are only immune to splashes of water and sweat, not submersion. On a scale of zero to six, the first X indicates how well the headphones defend against sand and dust. (An IP ranking with an X, such as IPX4, shows that it has not been officially tested for dust resistance.)
Consider if you’d like a pair of headphones with internal MP3 storage once you realize they’re waterproof to the degree your behavior needs. If you’re a swimmer, you’ll need that to listen to music underwater; Bluetooth doesn’t work in water, so you won’t be able to listen to music.
1. Flextreme Waterproof Headphones
Consider them an iPod shuffle that you can wear on your head. They come with 4GB of built-in storage for music (or podcasts, or audio books), but no Bluetooth. As a result, they’re built specifically for swimmers and have the highest waterproof rating. The kit also contains earbuds that are more suitable for above-water exercises for when you’re not in the pool. Sure, they’re clumsy, but the price is hard to beat.
2. Endurance DIVE Waterproof Headphones
You get good audio quality for a fair price with JBL. When you’re not underwater, these have 1GB of onboard storage and Bluetooth for streaming music. What you really need in a pair of waterproof headphones are those features. One caveat: When doing laps in the pool, the buttons can be finicky and oversensitive.
Up to 8 hours of battery life
3. Walkman NW-WS623 Waterproof Headphones
Sony’s headphones have more features than the average pair. They have ambient noise reduction, 4GB of music storage, and a quick-charge time of three minutes for an hour of playback, in addition to being completely waterproof and Bluetooth paired. They’re still tough enough to work in temperatures ranging from 23 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’ll keep dust and dirt out, making them ideal for outdoor adventures in areas where Wifi and Bluetooth are spotty. It’s your old Walkman, updated for the year 2020.
12 hours of battery life
4. Swimbuds Waterproof MP3 Player and Headphones
These Swimbuds MP3 are an improvement over the previous Swimbuds Sports in that they don’t need you to have a separate waterproof MP3 player, which we’re guessing few people do. They have 8GB of room, which is enough for your music, and you get four different eartips to choose from, just like the Sports. (However, there is also no Bluetooth.) They aren’t the most appealing headphones—they loop over your ears, with the red control panel sitting behind them—but they do the job. Plus, when you’re underwater, large buttons are easier to press.
7-hour battery life
5. Duo Waterproof Headphones
The FINIS Duo headphones, with their chunky control panel, are designed to clip onto a pair of goggles and rest on your cheekbones in front of your ears. These aren’t going to earn you any style points, but the technology is cool. FINIS uses bone conduction to relay audio, so you won’t have to worry about buds being stuck in your ears. These headphones can store 4GB of music and are fully waterproof (no Bluetooth).
7-hour battery life
6. Free Waterproof Earbuds
We’ve now entered the realm of waterproof earbuds that aren’t designed for swimming and don’t have built-in MP3 players. So, wireless exercise buds that don’t tangle you in cables and can handle buckets of sweat. For how reliable they are, this pair from EarFun (try to get past the name) will cost you deceptively little money. There’s nothing here to blow your mind, but there’s also nothing here to turn your nose up at.
30 hours of battery life
7. Aeropex Waterproof Headphones
The Aeropex is another pair of bone conduction headphones that play music through your skull, but with a much more streamlined style. They loop behind your head and over your ears, with the bone-conducting piece taking up far less room on your head.
Your ears would be able to pick up noises around you (sharks in the ocean, bikers on the streets, and so on), but there is a noise-cancelling feature if you’d like to listen to your music in silence. They are not, however, designed for swimming laps, despite the fact that they are waterproof. Using them for water-related tasks, to chill in the shallow end, or to doggy paddle your way to the floating cooler.
8-hour battery life