The best waterproof headphones 2021: enjoy music and podcasts while you swim

Asia's Tech News Daily

The best waterproof headphones are specially designed for swimming, with fully watertight designs optimized for audio underwater. While many sports headphones are marketed as water resistant to varying degrees, if you’re intending to soundtrack your swim with a motivational playlist or educational podcast, this is far from the only consideration.

For one thing, you’ll need to think about where any music is going to play from. Your phone is unlikely to be either waterproof or convenient to carry while swimming. At the same time, wireless communication protocols like Bluetooth tend to struggle underwater. This means that while it’s possible to find standalone waterproof MP3 players, most successful swimming headphones instead tend to include an integrated MP3 player and internal storage into a single unit to let you carry your tunes with you into the pool.

The big exception is the Zygo Solo – our pick for the best waterproof headphones of 2021 – which uses an FM transmitter to stream audio from your phone instead.

Some 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 suits your preferences.

The best waterproof headphones

The Zygo Solo headset uses FM radio to receive audio from your phone underwater (Image credit: Zygo)

1. Zygo Solo

Waterproof headphones that can play anything from 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 poolsideWorks best with earplugsHeadset 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 our full Zygo Solo review

The Aftershokz Xtrainerz are lightweight and comfortable, and great for use out of the water too (Image credit: Aftershokz)

2. Aftershokz Xtrainerz

Comfortable and secure, with impressive battery life

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 connectivitySound bleed above water

An excellent choice for all-around sporty types, these slim-fitting bone 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 Aftershokz Xtrainerz 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 our full Aftershokz Xtrainerz review

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

3. Sony Walkman NW-WS413

Conventional functionality that’s great on land and in the water

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 and the buttons on either side leaves 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. 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.

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

4. Finis Duo

Swim-specific bone-conduction waterproof headphones

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 useRelatively expensive

The Finis Duo waterproof headphones have been around for a while now, but are still a good choice. They use bone conduction technology to transmit sound underwater via your cheekbones, the Finis’ twin units attach either side of your goggles. 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 a sizable 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.

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)

5. H2O Audio Sonar

Waterproof headphones with Bluetooth and internal storage

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 useCan’t be worn without goggles

Like the Finis Duo above, 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 switch tracks by feel.

Unlike many 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 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.

Can you swim with Apple AirPods?

No, the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro aren’t waterproof. Only headphones specially designed for swimming should be worn in open water or the pool.

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.

  • Check out our complete guide to the best swimming watches
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