8 best waterproof headphones to help you power through the pool
Need some musical motivation while you’re lane swimming? Invest in some pool-proof tech
It used to be that the only things you needed when you hit the pool was a pair of goggles and some swimming gear. However, ear plugs are being replaced by earphones as tech manufacturers realise that swimmers have been seriously underserved for some time and there are now a good range of earphones that are capable of keeping your workout tracks totally watertight.
However, when it comes to putting a soundtrack to a swimming session there are a few things you need to consider – the first is, obviously, the level of waterproofing. Almost all earphones on test here are graded either IPX7 (1m depth for 30 mins) or IPX8 (2m depth for one hour) and the one that isn’t has a separate casing equivalent to an IPX8.
The seal of the bud in the ear is also critical because there’s little point having a pair of high quality, pin-drop sharp (and expensive) headphones when they’re languishing at the bottom of the pool. You also need something that will perform just as well during 10 minutes of gentle breaststroke as it does throughout half an hour of lane swimming with tumble turns.
The seal of the buds will also dictate quality and ensure your music doesn’t sound like it’s being played from inside a dishwasher. The final consideration has to be the amount of storage that comes with each set – don’t forget, what we’re talking about here are waterproof MP3 players by another name, and any hope of a Bluetooth connection is out because that wireless technology doesn’t work in the big blue.
Here’s how the latest crop of phones stood up when we dived in.
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Bragi the dash pro: £249, Currys
This update delivers all the bonuses of the original (secure fit and long battery life) while maintaining the IPX7 rating and adding a real immersive quality to the sound, which comes from the tight seal that the earbuds form in your ears to help shut out the noises of the pool. The automatic detection of the start of your swimming workout doesn’t suffer any lag issues, and the companion app will store your swimming sessions and let you know how many lengths you’ve just completed. The price tag is justified by the fact they offer some real competition to Apple’s AirPods for everyday use, while these have the the edge as they can be used in the pool.
HydroActive waterproof headphones: £83, Amazon
These wraparound buds are great for all swimming styles and are designed to be used with any waterproof MP3 player. They come with nine different-sized earbuds in four different styles but we found the “tree” design buds provided the most watertight seal and even stayed in place after a diving start. A solid underwater audio experience too.
Flex waterproof headphones with syryn waterproof MP3 player: £70.64, Storkz
These are excellent value for money, and come with an IPX8-rated MP3 player for you to download your swimming soundtrack on to. The cord is short so you won’t have to worry about getting entangled in wires when you’re crawling, and the buds do a great job of keeping the water out and the sound in. Simply hook the MP3 housing on the side of a swim cap, turn on shuffle and rule the pool.
FX-Sport VR-1: £122 + silicone skin £19, FX-Sport
Boasting 8GB of storage and five hours of battery life, these are the only phones that are external speakers (rather than in-ear) – so in order to make them truly waterproof you need to wrestle them into a silicone skin first and then wear them under a cap. This means there are no slippage issues but they don’t feel that discreet. The sound is excellent, especially bass levels, and there’s lots of further functionality from swimming workouts and high intensity interval training sessions that are already stored on the phones and are ready to use as an in-ear personal trainer if you want something more than music to motivate you.
Finis Duo underwater bone conduction MP3 player: £100.64, Amazon
This 4GB player can be used in salt and freshwater and is waterproof up to 2m for one hour. Attaching to goggles (which can be a little fiddly), it relies on bone conduction tech, so the speakers sit on your cheekbones and are picked up by the inner ear. This feels very strange at first but has a real impact on volume so the music never sounds muffled and there is some decent bass, mid-range and high end. Also, the fact our ears aren’t encumbered means we are still able to be fully aware of what is going on in a busy pool.
i360 waterproof MP3 player: £44.99, Amazon
Plenty of storage (4GB) and huge battery life of up to 10 hours means you can complete plenty of water sessions without having to worry about charging. The sound is crisp above water but becomes a little echoey below, but this can be resolved with a swimming cap, which also helps the buds themselves stay in place. An IPX8 rating also means it can tackle any swimming workout without issue.
Exeze rider waterproof MP3 player: £29.95, Amazon
An excellent budget option with quality sound, IPX8 waterproofing and controls that are easy to operate in the pool and make music management trouble-free. The whole unit is very robust and has the added advantage of being charged through the audio jack, so won’t suffer from exposed charging points becoming scaled up through water contact.
Sony NW-WS413 4GB waterproof MP3 player: £69.99, Decathlon
Minimal wires and a sleek design mean it doesn’t take long to go from the box to the pool, where it is IPX8-graded. The bass suffers a little in the water compared to on dry land but a big volume sweep means you can easily drown out any screams and squeals from the toddler pool and concentrate on your session. And if 4GB isn’t enough, you can double the storage for another £10, which is an attractive option, especially with 12 hours of battery life. The headphones secure themselves around the back of the head, so no need to attach to goggles.
The Verdict: Waterproof headphones
If you’re a serious swimmer then The Dash Pro is worth the serious investment. It will give you the purest sound in the water, total reliability no matter what the stroke, and effortlessly intuitive controls. However, if you’re more of a part timer in the pool then consider the motivational elements of the FX-Sport VR-1’s downloadable content or the Finis Duo’s unique conduction technology, which is well suited to water.
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