The best way to fight the boredom of swimming laps, according to some swimmers at least, is to get a really great song stuck in your head. But when the humming underwater just isn’t cutting it — and you can only seem to remember one verse of Oasis’ Wonderwall — waterproof headphones can help provide the ultimate distraction.
According to various studies, listening to music is really effective during everyday exercise, and can increase a person’s sense of motivation and affect his or her performance. Just like listening to music when running generally tends to make exercising feel easier, listening to music when swimming can also help distract attention (a psychological effect) while simultaneously boosting the heart and the muscles (physiological impact).
So far, so good. But unlike listening to music on a run — and effortlessly syncing your wireless headphones to your phone or running watch, there’s no Bluetooth connection underwater. This means that waterproof headphones are actually MP3 players — so you have to download your music to the device and store it on the headphones in order to play your tunes. Most range from 2GB to 8GB — and vary hugely in battery life.
To test the best waterproof headphones for swimming, we took some of the most popular headphones down to the pool. During testing, we looked at how well they stayed in place while swimming, how many songs they could hold, and how long they lasted between charges.
What are the best waterproof headphones?
When it comes to the best waterproof headphones for swimming, our favorites are the Aftershokz’ OpenSwim (formerly known as Aftershokz Xtrainerz). While they’re more on the expensive side, swimmers will appreciate how lightweight they feel and the quality of audio underwater. Simply transfer music across via your PC or Mac, slip them around your head, and you’re good to go.
The best value waterproof headphones for swimming on test were the H2O Audio Sonar Underwater Waterproof Headphones, which clip onto the straps of your goggles for on-the-go listening. They have a good sound quality, although they do take longer to charge than other headphones on this list.
Finally, if you’re training for a triathlon, or you’re a swimmer who likes to run and you only want to invest in one pair of headphones, the Naenka Bone Conduction Runner Pro gets our vote. They can be worn in and out of the water, and they’re lightweight and comfortable, although they don’t have the best battery life on test.
The best waterproof headphones for swimming 2022
As fans of Aftershokz OpenMove bone conductor headphones — which are great for running as they allow you to listen to your favorite album or podcast without completely blocking out the sound of traffic — we had high hopes for Aftershokz dedicated swimming headphones. The OpenSwim (formerly Xtrainerz), withstands submersion in up to 2 meters of water — so great for long training sessions in the pool, but not appropriate for any deep-sea scuba diving. With up to 8-hours of battery life and 1,200 songs of storage, these headphones will withstand even the longest of training sessions in the pool. And while other headphones on this list do offer larger storage for music, we found 4GB was plenty of room for our playlists and the sound quality was the highest on test — music was both crisp and clear.
The packaging is pretty smart — and even comes with a swimming cap, swimming earplugs, and a small neoprene bag to store the headphones and USB charger. Setting up the OpenSwim is fairly straightforward — you simply click the headset into the USB charging cradle, plug it into power and a small LED light pops on, turning red when it’s charging and blue when it’s fully charged. Adding music does feel a little old school, as you physically have to download any songs or audiobooks you want to listen to onto your computer and then drag and drop songs onto the OpenMove’s hard drive. But you can at least create folders and organize the mp3 files.
To use the OpenMove, there are three small buttons on the righthand speaker. The circular button in the middle is the power button — just press and hold it for three seconds and you’ll be greeted with a ‘Welcome to AfterShokz’ message, followed by ‘Battery high/Battery medium/Battery low/Charge me’, hold for another three seconds to turn it off. There’s also a very tiny button tucked away with a small ‘M’ on — this is for putting songs on repeat or shuffle mode and also switching between ‘general’ and ‘swimming’ mode. The other two rectangular buttons with a ‘+’ and a ‘–’ control the volume and also let you skip a song, too.
We found them really comfortable to wear in the water — they’re best paired with a swimming cap and goggles — and they also stayed put on our ears (even when doing tumble turns). Despite the almost £140/$149 price tag, if you’re predominately a swimmer, and not looking for headphones you can take calls on, for example, we think these are a real investment. Just remember to dry the headphones before charging.
With just a thin blue wire connecting each ear speaker, these Sonar underwater headphones from H2O don’t have a sturdy headset like most of the other headphones on this list. Instead, they have a more compact and minimalist design, where each speaker clips onto the straps of your goggles.
To charge, you simply connect the Sonar headphones to the special USB cable that comes in the box. Similar to the Aftershokz, when you plug the USB into your computer, you can then drag and drop an mp3 or mp4 music file directly onto the Sonar. And with 8GB storage, it can store up to 2000-song capacity, so enough to soundtrack your entire session.
We found this was the best way to both upload and listen to music using these, but you can also connect to the Sonar headphones via Bluetooth. All you have to do is hit the ‘M’ button on the righthand speaker and a blue LED light will start blinking — you can then connect your phone or smartwatch to the device. The LED turns a solid blue once paired.
The only problem, as previously discussed, is that Bluetooth doesn’t work through water, so in order to get the music to play via Bluetooth, you quite literally need to wear your smartwatch clipped onto your goggles, which kind of defeats the object of even wearing a watch in the first place.
Don’t let the fact that these headphones have the word ‘runner’ in the title put you off from using them for swimming, too. With IPX8 waterproof rating, the Naenka Bone Conduction headphones are fully waterproof and ideal for swimming (as well as running).
The lightweight frame and general slim headband-style look of the Naenka headphones immediately reminded us of the Aftershokz OpenSwim — these also hook over your ears so the bone conduction pads rest just in front of the ear and send vibrations through your jawbone. The main difference between the two? The Naenka pair offers both MP3 and Bluetooth connection, while Aftershokz only offers MP3. Physically, it looks and feels impressive, and we found it comfy to wear — even if we had to keep them in place with our goggles.
Its downfall? The Naenka takes a lot longer to charge, and has a much shorter battery life than the Aftershokz. When testing, we found the Naenka only lasts for about six hours on one charge — which takes about an hour — and the connecting cable is also a little fiddly, consistently losing connection to the computer we attached it to.
The general set up is easy enough though — you can connect through Bluetooth to your phone, or plug into your laptop to drag and drop downloaded music onto the device. And with 8GB storage, there’s room for around 1,500 songs.
It’s worth mentioning that with this style of headband, there’s no way to alter the fit or size of the Naenka’s, so those with slightly smaller heads may find that the headband hangs off the back of the neck and causes a little extra drag in the water. There’s a tiny on and off button on the Naenka’s and also a button to adjust the volume up or down. The on-off switch pretty much does everything, from pairing and switching between Bluetooth and MP3 mode to accepting and ending calls, playing, pausing, and skipping tracks.
Competitively priced, the Naenka Runner Pro also comes with pair of earplugs in the box – which we found really useful for swimming and definitely made a difference to the sound quality, especially when listening to podcasts.
The Jukes pro training system arrives in a neat and sturdy case (with a blue camouflage print no less) — so great for storing it away in your swim bag rather than chucking it in and hoping it doesn’t go amiss amongst all the other pool gear you own. But as it arrived with no instructions, it took a little time to work out how to use it.
The most important thing to know about these headphones is that they aren’t actually meant for listening to music, but instead, your coach. The idea is that instead of your coach yelling at you from the poolside to lift your elbows higher or breathe every five strokes, not every three, when you’re wearing this headset, they can give you immediate feedback and minute by minute instructions via radio. So, yes, in order for them to work properly, you do need to also buy the Jukes radio transmitter and microphone. To most, this may seem more faff than it’s worth — especially if you don’t have a coach and just like to do your own thing during public swim sessions. But for performance swimmers looking for those one percent gains, then technology like this is seriously useful. We also think they’d be particularly useful to use when open water swimming (when a coach can’t stand just a couple of meters away to yell instructions), or for swimmers who are hard of hearing.
We found the headset itself heavier than some of the others on this list, but the headphones held in place well and we liked that you can adjust the volume if needed. And, you can still listen to music — it just needs to be played via the radio. These definitely won’t suit everyone, but we were still pretty impressed.
The FINIS Amnis Stream Swim headphones comes with so many extra gadgets, you really have to pay attention to the instructions that come in the box. Besides the headphones, there are two goggle clips, a charger, a mesh carrying bag and three clips that correspond to different versions of Apple and Garmin watches.
Unlike the other headphones on this list, these work only via Bluetooth, so you have to a) already own a compatible smartwatch and b) be prepared to swim with your watch clipped to your goggle strap or under your swim cap. So they’re definitely not for everyone. Your smartwatch also needs to be able to offer ‘offline listening’.
We did enjoy the fact that we didn’t have to physically drag and drop any music onto these via connecting to a computer — and charging them up was easy as you just slide the left headphone (the one without the buttons) onto the charging port. Attaching the headphones to our goggles was a little fiddly, to begin with, but it’s one of those things that gets easier (and quicker) the more often you do it. We actually found it easier to attach the headphones to our goggles before putting them on.
For the Bluetooth connection to work in the water, your smartwatch needs to be within 5cm of the cable — so, basically, you need to wear your smartwatch on your head. We found it’s best to completely remove the watch strap on your smartwatch and then attach the watch face to one of the appropriate watch clips that come in the box — this means you can then easily clip the watch onto your goggle straps on the crown of your head. Of course, not everyone will want to continually remove watch straps — if that’s you, you can just slip the watch beneath your swim cap (and hope it’s tight enough that it won’t accidentally slide out mid-session). Personally, we like to wear our smartwatches on our wrists for tracking laps and heart rate, but Bluetooth can’t travel that far through the water, so you really do have to decide what’s more important — the stats from your session or listening to tunes? If you want both stats and tunes, then we suggest you opt for headphones with a built-in MP3 instead.
Of course, there are other things to love about these headphones (if you’re happy wearing your watch on your head, that is) — they’re well designed, robust and the sound quality is clear. For those who don’t like tracking lengths, these are a game-changer.
How we tested the best waterproof headphones for swimming
We tested the best waterproof headphones for swimming by swimming in them! We looked at how comfortable the headphones were during different swimming sessions and when doing different strokes in the pool. We also tried them during tumble turns, and when wearing a swimming hat and the best swimming goggles.
We also looked at how easy it was to upload music onto the headphones, and at the sound quality of the music when in the water. During testing, we played different music and podcasts in the pool to look for the best pair.
Finally, we looked at the battery life of each pair of waterproof headphones — whether you’re using the headphones in the pool every day, or for a couple of sessions a week, you won’t want to be charging them after every swim.
What to look for in the best waterproof headphones for swimming
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the best waterproof swimming headphones are the ones that are actually waterproof. Headphones with the IPX7 grading offer 30 minutes of listening at one meter of depth, while the IPX8 grading provides one hour at two-meter depth. If you want to be able to swim in your headphones, then double-check you haven’t accidentally clicked ‘add to basket’ on a pair of ‘water-resistant’ headphones instead of ‘waterproof’ — while ‘water-resistant’ headphones may work if you’re out running in the rain, for example, they’re not suitable for underwater usage.
Wireless headphones, while fab for using in the gym or out on a run, are a little sketchy in the water — the last thing you want is for an earbud to accidentally fall out and then sink to the bottom of the pool, or worse, ocean. You’ll never get that back. We recommend opting instead for a pair of waterproof headphones that sit either in the ear or use bone conductor technology in a headset style. You want to choose something that sits comfortably on your head and will stay secure in the water. Waterproof headphones that have been designed to both reduce drag and stay in place through every tumble turn or dive score extra points.