Packing our swimming bag has become somewhat second nature. Swimming costume? Check. Goggles and cap? Tick. But while that used to be all the kit we needed, now, we have a new essential we won’t be hitting the pool without: waterproof headphones.
We’re not talking about sweat or splashproof headsets here. We mean seriously waterproof cans that are capable of both streaming Spotify and downloaded music right to your lugholes while you tackle the lanes.
All are designed to withstand water – be that fresh, chlorinated or salt – for at least 30 minutes and at varying depths. They’re able to do this because they all have a minimum IPX7 waterproof rating (more on that later) which means they can be submerged while you swim, surf or even dive.
How we tested
Over the course of two months, we tested multiple headphones claiming to be waterproof and able to withstand our usual 30-minute lane swim session. And while we’d like to say that all of them met the mark, some sadly didn’t live up to these claims. We found that earbuds generally didn’t stay put, even with a skull-crushingly tight swimming hat in place, and that bone conduction or in-ear models were best.
Those that did make the cut, however, were simply brilliant. All of them were either Bluetooth compatible or had an inbuilt MP3 player, and were relatively easy to use and set up. The best of the bunch offered both options of streaming music and came with accessories too. If you’re still sceptical about whether investing in a pair of waterproof headphones is worth it, read on. We promise that, should you go on to purchase a pair from our edit, you’ll never want to go back to swimming without them. We certainly haven’t.
The best waterproof headphones for swimming in 2021 are:
Naenka runner pros
Of all the headsets we tested, this on-ear set were the pair we reached for most. The Naenka runner pros were extremely easy to set up – simply connect through Bluetooth to your phone, or plug into your laptop to download music. Charging took just two hours and we got almost three weeks’ worth of play out of them (enough for nearly nine, 30-minute swimming sessions).
As these are quite lightweight, we had to keep them in place with our goggles, but this was easy enough to do and was still comfortable. We had no fear about them flying off while doing front crawl. Plus, switching between BT or MP3 mode, adjusting the volume, and changing tracks was a breeze as there are minimal buttons to use. We could even activate siri if we needed.
Our only tiny niggle is that the charging cable is delicate. Be sure when downloading music to not move the headset as this can cause the sync to stop. And also be sure to only download the correct file formats (MP3, WMA and WAV are all accepted). Otherwise, these were, without question, our favourite headphones.
Jukes solo wave multisport
Best: MP3 player
Jukes was an unknown brand to us, but as you can see from the number of headphones we’ve included in this round-up, it certainly made an impression. Of all the headsets we tried from Jukes, these were by far the most versatile for lane swimmers.
Like the Naenka headphones, these offered both modes for music. While the Bluetooth mode was certainly good quality it was the MP3 mode that really made a splash. There’s room for over 3,000 songs and playback was extremely clear and loud. We’re placing particular emphasis on that loudness, however, as we found when turned up they did have a tendency to vibrate, which was a bit uncomfortable. Of course, the bonus here is that when turned down the vibrating ceased and the music was still crystal clear.
This set also comes with a large leather case, ear plugs (which you can attach to the headphones for extra security) and a long magnetic charging cable.
Sony WS410 walkman WS series
Best: In-ear headphones
Though we tried several in-ear headphones, this set from Sony were the only ones that actually impressed. Two types of earbuds, in a variety of sizes, come as standard, so you can wear these while running or cycling, then switch to the swimming buds for the pool. The wraparound headband design also makes these as easy to operate as the on-ear options we tried, meaning we weren’t getting tangled in wires.
Unfortunately, there’s no option for Bluetooth connectivity. However, the MP3 style feels fitting, and was a nice throwback to our Sony walkman days of old. And in true fashion, this deceptively small piece of kit does it all. We could seamlessly switch between playlists, shuffle or repeat songs and more all at the touch of the button – although, there are quite a few buttons so it takes some trial and error to know what you’re doing.
Something that also really impressed was the ambient sound mode. Thanks to the inbuilt microphones we could still hear what was going on around us, so, we could still talk to other swimmers – or, more specifically in our case, tell if we were getting too close to some stranger’s feet while doing backstroke (*shudders*).
The battery life is brilliant, and you can submerge these in both a pool and the sea up to 2m for 30 minutes. Plus, the price is more than fair for the quality of headphone you get, and they come in a range of colours too. If you’re someone with an extensive music collection and an avid swimmer these would definitely be our recommendation.
Jukes solo Q1 waterproof
Best: Budget option
If you’re looking for a set like our best buy but don’t quite have the cash to splash, then the solo Q1 is the set for you. Currently on offer for £29, these are the cheapest pair on the list. But just because the price is low doesn’t mean the sound quality is. With Bluetooth connectivity and 8GB of storage you should be able to stream your favourite playlists and podcasts without interruption.
They aren’t the most attractive pair we tried but they do have good waterproofing for such a low price. With an IPX8 rating you’ll be able to use these up to 2m deep in the pool for around an hour. Just be careful, unlike other headphones on this list, this set has a traditional charging point, which means water is liable to enter the circuits. To avoid damaging the set make sure to dry it thoroughly before charging again.
Jukes pro training system
Best: For athletes and coaches
Sorry lane swimmers, but this isn’t one for you. Determined athletes and coaches however should stick around, as this set could open up a whole new way to train. Confused? Let us explain…
Unlike the other headphones on this list, you won’t be able to stream music or podcasts (although you could connect a music device via the AUX if you wanted). Rather, the true purpose of these headphones is to improve your swimming ability. As an athlete, you’ll be able to listen to your coach’s instructions and receive real-time feedback whether they be poolside, on the shore or bobbing along in a boat behind you as you tackle open waters. With seven channels coach’s will also be able to manage a number of teams/swimmers in one go.
While we sometimes found the audio could be quite quiet, it was still very clear. Plus switching between channels both on the radio and headset was super simple – although to make it easier we’d have preferred it used numbers rather than a colour-coded system. Still, the headphones held in place well and we didn’t fear that they would suddenly fall off during laps or if we dove down (they work up to 3ft for 30 minutes or deeper for shorter bursts of time).
These are definitely an unusual set of headphones. But, given that Jukes has specifically designed them with pro swimmers in mind, we think they’re rather ingenious. Plus, with sets ranging from junior (£95, Jukes.com) through to teenager and adult head sizes a whole range of age groups will be able to benefit. We also think these could be a particularly brilliant invention for those who are hard of hearing but still want to swim. True, they are not a set that will suit everyone, but we were still seriously impressed.
Best: Bone conduction headphones
When it comes to bone conduction technology, AfterShokz are a brand that knows what it’s doing. And the brand’s foray into waterproof headphones for swimming are a resounding success. In fact, if they had just been Bluetooth compatible, they probably would have been our best buy.
These were super comfortable to wear and stayed put on our ears without budging even when doing tumble turns – something, we should note, that we only felt confident enough to do so in this set. While other headphones on this list do offer larger storage for music, we found 4GB was plenty of room for our playlists and the audio quality was probably the highest on test. Sharp, crisp sound with hearty bass our music drowned out all other noise around us, especially with the earplugs in place. It made swimming sessions fly by as we found ourselves truly immersed in the music.
There were also nice touches to these headphones such as the battery warning from the moment you switch on so you’re not caught unawares. The earplugs were also by far the best quality on test and we loved the addition of a silicone rubber case which made storing our headphones all the easier. Plus, the charger has a cradle design which is secure and gave us total peace of mind.
Unsurprisingly, these are the most expensive headphones we tried. But despite the almost £140 price tag,we think they’re an investment worth making.
Jukes solo V12
Best: For occasional swimmers
Another bone conduction headset, the solo V12 is a good budget-friendly option for those looking to venture into waterproof headphones. With a relatively simple design, they don’t look like much, but appearances can be deceiving.
These still offered great Bluetooth connectivity – in fact, we’d go so far as to say that it had one of the most stable connections – and sound was loud and clear when swimming. However, when swimming you will have to be mindful of the sensitive charging port. As these only have an IPX7 rating you’ll need to place them a little higher up, almost up to your temples, and secured in place with either a cap or goggles, to avoid water hitting the charging port as often. It’s still comfortable to use and, as we say, made for very strong and consistent listening.
Still, you should only use these for around 30 minutes swimming at a time – an easily achievable goal if you’re a beginner. And as soon as you’re out of the water, give the charging port a thorough dry to be safe. We did also find that, despite the claimed five-hour battery life, we had to constantly recharge these in the hours leading up to a swim. It’s not a massive dealbreaker but isn’t ideal if you only remember right before you step out poolside.
Considering these cost less than £50 we’re still impressed. A good option for occasional swimmers who don’t want to commit to anything too pricey just yet.
Wateproof headphones FAQs
What is an IP rating?
Standing for “ingress protection”, an IP rating is a unit given measures how well a device is protected from both solids and liquids. Generally, it’s displayed with two digits – the first of which tells us how well it’s protected from things like dust. The latter, however, (and the one we’re more interested in here) tells us how resistant it is to water.
Which IP rating is best?
Obviously, the higher the rating, the better your device will be protected. In our testing we didn’t include anything with a rating lower than IPX7. That’s because with this grade a device can withstand being submerged in water up to 1m deep for 30 minutes. Something that is manageable for your standard lane swimming session.
However, the best devices in our round-up and in general, will have a rating of IPX8. This usually means your device can withstand being submerged for one hour, and while the depth is generally accepted as being 2m, it varies between devices.
The verdict: Waterproof headphones for swimming
Choosing our best buy proved to be a lot more challenging than we thought. And ultimately, it came down to two choices and the seemingly minor details that separated them.
For us, Naenka’s runner pro headphones take the gold. Not only did these offer great storage space for our MP3 music, but its Bluetooth function was almost unmatched. Our music barely cut out while swimming and was always crystal clear. And even though the charger is delicate, we still found ourselves reaching for these the most – a clear winner and something we now won’t be hitting the pool without.
However, if Bluetooth hadn’t been a factor in our testing, then the Aftershokz xtrainerz would have been our choice. These offered supreme sound, had a great case, earplugs and were super easy to use. But as we personally haven’t downloaded music for five years, we found their function rather limited. If the brand ever does decide to create a pair with Bluetooth though, you can bet we’ll be one of the first in line to buy.
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