Best waterproof headphones for swimming in 2023 – Evening Standard

Audio ware designed for aqua
hether you partake in swimming for fitness, fun or while exploring the turquoise blue waters in a far-flung destination, one thing is for certain, tech and H2O tend not to go hand in hand.
We’ve made a splash into the worlds of waterproof smartwatches, water-resistant smartphones, and look out for our upcoming review into dive watches, but today we will be tackling underwater entertainment.
I happen to be a man who is happy splashing about in both the openly deepish seas and the foot-touching-shallows, but thanks to having a boredom threshold lower than a limbo party, I need to be technologically stimulated.
Obviously, video is not a viable option underwater, but audio is the ideal way to soundtrack sub-aqua adventures, whether battling the waves while open water swimming or simply logging a few laps at the local lido.
So, to that end, I’ve been cramming my head with top tunes using two very different types of waterproof options: in-ear and bone conducting, the former – as you know – simply pushing securely into your ear canals, the latter bypassing your eardrums all together and sending vibrations through your cheekbones directly to cochleae.
Which is better is, akin to the music you choose to listen to, a matter of personal taste and also whether you want to be able to hear what’s happening around you or drown it all out.
In either case, you’ll be looking for a model that either has its own self-contained MP3 player and built-in storage, one that uses Bluetooth to link to a nearby smartphone or, in an ideal water world, both.
Also, to ensure there’s no spoilsport leaking, you’ll need to seek out headphones with a suitable IP (Ingress Protection) rating, with IPX8 and IP68 being ideal and IP67 being okay for lighter pool duties.
Here, I’ve gathered six such options, each able to bring suitable audio, be it surf rock or Handel’s Water Music, to each and every swim…
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Best for: Comfort and quality
Kicking off at the more expensive end of the spectrum, the OpenSwim headphone options from Shokz deliver seriously decent bone conduction playback down to a nicely deep 2-metres.
They eschew a Bluetooth connection with your phone in favour of 4GB of internal storage, providing the space for up to 1200 onboard MP3 tracks. The fit is snug and comfortable, but best worn under a swim cap to get the full effect.
IP68-rated, the Shokz OpenSwim can manage submersion to depths of 1.5- to 2-metres for up to 30-minutes, which is more than enough depth and time to get your laps in at the pool, while the three-button controls on the right arm give you easy command over what’s playing and at what volume.
Moreover, though, the sound quality is excellent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is not ‘wired over-ear headphones’ quality, but for an underwater bone conduction kit, you’re going to be audibly dazzled by just how full and clear the sound doled out, or rather ‘in’, by this little, lightweight beauty really is.
With a battery good for 8-hour playback and a rapid charge time of just 2 hours, for audio quality and ear-comfort kindness, if you’re going to mix audio and aqua a lot, then perhaps pay the extra and set yourself up with some OpenSwim excellence.
Tech type: Bone conduction
Internal storage: 4GB
Waterproof rating: IP68
Battery: 8-hours
Charging time: 2 hours
Weight: 28g
Best for: An impressive underwater experience
Not dissimilar to the Shokz featured above, but coming in at considerably less cash, the 2nd generation of Tayogo’s W16 waterproof MP3-player offers an awful lot of audio bang for your 50 bucks.
For a start let’s just look at the battery life – on a good day, you can eke almost 20 hours; and given that this Bluetooth-less, self-contained unit comes packing 8GB of internal storage – twice that of the Shokz – you’re going to get good use out of those hours.
As you may have noticed, this is an in-ear model and, while not everyone’s cup of aural comfort, fits firmly to provide an excellent seal to keep your audio where it belongs, while the MP3 band itself is ludicrous light at just 32g, so it’s not going to cause you to sink at any time soon.
Rated IPX8, Tayogo maintain that the W16 can handle depths of up to 3-metres for up to 30-minutes and I have no doubt that it can, but that will be the absolute limit of its ability to not give into the wicked ways of water, so just be a little wary of pushing your love of, say 90s pop to deep for too long.
A matter of dragging and dropping files to load up on tunes, the 3D sound quality on offer is exceptional and, face it, when it comes to enjoying every nuance, in-ear delivers. But, as I said at the start, it does mean that you’ll hear nothing else at all, so that’s the trade-off.
Well-built and featuring a natty magnetic USB charging cable, controls around the back of your head are obvious and accessible enough to play, pause, fast forward, rewind and crank the volume up and down without much fumbling and, once you get the hang of it, it’ll rapidly become second nature.
A bit of a bargain at the price, the Tayogo W16 is an excellent choice for the water-going in-ear enthusiast who demands decent audio underwater.
Tech type: In-ear
Internal storage: 8GB
Waterproof rating: IPX8
Battery: Up to 20 hours
Charging time: 1.5-hours
Weight: 32g
Best for: Surface swimming audio excellence
Currently down in price by a whopping £50, I’d imagine the majority of people are well aware of LG and are also probably far more comfortable with the familiar shape of the earbud. The UTF8 from LG is a fancy set of earbuds that also deal with water to an IP67 level.
Now, what IP67 means is that the LG can handle immersion to 1 metre for around 30 minutes, which qualifies them for inclusion here as they’re ideal for taking a dip. However, the other reason I’ve included them is because, unlike most other earbuds which can only take so much jarring and jogging, the UTF8 hook onto your outer ear and lock in place for a fit that is more secure, so no matter how much you butterfly stroke they will never slip out of place.
Connecting via equally secure Bluetooth 5.3 to your smartphone (Note: Bluetooth signals only work a few inches underwater), as long as it’s within range, you’ll enjoy unfettered high-quality audio streaming; and with a battery that will last up to 10 hours to boot.
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) can be employed to completely cut the world off, and the 6mm drivers combined with the LG’s Meridien EQ make pool performance second to none.
Okay, you are limited on depth, but if you’re all about the audio, you need read no further.
Tech type: In-ear
Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
Range: 10m
Waterproof rating: IP67
Battery: 10 hours (extended to 30 hours via charging case)
Charging time: 1 hour (2 hours with case)
Weight: 5.9g
Best for: Paddling in the pool
My second pick of the current bone conduction crop, unlike the Shokz, the Haylou PurFree BC01 features no internal storage but uses Bluetooth 5.2, instead, to hook up poolside with your smartphone, allowing you to stream audio over the air (Note again: Bluetooth signals only work a few inches underwater).
This, of course, means you can also receive calls while you front crawl, the caller’s dulcet tones being passed directly to your auditory nerve.
Akin to the LG option, the Haylou is only IP67-rated, so taking it any deeper than 1 metre for any longer than 30 minutes is not going to end well for your new toy, but keep to light usage and you’ll be fine.
There’s a battery life that’s good to go for 8 hours, fast 1.5-hour charging via snappy magnetic charging and a dual device connection so you can stream from more than one smart thing at a time without having to disconnect from the other, which adds convenience.
Light at just 28g and comfortable on, the sound quality is impressive, thanks to the combination of that sturdy Bluetooth 5.2 connection and the Qualcomm mid-level TruWireless Bluetooth chipset at the Haylou’s heart working in tandem to make the most of your music.
At a little over a ton, the Haylou PurFree BC01 is perfect for casual pool usage; just steer clear of anything too splashy, strenuous and sweet sound will be yours to stream effortlessly across the ether.
Tech type: Bone conduction
Connection: Bluetooth 5.2
Range: 10m
Waterproof rating: IP67
Battery: 8-hours
Charging time: 1.5-hours
Weight: 28g
Best for: Best of both worlds bone conduction
Right, representing possibly the best bargain the sound-seeking swimmer is going to see today, the Open Ear headphones from StormBuds are currently on offer at £45, down from £90, and when you see the tech involved, you’ll understand why you might want to snap them up.
Using bone conduction to channel sound straight to your cochleae, going above and beyond, here we have an internal storage capacity of a capacious 32GB and also a wireless Bluetooth 5.3 connection to your smartphone, thus giving you all the audio options in the world.
So, 32GB of storage equates to around 8000 tracks, while Bluetooth 5.3 adds fast, stable streaming on top of that (Bluetooth signals only work a few inches underwater) – remarkable in a set of waterproof headphones at this price, the normal asking price and, indeed, way above.
And speaking of waterproof, rated IPX8, you can enjoy all that audio down to depths of 1.5- to 2-metres for up to half an hour, making them ideal for swimming and snorkelling too, while a healthy battery life of 8 hours will keep the music free flowing while you’re freestyling.
Compatible with MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC file types, you can upload your top tunes (almost) regardless of what format, using simple drag and drop to add to your expansive onboard playlist. Sound quality eked from your smartphone, meanwhile, is excellent thanks to the use of Bluetooth 5.3.
If you’re looking for access-all-areas audio flexibility, with the added advantage of open-ears, at a price that’s ridiculous to resist, well… this. This completely.
Tech type: Bone conduction
Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
Range: 10m
Internal storage: 32GB
Waterproof rating: IPX8
Battery: 8-hours
Charging time: 1.5-hours
Weight: 27g
Best for: Underwater love
Finally, we come to a unique option amongst waterproof headphones, an option that does utilise Bluetooth to stream audio over. But, Bluetooth signals only work a few inches underwater, which is why a built-in MP3-player set-up is a clearer choice for anyone wanting true sub-aqua audio, no? Well, it is… but then there’s what H2O Audio brings to the part too.
In a water-tight nutshell, not only can you upload your audio files to the 8GB of internal storage, but you can also record your music from the likes of Spotify using the clever Playlist + system the Tri Pro Multi-Sport comes packing, although that does involve playing the full track in real-time, at the volume you require, so the phones can record it properly. However, once that’s done, you can access your spanky new playlist at any time, down to around 3 metres (although H2O Audio do specify 3.6m) without interruption, thanks to the IPX8 rating.
With a basic layout of three buttons on the right arm, controls are kept simple (if a tad fiddly), leaving you free to take the plunge into your playlist without too much prodding. With 5 hours of power in the can, a rapid charge time of around 1.5 hours and sound quality that does not disappoint, these comfy, lightweight headphones make a lot of sense.
Tech type: Bone conduction
Connection: Bluetooth
Range: 10m
Internal storage: 8GB
Waterproof rating: IPX8
Battery: 5-hours
Charging time: 1.5-hours
Weight: 32g
Verdict
For light, still-water, surface-level slight splash use, Bluetooth-connected options will give more audio options. But for those seeking to sink deeper with their sounds, internal storage is the way forward through the waves. And to that latter end, look to the Tayogo for complete immersion (pun intended) in-ear audio.
Or, for the best bone conduction quality and comfort, it may seem price-driven and predictable, but the Shokz OpenSwim easily makes the biggest sonorous splash for your cash.

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