Every gym rat and cross-fit, endorphin junkie on the planet can find workout headphone designers for miles, but when it comes to a pair of earphones that can fight off rain, or just a day at the pool, the pickings get terribly thin. Trying to get any electronics to work when wet and avoid shorting out as they get damp is a tall order. It gets harder with headphones because they need to be moving air in order to make sound, so they can’t be sealed up in a hermetic chamber. Expecting that sound to also be good is practically impossible.
To find a set of waterproof headphones that won’t make the average audiophile sick, but also permit the die-hard surfer to take their music into the undertow was a challenge. We needed options that could protect the speakers but still fit comfortably on your ears without suffocating them. We wanted music to sound decent at the very least, because what good is swimming laps to Bohemian Rhapsody if your speakers drop every “Scaramouche?” After a lot of days of swimmer’s ear and more than a little chlorine poisoning, we found the 6 best waterproof headphones.
Pro: Full 4-foot cable
Con: Uncomfortable during extended wear
Safe Bet: Typically you’re better off throwing your money away betting double-zero on the roulette table than buying a cheap set of earbuds that claim true waterproofing, but in this case, the gamble will pay off. What it boils down to is this: If you’re curious about wearing headphones while you swim, these will give you an answer for just a few dollars. They provide enough sound quality to be solid and highly listenable while also being perfectly fine for a few laps in the pool. The snug fit keeps water from getting into your ear canals, but isn’t going to be comfortable forever, so don’t anticipate a long affair with these; merely a summer fling or an occasional tryst when you feel like taking a dip. If you like them and want an upgraded version, Pyle’s PSWB4BL is for you.
Pro: Sound does not diminish much when submerged
Con: Do not stay in ears during extensive movement
Laid Back: You’ll find a great deal of crossover between earphones created to fight off wetness and those meant for exercise, which often limits your options to sporty, uncomfortable earbuds that are fine if you plan on going out into the breakers, but are overkill for just bobbing along. If you like to lounge on your back in the water and while away the hours, then OverBoard provides a comfort-oriented build that isn’t as tough or stiff as its peers, giving you a slightly improved aural experience along with a fit that is more traditional and less invasive. Instruments and vocals sound nice at low and high volumes, and the tips don’t breach your ear canal like Germany invading…well, everybody.
Pro: Crisp mids and highs with clean bass
Con: Cable movement can cause microphonic sounds
Rain Runners: The build of the ATH-CKP500 isn’t intended for full submergence, so if you plan on wearing them swimming, expect them to quickly short out. Rather, the idea is to provide a comfortable in-ear experience for those who prefer to do their exercising in wet weather or plan to head out on the whitewater rapids. They’re very adept at coping with the stresses of splashes and can be submerged for brief periods, but not left beneath the surf for long with a waterproof rating of just IPX5. A set of adaptable and removable flaps secure them inside your ear for running, biking, boating, or hand-to-fist combat without coming loose or injuring your bank balance. If sound quality eclipses water resistance for you, these are worth hearing out.
Pro: Streamlined for smoother, flatter fit
Con: Reports of quick breakage inside a few months
Talking Heads: If you’re one of those obsessive workaholics who can’t be away from your phone for the time it takes you to lounge in your pool or get your feet wet, then the X-1 will suit you. Along with the inline controls is also a waterproof microphone that will work passably even after being fully submerged so that you can come to the surface and call your broker. While it does still need to be near enough to your phone for this to function, it certainly makes this a worthy contender for a pair of gym headphones that can go with you into the hot tub. An arrangement of 5 earbuds comes standard, and the X-1’s can also go below up to three meters. 8mm drivers produce plenty of sound, even if it does lack a little refinement. If you love iOS, then these do too, while others may find them a bit buggy.
Pro: Wide variety of tips for multiple fits
Con: Extension cord runs a little long
Most for the Money: There’s a lot of ways to get popular. Swimbuds manages to do it through two routes. First, they come bundled with the waterproof iPod shuffles that make an appearance at nearly every pool. Second, they really are truly waterproof and produce excellent sound for a very reasonable price. You can settle for their standard Swimbuds original offering, but we found that the more expensive sport variety was superior in every aspect. The IPX8 rating is rarely paralleled in the industry, while the quadruple tip choices that come out of the box are almost sure to give you a set that fits without pain or a broken seal. With a golden plug that fights corrosion and enhanced cords for more durability, you’re unlikely to even need the one year warranty.
Sony W-Series Walkman
Pro: Quick charge gives you an hour of play on a 3 minute charge
Con: Tough to find a reliable fit
All For One: Originally packaged so that the Walkman would actually be sitting in water in the factory packaging, Sony was damn desperate to convey to buyers that yes, they are serious about waterproofing their gear. While perhaps not the ideal headset for heavy swimmers due to the increased drag and slightly awkward hang, the Walkman is nonetheless a solid solution for anyone seeking a digital music player and pair of earbuds. Using iTunes or whatever drag-and-drop music interface let’s uptown funk give it to ya, this is an mp3 player as well as headband and earphones. No syncing or tethering needed, just plug, play, and get wet.