Keep yourself entertained in the water with our pick of the best waterproof swimming headphones
Stay entertained while you swim along by using a set of the best swimming headphones. Listen to your favourite music, podcasts, or even play a training session talkthrough to make swimming even more immersive.
Swimming headphones are simply a pair of waterproof headphones, made to be used with your choice of compatible waterproof MP3 player. This option is ideal for buyers who already have a wearable MP3 player that’s designed for aquatic use.
Do bear in mind that while some swimming headphones do sound pretty good, this type of headphone probably won’t give you a comparable standard of audio experience to a great pair of ordinary headphones.
Best swimming headphones: At a glance
How to choose the best swimming headphones for you
How do swimming headphones work?
Swimming headphones are usually a combination of MP3 players and headphones, as you probably don’t want to take your normal audio source – whether that’s your phone or a dedicated MP3 player – into the water with you. You can either get larger headphones that have the MP3 player built-in, or ones that attach to a separate player you attach somewhere on your body or swimsuit.
Can you just use a set of waterproof Bluetooth headphones?
We’re afraid not. For one, headphones that are classed as waterproof generally have an IP rating of IPX7. This means they can only be submerged in one metre of water, and they’re tested for 30-minute periods, so if your swim is deeper or longer you’re out of luck. More importantly, Bluetooth doesn’t work well in water, so unless you tape your (hopefully waterproof) phone to your head, the signal won’t travel far enough.
What waterproof rating do I need?
The key number in the ingress protection ‘IP’ rating is the last one, because that indicates the level of protection against liquids, and you want to see the number 8. A rating of IPX8 means the headphones can be immersed in water that’s more than 1.5m deep for half an hour. Devices rated lower than IPX8 are not considered suitable for use during a normal swim session – and that includes ‘water-resistant’ devices rated between 5 and 7 on the IPX scale.
After that, it’s up to manufacturers to detail exactly how waterproof the product is, so you’ll see the same rating applied to headphones that can be used at different depths for different lengths of time. Clear as mud, right? If you see an 8 at the end of the rating, you can be pretty sure they’re designed for swimming, but you’ll need to dig deeper if you need more detail.
Do you want an MP3 player built in to the headphones?
Having the MP3 player built in to the headphones is convenient in that you don’t have to worry about attaching the player somewhere else, but it does usually make the headphones a little bulkier. This can mean you sometimes knock the headphones out of the perfect position when pushing off at the start of each length. Either can work well, but if you opt for headphones with a player built in, you’ll probably want to wear a swimming hat and goggles to help secure them in place.
With an built-in MP3 player, you simply connect the player to a computer, transfer your chosen audio files onto the player, and then disconnect it and take it to the pool.
Some MP3 player headphones also have Bluetooth connectivity, so you can potentially listen to audio from a smartphone or other Bluetooth-connected device left at the poolside. This option tends to be less reliable than MP3, as you may sometimes swim beyond the range of the Bluetooth connection.
What other features are important?
Fit is key, because the water will do all it can to unseat the headphones from your ears during a swim. Some brands use bone-conduction technology so the audio is delivered straight to your brain via vibrating pads on your cheekbones. This is handy, because in-ear buds can be hard to keep in position while swimming – sometimes leading to swimmer’s ear – and bone-conduction headphones can sound better underwater, too.
Also check the battery life and storage available on the headphones, to make sure they will last your entire swim and have room for all your favourite workout playlists, podcasts and even audiobooks.
How much do you need to spend?
You can get a good set of basic swimming headphones for £30 to £50, while most pairs are found in the £50 to £100 range, with a few premium options around for more than that.
READ NEXT: Best swimming goggles
The best waterproof swimming headphones you can buy in 2023
1. Sony Walkman NW-WS413 Sports MP3 Player: Best overall
Price when reviewed: £119 | Check price at AmazonThis swim-friendly MP3 player has the best audio quality out of all the devices we tested for this guide.
As we’ve come to expect with Sony products, playback is clear and detailed, offering as much nuance as you could hope to hear while splashing around in a swimming pool. The headset’s snug, earbud-based design certainly helps in this regard.
We also found this MP3 player particularly simple to set up and use. Charging it and loading songs is relatively quick, and the charging dock provides a secure, fuss-free connection. The controls on the mp3 player aren’t especially easy to use while you’re actually in the water, but this should become less of an issue as you gradually get more familiar with how the buttons are laid out.
Read our full Sony Walkman NW-WS413 review
Key specs – Device type: MP3 player; Output interface: Earphones; Inputs supported: MP3, WMA, AAC-LC, LPCM
2. H2O Audio Surge S+: Best affordable headphones with separate MP3 player
Price when reviewed: £32 | Check price at Amazon If you’re looking for some swimming headphones to plug into a waterproof MP3 player that you already own, the H2O Audio Surge S+ would be a great choice.
These nifty, blue-wired earbuds offer solid audio quality and a high chance of a comfy fit, with five sizes of earplug bundled in. For swimming, we recommend using a relatively large earplug for a snug fit, as smaller sizes (relative to your ear canal) will be more likely to wiggle loose while you exercise.
Please bear in mind that these headphones do not have in-built audio player functionality. They must be used with a compatible waterproof music player via their AUX cable.
Key specs – Device type: Wired earbuds (no music-playing capability); Output interface: Earphones; Inputs supported: Wired (AUX)
3. Finis Duo: Best swimming headphones around £100
Price when reviewed: £111 | Check price at Amazon The Finis Duo headphones are much bulkier than the Aftershokz Xtrainerz, but they’re also much cheaper. The design allows them to be hooked onto your goggles to ensure a secure fit where the bone-conduction pads sit on your cheekbones. The extra size means they have a little more drag, but it also allows room for the controls, making it easy to navigate through the files you’ve loaded onto the headphones.
It’s important to note that while the Finis Duo buds are rated as waterproof enough to go to depths of 3m, that’s only for 30 minutes, so if your swimming sessions are usually longer it would be best to look elsewhere.
Key specs – Style: Bone conduction; Waterproof rating: IPX8, up to 3m for 30 minutes; Storage: 4GB; Battery life: 7 hours
4. Swimbuds Flip Plus SYRYN MP3 Player: Best swimming headphones with separate MP3 player
Price when reviewed: £65 | Check price at Amazon If you haven’t already got a waterproof MP3 player, this package with the SRYRN player offers great value (you can also get the Swimbuds Flip wired headphones by themselves).
The headphones and the MP3 player are both IPX8-rated to go to depths of 3m, and the SYRYN has a huge 8GB of storage so you can be sure you’ll never run out of entertainment. The Swimbuds Flip buds have a short cord to minimise the chances of them flapping around in the water and pulling the headphones out of your ears, and the SYRYN has a clip you can use to attach it to the back of your goggles.
Key specs – Style: In-ear; Waterproof rating: IPX8, up to 3m; Storage: 8GB; Battery life: 7 hours (SYRYN)
5. Sony NW-WS410: Best in-ear swimming headphones
Price when reviewed: £119 | Check price at Amazon These colourful headphones can be used in both saltwater and freshwater for 30 minutes at depths of up to 2m, and they’re excellent to use for all kinds of other sports as well as swimming, offering great sound quality and a streamlined fit that means they stay in place despite the slightly bulky design. They come with a set of swimming-specific buds that must be used to ensure that the headphones are waterproof and stay in place while in the water.
Battery life of 12 hours is a bonus, even if your swims do have to be restricted to 30 minutes at a time while wearing them, and the buds have an ambient sound mode that allows in more external noise so you can be more aware of your surroundings. It’s especially handy when using them for running on busy streets, but you can also turn it on to hear your coach or training buddy between lengths in the pool.
Key specs – Style: In-ear; Waterproof rating: IP68, up to 2m salt and fresh water for 30 minutes; Storage: 4GB (8GB available); Battery life: 12 hours
6. Shokz OpenSwim: Best user-friendly swimming headphones
Price when reviewed: £170 | Check price at Amazon These ‘bone conduction’ headphones from Shokz are the most straightforward and user-friendly swimming headphones we’ve tested.
The OpenSwim is an MP3 player only (although it does support a multitude of digital formats including MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AAC). You simply load the player up with your audio files, slot the headphones over your ears, and then jump in the pool.
With the Runner Diver, you’ll definitely need to use the earplugs supplied along with the headset, in order to actually hear the audio playback while you swim. This gives the audio a slightly muffled quality, although we soon got used to this.
Key details – Device type: MP3 player; Output interface: Bone conduction; Inputs supported: MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AAC
7. Naenka Bone Conduction Runner Pro: Best swimming headphones for versatility
Price when reviewed: £96 | Check price at Naenka These Naenka bone conduction headphones have a similar design to the Aftershokz Xtrainerz, but have one killer extra feature: they can work as a conventional set of Bluetooth headphones, rather than solely as an MP3 player.
When you’re in the water you’ll be using the MP3 player, of course, but having the ability to switch to Bluetooth mode and connect to your phone at the touch of a button when you finish your swim is very convenient. This feature will make the Naenka more appealing to swimmers who also run or cycle and don’t always want to transfer the media they want played across to their headphones.
They have some shortcomings compared to the Xtrainerz though, the first being that the Naenka headphones aren’t quite as loud, which you’ll notice when using them on or by busy roads. The battery life is also a little sub-par when using the headphones in MP3 mode, dropping to around 3-4 hours.
Key specs – Style: Bone conduction; Waterproof rating: IP68; Storage: 8GB; Battery life: 6-7 hours
8. Naenka Runner Diver: Best versatile swimming headphones
Price when reviewed: £139 | Check price at Naenka The sleek-looking, great-sounding Naenka Runner Diver sports headphones are an updated version of the Naenka Runner Pro ones listed above. These are designed to sit lightly atop your ears and deliver standout audio via bone conduction – literally, by vibrating the bones in your head.
Whether in Bluetooth mode or MP3 player mode, the Runner Diver provided reliable playback while our reviewer swam. The headphones are best used in a quiet pool, or in combination with the bundled-in earplugs, as the headset’s open-ear design will inevitably allow a lot of ambient noise through to your ears.
You can also use the Runner Diver as a two-way Bluetooth headset, as our reviewer discovered to his surprise when a relative phoned him during a swim. The call quality was impressively clear, and while Naenka doesn’t recommend using Bluetooth mode while swimming, we found that the signal was strong enough to stay connected to a smartphone at the side of a 25-metre pool.
One minor criticism: the magnetic charging/data cable for these headphones can quite easily come loose during charging or file transfer.
Key specs – Device type: Bluetooth/MP3 player; Output interface: Bone conduction headset; Inputs supported: Bluetooth, MP3
9. Tayogo Waterproof MP3 Player with Earbuds: Best affordable waterproof headphones
Price when reviewed: £44 | Check price at AmazonThis great-value headset gives you everything you need to listen to audio while swimming in one easy-to-use device.
The Tayogo Waterproof MP3 Player may look a little ‘Frankensteined’, but its combination of ear-top headset and earbuds turns out to be highly effective at delivering playback while resting securely on your head while you swim. For charging or audio file loading, the player itself slots easily into your laptop (or another device with a USB output).
We’ve shown the white version of the Tayogo here, but it’s worth noting that the device is also available in yellow or black.
Key specs – Device type: MP3 player headset; Output interface: Earphones; Inputs supported: WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC.APE, OGG, DRM