Swimming is routinely lauded as one of the best forms of exercise. Experts hail its ability to improve coordination and cardiovascular fitness and aid weight loss. Those with injuries are often encouraged to take to the water to keep fit without exacerbating the problem.
While we would all like to be able to swim endless lengths in a pool, many find it tough. Not only is it physically demanding, but the only motivating sound is that of water lapping against your ear. At the gym we have the bright lights of TV screens and thumping dance music; on a run we can put on a playlist or a podcast. Up until recently, swimming has been the last frontier, not least because water and electricity have never been the best of friends.
But not anymore. Waterproof headphones, or to be more accurate waterproof MP3 players, are infiltrating the market. Swimmers – and indeed participants of other water sports, surfing or kayaking for example – can now listen to their favourite tracks while practising their chosen pursuit.
So, what should you look for in a good pair of waterproof headphones?
The first thing to note is that there is a wide range of waterproofing, the top being the IPX7 grading, which ensures 30 minutes listening at one metre of depth, and IPX8, one hour at two-metre depth. (Additionally, this article will feature some examples of 'water-resistant' headphones, suitable for exposure to rain but not underwater usage.)
Another vital aspect is the bud seal. You don't want your buds falling out and ending up at the bottom of a pool, or worse, in the middle of the ocean. Plus, a tight-fitting bud will improve sound quality.
As mentioned, waterproof headphones are actually MP3 players. There's no Bluetooth connection under water, so you'll be using the device's storage to play music. Most range from 2GB to 4GB. Battery life is also a consideration, around five to 10 hours being par for the course. Incidentally, it is good practice to clean the charging points after usage as chlorine can cause scaling.
While the best waterproof headphones are not cheap, the good news is you can pick up a good pair for under £100.
Here's our pick of the best:
1. Bragi The Dash Pro
These remarkable buds, which were initially funded via a Kickstarter appeal, are designed for use with all sorts of sports, including swimming. Music can be streamed directly from Android, Apple or Windows devices, or you can upload music – which is what you'll have to if you want to swim with them.
They can hold around 1,000 songs, and boast five hours of continuous playtime for each charge; the waterproofing level is IPX7.
Uniquely among the headphones on this list, The Dash Pro knows whether you are running, cycling or swimming, and can keep track of your workouts accordingly. There's even an activity coach than can keep you motivated while exercising.
They're not cheap (though the price is displayed in Euro, they can be sent anywhere in the EU free of charge), but these are the most complete, high-tech waterproof headphones on the market.
2. Finis Duo
The Finis Duo is one of the finest purpose-built swimming MP3 players out there. First to the basics: its waterproofing standard is particularly good, IPX8 to 3 metres; its battery life is up to seven hours; and its storage is 4GB, around 1,000 songs.
The device is made to sit in goggle straps, so it's only for swimming. Avoiding buds is a good thing, as they won't fall out.
The MP3 player uses bone conduction technology to transmit sound in the water, and the sound really is good. They sit on your cheekbones and the sound is picked up by the inner ear. Sound quality isn't compromised, but you'll also be more aware of your surroundings as there's nothing blocking your ears.
3. Sony NW-WS413
A sleek design and a modern upgrade of the classic Walkman range, these minimalist waterproof headphones are a great, affordable option.
The NW-WS413 boast a high level of waterproofing, are ultra light, and possess a fantastic 12 hours of battery life. Even more impressively, only three minutes of charging equals an hour of battery life.
Sound quality isn't quite as good as some more expensive options, but these are great for durability. Storage is 4GB, so plenty of space for all your favourite tunes.
Another top all-rounder, fit for use underwater or on land, and at this price you won't find much better.
It comes with several different earbuds, so you'll be sure to find a comfortable fit. Sound quality is also very high, though it can be slightly echo-y. The i360 holds up to 1,000 songs and has a 10-hour battery life - plenty of time to complete a triathlon.
5. Exeze Ryder
One of the best cheap options on the market, the Exeze Ryder has an IPX8 waterproof rating, up to 12 hours of battery life and a reasonable quality sound.
The headphones are used by clipping onto swimming goggles, and they come with several earbud sizes.
Away from the swimming pool, there's also a market for water resistant headphones, for doing exercise outdoors in wet conditions. Consider one of these options:
1. Monster iSport Intensity
The best thing about the iSport Intensity is the comfort. With different sized ear-tips and more flexibility than most earphones, they will fit even the most stubborn of ears.
Then there's the sound, which really is good. Effective, partial noise isolation helps keep out background noise but you'll remain aware of your surroundings, making these buds ideal for runners. Reflective cables increase visibility, so you can safely run at night as well.
These durable and waterproof headphones are recommended for those who don't mind running in the rain.
2. RHA MA750
Boasting clear sound helped by aptX bit-reduction technology, these are one of the best options for outdoor activity enthusiasts. They come with several bud sizes, so you'll find the right fit.
With noise-isolation technology and a 12-hour battery life they will keep you going. They also boast a water-resistance level of IPX4, which means they're protected from splashing water from any direction. So they'll work in all but the most tropical of storms.
A good option for runners, if a little pricier than some rivals.
The waterproof headphone market isn't huge, and there's room for improvement in terms of sound quality, capacity and batter life.
The best affordable option is the Finis Duo – good value at £85. It stores enough music to keep you going and has a high waterproofing rating.
The winner, however, is the Bragi the Dash Pro. It's expensive, but it comes with a raft of exciting features and is designed not just for water sports but any activity, and tracks your workouts accordingly.
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