I’ve been known to pontificate at length on the magic of music in our modern era, the incredible abilities we possess at this moment in history to entirely curate our soundscape. However, with great power comes great responsibility. When I was younger, my anxiety-prone grandmother vigorously warned me against the perils of wearing Apple’s (then new) earbuds amidst a thunderstorm. She told me about a story she’d heard in the news of someone who’d been struck by lightning when one nearby bolt found their earbud and zapped their brain. In retrospect, this story seems like dubious sensationalism at best, but I still think about it when I’m wearing my trusty Sony over-the-ear headphones in the rain. Could they electrocute me?
Unless the risk offers a little bit of fun, always better safe than sorry. There’s no fun involved when it comes to water and headphones. At best they get damaged, and at worst you’ve been hurt. Fortunately, another unfathomable benefit of our modern era lies in abundant consumer choice—today there’s tons of water resistant headphones on the market to keep you and your gear safe. Whether you’re getting sweaty with a high octane workout, hanging by the pool, or caught in an unexpected torrential downpour, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know to buy the best pair of water resistant headphones, earbuds and more to keep the tunes bumpin’.
What does “water resistant” mean?
Before we get into it, let’s take a moment to parse semantics. Across the internet, you’ll find “water resistant” and “waterproof” used to describe headphones so often that the two terms seem interchangeable and ubiquitous. In reality, a firm border separates these terms from each other. Only “waterproof” gear stands strong enough to safely submerge in water. “Waterproof” gear typically omits all bluetooth capabilities due to lingering technological limitations, forcing the user to pre-load songs like an MP3 player. Instead, our roundup focuses exclusively on “water resistant” headphones and earbuds—those that can withstand a healthy soaking but not full submersion. Now, let’s get our feet wet!
What to decide when buying water resistant headphones:
While the distinction between water resistance and waterproof-ness often proves murky at best, there is a standardized system to measure water resistance. “Ingress Protection,” or IP ratings, tell consumers how impenetrable to dirt and moisture their gadgets promise to prove. PC Mag has put together a great in-depth guide to understanding the IP rating system. A quick summary: an IP rating takes the format IPXX, where the X’s contain digits if the product has been tested for dirt or moisture resistance, respectively. The last digit speaks to water resistance, and the higher, the better—for example, IPX9 offers more water protection than IP67. Believe it or not, a better IP rating doesn’t have much of an impact on price. We’ll get to what does shortly.
At their best, headphones become an appendage of ourselves, something that fits seamlessly in terms of both physical comfort and visual style. When searching for the best water resistant headphones and ear buds for your arsenal, be sure to consider the many shapes at your disposal. In-ear earbuds are compact and unimposing. Hooked earbuds allow you to enjoy similar technology while staying secure. Over-the-ear headphones make a powerful style statement and promise great depth to every sound. You might know what you like best, but bear in mind that water resistant headphones and earbuds lend themselves to adventure—maybe an expected shape will best fit your upcoming explorations.
Water resistant headphones and earbuds still come with many of the trappings which enhance their original core purpose: providing music for the many moments throughout your day. Noise cancelling capabilities, enhanced bass, and extended battery life are all examples of extra offerings you might require from your headphones. Much like shopping for any set of audio equipment, this facet of your search will pose the greatest impact on how much you pay for your new gear. The more you need, the more you pay.
Caring for your headphones
Even the most durable headphones and earbuds require some care to keep things running. Here’s three easy guidelines to keep your water resistant headphones or earbuds supplying the tunes for times to come.
Don’t drop them
Oftentimes the air of durability lent by water resistant capabilities can blind buyers to the reality that these products are still reasonably fragile. Water resistance does not directly equate to impact resistance. Take care that your headphones don’t take a tumble!
Don’t charge them when they’re wet
This is the biggest bit of underrated advice a water resistant headphone owner can know! Sure, your gear can handle a healthy spritz, but sticking them in the charging case, on the dock, or connected to an outlet while still wet means guaranteed demise. Make sure to gently towel or air dry your headphones and ear buds before connecting them to any power source.
As with most large purchases and well-loved items, keep your water resistant headphones in a safe, specially sanctioned case to keep them in great condition between uses. Securing one spot for your beloved headphones means they’ll avoid unnecessary scratches and drops. It also means you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing precisely where they are in a pinch.
Best Water Resistant Headphones and Earbuds
Best All Around: JBuds Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds
Stick with us, because there’s so many great options in store, though we do understand if you stop your search here with this well-rounded pair of earbuds by JLabs. Their JBuds Air earbuds are IP55 rated for sweat and water resistance. They offer continuous playback for 40+ hours on regular settings, and 24+ hours on more taxing noise cancellation settings. JLabs has really thought of everything with this set, even enabling dual-use so you can use one ear bud at a time independently, or sync them both for the traditional experience. “I bought these when they were on sale thinking they’d make a good spare pair for me,” writes one review. “Guess what? They turned into my main pair!”
Best for Sport: Air by Aftershockz
Fitness outfitter Aftershockz offers a sturdy array of water resistant headphones built for your most grueling workouts. This bluetooth headset with microphone earned an IP55 rating, meaning it can stand the rain and a good, intense sweat. Its battery lasts for six hours, which just might fly by given these water resistant headphones’ lightweight design. Open ear construction uses bone conducting technology to deliver your music while keeping ears available for ambient noise. “Air sends vibrations to your inner ear through bone conduction technology,” the product description states. “While it’s an alternative to traditional air conduction technology, leaving your eardrums open to your surroundings, it still provides a private listening experience.”
Best Noise Cancelling: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
If you’re looking for a pair of water resistant headphones that’ll set you up in your own private sonic dimension, then noise cancelling options are right for you. No one does noise cancelling better than luxury brand Bose, renowned for their high quality audio rendered through sumptuous user experiences. These earplug earbuds are designed to withstand sweat and weather, which means you can enjoy unrivaled high fidelity even when your surroundings are a little bit more lo-fi.
Best Over-the-Ear: RPT-01 SPORT ON-EAR by Adidas
Always an innovator blending athleticism with aesthetics, Adidas offers one of the best pairs of over-the-ear water resistant headphones on the market. This IPX4-rated sweatproof design works everywhere from the weight room to the boardroom, available in three sleek colors with ear covers that slip off for quick trips to the washing machine. Adidas pairs their unique approach with the staples, including uncompromising sound quality and intuitive controls.
Best on a Budget: Tribit FlyBuds 1
With endless combinations of features and offerings, water resistant headphones and earbuds run the full gamut from a price perspective. Still, Tribit manages to provide one of the most affordable models out there, all without sacrificing user experience. Their FlyBuds are IPX8 rated, above average in terms of moisture resiliency. They pack a staggering 30 hours of battery life while maintaining a competitively low weight on the ears. Most importantly, their sound quality rocks. Take it from one reviewer: “It’s like the music is inside my body and with the noise cancelling feature I can retreat completely for some time to myself; just me and my music.”
Most Comfortable: JBL Endurance PEAK
JBL ranks another iconic name in the audio industry for their devotion to high quality audio delivered through punchy, hip, and innovative hardware. Here, their water resistant sports earbuds prioritize the same approach, elaborating on the standard in-ear earbud design with a hook that secures these earbuds over the ear. This alleviates the pressure sometimes created by standard in-ear or over-the-ear headphones, leaving you to enjoy all 28 hours of rich playback possible with these IPX7 feats of sound magic. At the end of the day, that’s what the gear is for. It’s not an end in itself, but a tool to play a song and create a space.