Best Waterproof Earbuds of 2021
For the athletically-inclined, the Jaybird Vista waterproof earbuds are hard to beat. While they may look a bit bulky, these earbuds are lightweight and designed to perfectly seat in the contours of your outer ear. These IPX7-rated earbuds fit securely once properly fitted thanks to a well-designed ear fin, available in three sizes, so you can go on any workout or adventure with ease. This model also includes a quick charge feature with five minutes of charging providing an additional one hour of playback time. The Vista is supported with the Jaybird app, and it is in using the app that these waterproof earbuds really shine. A sound test allows you to adjust your personalized EQ, bringing forth the true brilliance and fullness of the sound, and fully customizable push-button controls give you the functions and features you want. Rounding out a truly exceptional product, the Bluetooth range of 290 feet will make you feel completely untethered.
Our concerns for the Vista are really few and far between. These waterproof earbuds are pricy, but we are happy to see that the app includes a "Find My Buds" feature to help you protect your investment. While the earbuds have a long playback time, the case only holds an additional 10 hours of charge or just shy of 1.5 full charges per pair, so you are limited in how far you can get from a definitive power source. Our final minor gripe is that we'd like to see a waterproof rating extended to the case, given the product's price. But with such minor concerns, the Vista waterproof earbuds are an easy choice. If you'd like a second opinion, you can be confident in your purchase knowing they also top the list of our Best Bluetooth Earbuds review.
Read full review: Jaybird Vista
For an impressive command of versatility at a low price, we can easily recommend the Anker Soundcore Life P2. Our testers are impressed by how well these earbuds transition from taking phone calls to sweating it out on a trail run. These earbuds comfortably rest just on the edge of the ear canal and yet are still impressively stable. Unlike others we tested, they have microphones on the top and bottom of both earbuds, resulting in excellent call clarity on both ends of the line. With an EQ that is adjusted towards the higher end of the spectrum, we thoroughly enjoyed the quality of sound for listening to podcasts. The sound quality is adequate for providing tunes as you go throughout the day, but don't expect much by way of kick if you are a lover of hip-hop, despite Anker's claims that their BassUp technology "enhances bass by up to 43%." And while its battery life isn't totally best in class, we were surprised how seldom we needed to plug in the charging case to boost its battery juices. The on-board buttons reduce the number of times we needed to pull out our phones to pause or skip tracks.
The Clear Voice Capture (CVC) technology works great for picking up our voice clearly, but it didn't do so well at filtering out background noise. We found that the dual microphones were uber-sensitive — while we were washing dishes, the running water drew the attention of the person on the other end of the line. Similarly, we are a bit confused by the claims surrounding the waterproof rating on these. Even though the Soundcore Life P2 earbuds sport an IPX7 rating — which means that they should be safe to immerse in water up to three feet — the safety manual explicitly states, "[do] not submerge in water," and that "the product shall not be exposed to dripping or splash…" That said, this pair survived our tests without an issue, and we recommend them as impressively well-rounded earbuds at a price that's tough to beat.
The audiophiles in the crowd will certainly appreciate the brilliant sound quality of the Jabra Elite Active 75t. Very similar to our top contender, these are designed to be used in conjunction with the Jabra Sound+ app. Once connected, you unlock the power and potential of these 'smart' earbuds — you can tweak just about everything on these fully customizable headphones. Most importantly for overall sound quality, a few simple (but seriously sensitive) hearing tests allow you to set both personalized EQ and Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) settings. Commuters will certainly appreciate the HearThrough technology, which allows you to hear outside noise through your music, and on-the-go business professionals will love the Sidetone technology, which allows you to hear your own voice on a call so that you don't end up talking too loudly. And all of this technology doesn't come at any expense of waterproofing. These buds carry an impressive IP57 rating, making them both waterproof and dust-protected.
But the incredible tech packed into the Elite Active 75t means that these waterproof earbuds carry an incredible price tag — they are by far the most expensive pair we tested. While they are well-protected from the elements, a bulky profile makes them fairly easy to knock out of your ear accidentally. More of a comment than a complaint, it is also important to acknowledge that the ANC technology severely limits playback time. So while you can enjoy an impressive seven hours of sound with ANC turned off, with the noise cancellation technology engaged, that time is cut down to a much more modest five hours. But regardless of the extent, you can rest assured knowing that these buds will provide top-quality listening time.
Don't be deceived by their appearance, the TOZO T6 earbuds are reinforced with a robust level of waterproofing. This is one of the few models on the market that offer a top-level IPX8 rating for both earbuds and case. This makes them a fantastic option for swimmers, who can tune in for their morning laps and leave the case poolside without fear of damage. Though they do not boast the same overall sound quality when compared directly to other models in this review, the sound is consistent, with absolutely none of the "bouncing" that often plagues lighter-weight earbuds. Considering their relatively quick one-hour charge time and 190 foot measured Bluetooth range, there is no reason to NOT get up, out, and on your way, no matter what the day has in store.
Although the 6mm drivers of TOZO T6 provide a stable sound for activity, the quality is not particularly rich and even seems distant at points. We noticed a similar issue while making phone calls, with the receiving end sometimes remarking that we sounded like we were "calling through a tunnel." Even though they are stable enough for most athletics, the ear-cups fit tightly in a way that makes us not want to wear them all day. But perhaps the greatest flaw is a relatively short playback time of only four hours. Fortunately, the sleek carrying case is stocked with nearly six additional charges, which should be plenty if you're planning to use these for travel.
Sound quality is paramount for any headphones, but it isn't often achieved, especially when it comes to earbud design. Fortunately for those in the market for a set of waterproof earbuds, the EarFun Free does not sacrifice a full sound for functionality. Don't be fooled by the size of the 6mm graphene drivers; these headphones offer a rich sound with a well-equalized, deep bass. The noise-canceling qualities are enhanced by a suction-cup-like fit that secures them in place, providing full confidence to go for long trail runs in rough, mountainous terrain. And if it just so happens that you get caught up in your listening and run through the six and a half hours of charge, a 10-minute, quick-charge feature will get you back in the game with an additional two hours of listening time.
Even though the waterproof rating is not quite as high as others we tested, an IPX7 rating allows for full immersion up to three feet, which is plenty for a swimmer. These are not touch control earbuds, and it does take a fair amount of push to engage the controls — sometimes, we found it difficult to change tracks without pushing these uncomfortably far into the ear canal. The EarFun Free is also significantly bulkier than other earbuds we tested, sticking out farther than most, which slightly reduces breathability. The fact that they block all water ingress is surely a plus for a swimmer, but the lack of breathability may not be as welcome for those planning on using these mainly in a gym setting.
The Kurdene Wireless Earbuds are a solid set of TWS waterproof earbuds at a great price, all wrapped up in a case that is noticeably smaller and lighter than the competitors. The earbuds themselves are a fairly standard size and sit a bit further out from the ear than other models we tested, but they still stick to the theme of being remarkably lightweight. These headphones sport an IPX8 rating, and even the case is IPX6 rated — so you don't have to worry about leaving it poolside. The earbuds can be used independently, with nearly ubiquitous touch controls (except for volume and track navigation, which are side-specific), and have an impressive playback time of nearly seven hours. The earpieces are also worth mentioning: you don't have to push them in very far to achieve athletic stability, thanks to a stiffer rubber "spine" that increases in-ear support and security.
The Kurdene earbuds have a clean EQ that is good enough for acoustic tracks but is treble-heavy and lacks any full-range resonance or deep bass kick. The driver — a "moving-coil, horn loudspeaker" — rattles around when running or performing exercises like box jumps. This can be very distracting and certainly detracts from the overall sound quality. The other major sacrifice of these price-point TWS headphones is their connection range, losing Bluetooth connection at 51 feet. So if you train in an Olympic-size pool (50 meters, 164 feet), plan on swimming a short course (25 meters, 82 feet) to ensure you can keep your music playing.
JLab Audio products are marketed as the "official audio partner of Major League Soccer," and for good reason. The JBuds Air Icon is the touch-control version of their signature JBuds Air earbuds. The Air Icon has an impressive connection range, measured at 102 feet. This capability, coupled with seven hours of playback time, makes them perfect for working out on the soccer pitch or in the gym. The case is thoughtfully designed with a built-in charging cord, and don't be thrown off by the cord's obscure appearance — simply plug directly into any standard USB type-A charging block to charge the case. The case carries three full charges, and you can enjoy 1.5 hours of playback from a 15-minute quick-charge.
Unfortunately, their IP55 rating is only water-resistant, so make sure that you take these out before hitting the showers. The Air Icon comes with a variety of ear cups and fins to help you dial in that perfect fit. However, all but the foam ear cups are unnecessarily embossed with the JLab symbol, severely impacting both their stability and in-ear comfort. These earbuds distinctly offer the ability to cycle through three different EQ options, but all fall flat of a rich sound. We are also disappointed with how much the sound is affected by movement. Particularly when running, the sound bounces so badly that at points, it seems like there is a "wawa" effects pedal dubbed over the song.
The iLuv TB100 Bubble Gum TWS earbuds have a fitting namesake. The case is about the size and weight of a pack of bubble gum, so you can easily slide them into your pocket before heading out the door. The earbuds, too, feel significantly smaller than many others, with the speakers comfortably covering the entrance to the ear canal — although it is important to mention that a smaller earbud does not make certain that they will fit a smaller ear. The tight, stable fit results in a surprisingly deep bass that is well-balanced with crisp highs. The fit also affords a decent level of passive noise canceling — we were able to listen to podcasts clearly while cruising downhill on our bike commute.
Unfortunately, the sound quality does not extend to voice calls. The feedback and background noise was so bad for the receiver that it made it impossible to carry on a conversation longer than a minute or two (and this was tested while standing still.) The tight, suction cup-like fit also contributes to the sound "bouncing" when running. And the lower IPX6 rating precludes these from being worn while swimming. The manufacturer claims that the touch controls are "intelligent" and able to adapt to individual touch patterns. We found the touch interface to be both overly sensitive — it was repeatedly triggered by the strap of our bike helmet — and often impossible to restart playback without pulling our phone out.
For those with particularly small conchas (the inset space around your ear canal), the OKG TWS Earbuds may just be the perfect fit. Their lightweight, low-profile design rests comfortably just outside the ear canal and seems to do the trick when many other models simply won't match the shape of a smaller ear. Even for larger ears, they seem to float just on the edge of the inner ear, making them fairly comfortable for all-day use.
But that same characteristic of the fit makes them feel incredibly unstable, as if they just might pop out of your ear at any moment. We were hesitant to run or workout in these headphones, and despite their IPX8 rating, we completely avoided swimming for fear of losing the small earbuds to the depths. This "floating" fit, combined with small, 6mm drivers, unfortunately, also results in a very low EQ. Music, podcasts, and voice calls all sound distant, and even turning up the volume won't help achieve a rich sound. These earbuds also only have three hours of playback time, no quick-charge feature, and no audible, low-battery warning — only an external LED light that will flash red when the battery is low (but you obviously cannot see this while wearing them.) So make sure to time your listening wisely, or risk having your music cut out halfway through a song.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our sound-connoisseur and lead-tester for this review is Aaron Rice. As an athlete and a musician, he knows a thing or two about the intersection of sound and athletic performance. Whether out in the mountains on a long trail run or hard at work writing for GearLab, Aaron fills his days with music and always seems to have something playing in the background.
This comprehensive review is the result of over 100 hours of side-by-side comparison of some of the top waterproof wireless earbuds on the market. Our eclectic musical interests mean that we listened to a wide variety of music, not to mention the hours of knowledge gleaned from new and interesting podcasts. We wore these while working all day from our home offices, listening to music, and conducting business calls. After the workday was through, we took them on long trail runs, mountain bike rides, or wore them through sweaty, at-home workouts. And when we finished up our daily routines, we hopped right in the shower — of course, still while wearing our earbuds — in order to put their waterproof ratings to the ultimate test.
Analysis and Test Results
In order to accurately assess all of these waterproof earbuds, our team of experts devised a test plan that covers six comprehensive and mutually exclusive metrics: sound quality, athletic performance, comfort, waterproof rating, battery life, and ease of use. We apply a weight to each of these metrics appropriate to their importance in contributing to a truly great pair of headphones. For example, all of the headphones we tested include some level of waterproof rating, so this was not weighted quite as heavily in our consideration as sound quality or comfort. Our side-by-side testing allows us to compare each set of earbuds relative to one another — even if a pair of headphones ranks lower than others, it is worth considering that it may include just the right features to fit your particular wants and needs.
Waterproof rating is an important consideration for those of us looking to buy a new pair of TWS earbuds with athletic endeavors in mind. But what good is waterproofing, or athletic performance, if your new headphones aren't able to produce a really quality sound? We listened to a wide variety of music — from bass-heavy dubstep and hip-hop, to acoustic folk tracks, to long-form podcast interviews — to gauge how deeply the bass kicks, how crisp the treble rings, and how a well-balanced equalization contributes to overall rich tones. We also put the internal microphones to the test and used our friends on the other end of the line to judge call clarity and quality.
A Quick-Guide to Noise Canceling Technologies
- Stands for "Clear Voice Capture" and is software-based.
- Designed for phone calls, it uses a computer algorithm to detect and isolate your voice.
- CVC filters out background noise, increasing call quality and clarity for the person on the other end of the line.
- Because the algorithm is intelligent, clarity will increase the longer you are on the phone.
- Stands for "Active Noise Cancellation" and is hardware-based.
- Designed to improve personal sound quality, it detects external sounds and "blocks" them with a counterwave that effectively cancels out the incoming sound wave.
- This is what you often see in noise-canceling, over-the-ear headphones but is less common with earbuds due to certain design restrictions.
There is also Passive Noise Cancellation. Not really a technology in itself; this is instead the result of a shape that provides a noise-canceling seal over your ear canal and is very commonly used in earbud design.
While EQ preferences might vary depending on your musical interest, there are some very clear winners in this category. The graphene drivers and design of the EarFun Free — one that embodies the ideals of passive noise cancellation — resulted in a superior listening experience. The sound produced by these earbuds is beautifully equalized, resulting in clear highs, deep lows, and a rich mid-range. For those of us who love hip-hop, it is important to note that the EarFun Free is one of the few pairs we tested with bass that actually slaps, an uncommon quality for earbuds in this price range.
Of course, you want to listen to your favorite tunes while engaging in your favorite physical activity — why else would you be interested in the freedom of the truly wireless experience? TWS earbuds are convenient, and when combined with a waterproof rating, serve as the perfect companion to any athletic endeavor. We spent hours wearing these earbuds while out on long trail runs, working out with dynamic body-weight exercises, and riding our bikes. We judged fit and stability, considered sweat resistance, and made notes on how movement affects sound quality.
The Realities of Gear Testing in the Times of COVID-19
Our hands-on testing period occurred after the significant outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closures and restrictions on public spaces. Unfortunately, this included any reasonable access to public water sources for swimming. But we plan to update this article with those notes as soon as it becomes safe to do so.
The Jaybird Vista is lightweight but locks into your ear by using an extended ear hook to secure itself tightly to your outer ear. While some earbuds, like the Earfun Free, have a stable, suction cup-like fit, the sound bounces with each impact of a footstep, making them very annoying to run with. Alternatively, the TOZO T6 trade off a slightly less stable fit for absolutely no change in sound quality, regardless of how you move while wearing them. We were also surprised by the athletic performance of the Soundcore Life P2, a model that is particularly enticing for those who like to walk-and-talk.
Our hope is that you fall so in love with your new pair of TWS earbuds that you will never want to take them out. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but we do want to direct you towards a pair that offers all-day comfort, whether you're on-the-go or working from home. These are indeed waterproof earbuds, so we showered and dunked our heads to see whether or not water can get into your ears. We wore each pair for an entire workday to directly compare their ease of extended wear. Since we all have ears of different sizes and shapes, we then adjusted scores based on available sizing options for ear cups and fins.
A well-designed ear-fin comfortably supports the weight of the earbud on the edge of the antitragus (the lower portion of the middle ridge of your ear) so that the job of holding the earbud in your ear doesn't rest solely with the ear-cup. We love any earbud that includes an ear-fin for this reason in particular. The fins/hooks on the Jaybird Vista hold the earbuds securely in place for any athletic endeavor. The JBuds Air Icon also employ an ear-fin, but their rubber ear-cups are embossed with their logo, which is incredibly irritating to the outer ear canal. Fortunately, they come with a wide selection of ear-cups and fins, including a foam tip that is absent of this annoying design oversight.
Without the use of an ear-fin, the Soundcore Life P2 manage to achieve an impressive fit, thanks in large part to their lightweight design. Despite their bulky appearance, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are well designed and offer all-day comfort — they also have a sensor that will automatically pause music if you need to remove the earbud to adjust its fit. Although they don't present an overall great fit, the OKG TWS earbuds seem to particularly suit those with smaller ears that may have had a tough time finding appropriately sized earbuds in the past.
The whole reason you landed on this review is waterproof status. Waterproof ratings, commonly referred to as IP ratings, are clearly defined according to the International Protection Rating. However, manufacturers seem to include specific recommendations in their user manuals regardless of the IP rating advertised. But it is our duty to put these claims to the test — appropriate to their waterproof rating, of course — and we did so either by showering or subjecting ourselves to a dunk-test.
A Breakdown of IP Ratings
Below is a quick listing of IP ratings, in descending order of waterproof rating, associated with the earbuds included in our review:IPX8
- Immersion in water beyond 1 meter (3 feet), according to conditions defined by the manufacturer, which are generally a specified depth and amount of time.
- Immersion in water up to 1 meter (3 feet), according to conditions defined by the manufacturer, which is generally a specified amount of time.
- Capable of withstanding powerful water jets (i.e., high-pressure nozzle) from any direction.
- Capable of withstanding water jets (i.e., industrial kitchen sprayer) from any direction. Additionally, this rating includes dust protection.
We ranked each pair of earbuds according to their IP rating and then adjusted those scores according to specific manufacturer recommendations. For example, our favorite for waterproofing — the TOZO T6 — has an IPX8 rating and is one of the few options on the market that also extends the same waterproof rating to its case. We noticed an odd-yet-common theme across a number of the headphones we tested: while a pair may carry an IP rating that allows for full immersion without damage, many of the user manuals explicitly state "not for swimming." Specifically, the earbuds from OKG and Soundcore carry IPX7 or IPX8 ratings but state in their user manuals that their products are not designed for swimming or submersion. It is important to note that a Bluetooth connection will quickly be interrupted if you dive underwater — our testing corroborates that you will lose connection within less than a foot. But our testing revealed no significant issues related to waterproofing with any of the IPX7 or IPX8-rated headphones by dipping just below the surface. We always recommend following manufacturer recommendations, but we'll leave it up to you to decide whether to take your new pair of TWS earbuds out for a swim.
As with many modern conveniences, there are trade-offs. With TWS headphones, you may no longer be tied down by cords, but you are restrained by battery life. We tested the battery life of each of these while playing music at approximately 30% volume — a lower volume than the manufacturer tested-claims for playback time and a more realistic volume for the majority of earbud users. We then adjusted scores based on the number of extra charges carried by the case and awarded bonus points if those cases include a quick-charge feature.
Interestingly enough, a lower streaming volume did not seem to increase playback time for all of the headphones we tested. Some, like the TOZO T6 and JBuds Air Icon, squeaked out an additional 30 to 60 minutes of playtime — with the biggest gain coming from the Kurdene earbuds, earning an additional two hours of playback. Many were right on the mark of their manufacturer claims, while others like the iLuv and OKG earbuds fell one- to two hours short of their claimed battery life.
It's standard on most wireless earbuds on today's market, but we heartily recommend only considering models that come with a charging case. Having such a case further removes you from being tethered to an outlet, often providing multiple re-charges of your earbuds before you'd have to plug the case back into an outlet.
Ease of Use
One of the greatest advantages of TWS headphones is the ability to put them in and then walk away from your phone to go about your business. This is particularly important for waterproof earbuds because it means you can keep listening to your favorite tunes while swimming laps. With a few notable exceptions, the interface features and controls are fairly ubiquitous across the board — the main difference is that the EarFun Free, Soundcore Life P2, Jaybird Vista, and Jabra Elite Active 75t are all button-controlled, rather than touch-sensitive. This is actually a nice feature to opt for with waterproof buds, considering that many of the touchpads are so sensitive that splashing water can actually affect the controls, pausing music or even changing tracks.
We also assessed portability, which comes down to case size and shape. The Kurdene and especially the iLuv earbuds have small, lightweight cases. But we particularly loved the shape of the case holding the TOZO T6, which are vertically elongated and slide more comfortably in a pocket.
But as stated above, it really comes down to pairing and, most importantly, Bluetooth range. To maintain objectivity, we tested this without the interference of barriers — as stated above, the Bluetooth connection of all of these headphones will be interrupted below the water surface. The Jabra Elite Active 75t and Jaybird Vista both maintain a solid connection at 265 and 290 feet, respectively — well exceeding their claims of 33 feet (10 meters.) On the other end of the spectrum, the OKG and iLuv earbuds have more limited ranges of 50 and 41 feet, respectively — although to their credit, this still exceeds their similar claims of 33 feet (10 meters.) But along the lines of restricted range, we noticed while working that often just your body is enough to disrupt the Bluetooth connection (for example, if you are bending over with your phone in your pocket.)
Wireless headphones are a fantastic new technology that helps separate us at least a little bit from our phones. Particularly from the perspective of athletes and those of us who commute via bike or live in rainy climates, that technology is made even better by adding a waterproof design. Not all of these wireless waterproof earbuds are created equal, and we hope that this comprehensive review has helped you plug into the pair that best suits your needs.
— Aaron Rice