Underwater Audio currently offers four styles of waterproof headphones with five different types of earbuds, many of which come in multiple sizes. It’s time to clear up some of the confusion and learn how to get the most out of your waterproof headphones.
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The Swimbuds waterproof headphones are the most basic waterproof headphones we sell separate from our music players. They have a short cord, meaning you can attach your mp3 player to your goggles or suit without a long cord getting in the way during flip turns. Tucking the cord under the straps of the goggle reduces drag. If you make sure the cord comes straight up from the earbuds and is secured under the strap, you’ll have much better luck keeping the headphones in place.
Alternatively, you can attach the player to the back of your swim cap and tuck the cords underneath. Swimbuds come with an extension cord, so if you’re not worried about flip turns (or you’re not swimming) you can also attach the player to your suit or clothes.
The tips on the Swimbuds waterproof headphones work like a cork: they fit deep into the ear canal, and the soft, malleable plastic flanges push out to fill the space and create a watertight seal. The interference fit works really well to keep air in so that the sound quality is clear and undistorted.
The flanged earbud tips that come with the original Swimbuds are quite watertight. If you’re sensitive to ear canal pressure, they may be a little uncomfortable, even with no hard edges. Some of our more advanced designs can be more effective at keeping water out of the eardrum and for longer periods. However, for many people, these earbuds work great and are everything they’re looking for in waterproof headphones.
Tips: When using these earbuds, make sure you insert the earbuds fully. If you’re inserting one into the right ear, use your left hand to reach over your head and grab the top of your right ear. Gently pull toward the ceiling. This will open up the ear canal so that you can directly insert the earbud. When it’s in, let go of your ear with your left hand. This allows the ear canal to close over the ear bud and keep a good fit and sound. Also, putting a dab of petroleum jelly around the flanges of the earbud before use will create an even more waterproof seal.
Also included with the Swimbuds headphones is a pair of soft round earbud tips that may look a lot like what you’ve seen on standard headphones. These are not designed to create a watertight seal. The round earbuds allow for more ambient sound and less pressure on the ear canal, making them a comfortable way to use Swimbuds even when you’re not swimming.
The Swimbuds Sports are our most versatile set of waterproof headphones. With the same short cord/long extension setup as the Swimbuds, use is similar. However, the Swimbuds Sport waterproof headphones have an improved design with better audio quality and multiple earbud tips. The tips come in a handy little case. See the black container with the large white logo on top in the picture below?
That plastic container has six different compartments to hold the 4 different styles of earbud tips. In addition, two of those styles come with different sizes, allowing you to play around and find out which style and size works best for you without the hassle of ordering and reordering different products. Check out the video at the bottom of this page for a visual guide on using the different earbuds used with Swimbuds Sport and HydroActive Waterproof Headphones.
Tree earbuds fit in-ear like the Swimbuds but operate on a different principle. The soft plastic sides go into the ear canal easily, but once they’re in, they create suction that holds the bud in place. Pulling on the earbud actually increases resistance. This gives the tree-style earbud even better staying power. Tree buds are inserted like an earplug. They have the best noise-isolating effect and are the recommended earbud for lap swimming. Underwater Audio creates three sizes of the tree-style tips to accommodate different sizes and preferences.
Fin earbuds fit the widest range of ear sizes. They are not inserted as far into the ear canal as the tree buds, which can be a plus for some people. Before you start, you’ll want to make sure the fin is set straight up on the earbud. After inserting, you “twist and lock” to fit it to the contours of your ear.
The picture above is a bit deceptive; the fin goes at the top, and you smooth it under the curve of your ear. Fun fact: the groove above the main cavity of your outer ear; the one created by a little ridge running from the front middle of your ear toward the back? That’s called the cymba. The ridge itself is called the crus of helix, and it divides the concha into two parts: the cymba and the cavum.
So, you insert the bud into the ear canal, the base of the fin fills the cavum, and the fin goes above the crus of helix and is smoothed into the cymba to create a seal and stay in place. (Whew! Did you survive the vocabulary lesson?) Proper insertion leads to an effective watertight seal, so it’s recommended that you use a mirror to check.
Ergos fit to the outer ear, rather than being inserted into the ear canal. Like the fins, they are ergonomically designed to fit the grooves and curves of your ear. Their lower profile fits neatly under a swim cap (which in turn keeps water out further). They also allow for more ambient sound, which makes them a potentially better choice for certain activities, such as running or biking, where greater awareness of your surroundings can increase safety.
Ergos are a great choice if your ear canal is especially sensitive, or if you want waterproof headphones without the earplug effect.
The Swimbuds Sport also include a round earbud we call mushroom, which is similar to those included with the Swimbuds:
They’re soft and comfortable, and not particularly watertight unless they fit your ears extremely well. It is not recommended that they be used for swimming, but they can be a nice alternative for above-water sports and activities.
The HydroActive headphones come with all the same earbud styles and sizes as the Swimbuds Sport. The big difference here is in the cords, which have been almost entirely replaced with a wrap-around band (although they too come with an extension cord).
A short, thicker-gauge cord extends from the left side, meaning that when the music player is attached at the back of the head using, say, goggles, a swim cap, or a headband, they stay out of your way and in place for almost any activity. There’s almost no cord wrangling at all.
Once the earbuds are set for a preferred fit, the band keeps them in place. On a practical level, this means that the headphones go on and come off quickly and easily, and once you’re set up, you’re good to go!
Additionally, the HydroActive headphones feature several unique design components that enhance audio quality and provide extra protection from water damage.
Finally, we have the HydroHarmony headphones. These feature a wrap-around band similar to the HydroActives, but are meant for aquatic activities and exercise that happen above the water. Since they’re not intended for submersion, they simply come with three sizes of round earbud tips. Don’t worry, they’re still waterproof and you don’t need to worry about getting them wet; you just shouldn’t plan to use them underwater.
Still looking for more information? Try these additional resources:
How to Wear It
This page from our FAQ has diagrams on how to best wear the Swimbuds or Swimbuds Sports headphones: How to Wear It
All the relevant information about the different styles of headphones on one screen: Compare Waterproof Headphones
Swimbuds Sport Fit Instructions
This video was made by a couple Underwater Audio employees and does a great job demonstrating how to switch out and fit the different earbuds included with the Swimbuds Sport and HydroActive headphones.