Waterproof MP3 player: A swimmers guide and review
By Phil Gerrard, Updated 4th of July 2021
Swim training for long hours can get monotonous – no doubt. Listening to music with a waterproof MP3 player can turn that around. I’m a big fan of waterproof MP3 players. In training, the only time I don’t have the music pumping is when I’m with a squad.
It’s easy to imagine having your favorite songs playing while you swim. But achieving it can be difficult to say the least. Water and electronics don’t naturally play well together. Add sound to the mix, and it’s hard to get right. In this guide, I talk through waterproof MP3 player options – what work well, and what doesn’t.
Don’t want all the detail, and looking for a quick recommendation? The SYRYN underwater MP3 player with earphones is reliable, functions well, and competitively priced. In bone conduction style, the FINIS Duo surpasses the competition.
Bone conduction MP3 players or earphones
The first choice you face in the world of underwater MP3 players is between a bone conduction MP3 player, and an MP3 player with waterproof earphones.
Bone conduction MP3 players
Bone conduction MP3 players are an interesting invention. While your traditional earphone works by sending the sound through the air, bone conduction relies on the sound vibrations travelling through your cheek bones to your inner ear. This is technology used for hearing aids, and it’s amazing it’s made it into consumer underwater MP3 players.
Waterproof MP3 players with earphones
In comparison to bone conduction MP3 players, the concept is simple. It’s a waterproof MP3 player with waterproof earphones. Typical design has an MP3 player that will clip to the back of your goggle strap, and then earphones with a short lead with silicone earpieces that snugly sit in your ear. They key point here is that the earphones need to form a watertight seal, or else your ear and the earphone will fill with water, and the speaker will no longer produce sound of acceptable quality.
Advantages and disadvantages of each style
There are quite a few considerations when using a waterproof MP3 player. We present the issues to help you make an informed choice.
This would have to be one of the more important aspects of a waterproof MP3 player. So I’ll say this upfront - I have never achieved as good sound quality for music using a bone conduction MP3 player as with earphones. This includes the FINIS Duo. But that’s not to say the sound is not good enough. When you swim with an MP3 player, you always have other noises present in addition to the music. For example, you can hear your kick, and you can also hear your arms entering the water with each stroke. But having the noise in the music in the background is very satisfying.
Size of the MP3 player
The size of the player is important. This is particularly the case for the bone conduction MP3 players. The reason being that bone conduction MP3 players sit on your cheek bones, and when you swim, the water directly hits the player. In this way, you can feel the resistance of the player as you swim. Not so much when you are going slower. But if you are a fast swimmer, the drag becomes noticeable.
In terms of appropriately securing a bone conduction MP3 player like the Finis Duo, you will notice that the shape looks a bit like a traditional telephone (if anyone remembers them…). It has a protrusion at each end. This is a design feature to help keep the player on your cheek bone by dispersing the pressure to a point. It also highlights an issue with their design – that pressure from your goggle strap is what keeps the player in position and able to function as required. With a bone conduction MP3 player like the Finis Duo, it is tempting to tighten your swimming goggles more that required in an effort to improve pressure (and sound).
For an earphone design, size isn’t so important. This is because you can tuck it behind your head on the goggle strap, or inside your swim cap. But a large design is harder to secure in place. It’s hard to tolerate an MP3 player attached to you head that isn’t secured well.
Keeping earphones watertight
So far, you may be wondering why you would want a bone conduction MP3 player. They can be difficult to get the required pressure on your cheek bone. Their sound quality is not as clear. They also add bulk in a position on your face where you will feel resistance when you swim fast, or push off a wall during a tumble turn. Let’s talk about keeping your earphones watertight! Waterproof MP3 players with earphones MUST form a watertight seal in your ear. If ANY water gets in, your audio quality will become poor. The waterproof MP3 manufacturers make the earphones with interchangeable tips to suit different ears. But if you can’t get any of these to make a watertight seal, you will encounter issues. I suggest the SYRYN, as it has many tips. But if none of these suit, Swimbuds Sports Premium earphones have even more tip options (and are compatible with the SYRYN MP3 player.
If you swim with earplugs (which are watertight), and you see a similar design of the earphone tips on a waterproof MP3 player – you are in luck. If not, I suggest a waterproof MP3 player with various earphone tips to find what works for you. Although it is worth noting that some people can have a lot of difficulty making that watertight seal.
If you need to change tracks during a swim, or pause your music, it is best if you can learn to do this without detaching the player from its position on your head. Large buttons, tactile buttons, or buttons with protrusions are useful. The SYRYN buttons click when you push them. You can feel the click, which is helpful to know if you successfully pushed a button or not.
Securing waterproof earphones while swimming
To use waterproof earphones, you need to secure the wires so that only a short portion of the wire can flap about when you swim. This requires tucking the earphone wire under you swim goggle strap. This can get tricky if you need to take off you swim goggles during a swim…
How to load music
Most waterproof MP3 players will plug in using a special USB to 3.5mm interface cable that plugs into the MP3 player earphone socket. When plugged into a computer, they present much like a UBS memory stick. You are then able to transfer the MP3 files (or other compatible audio files) onto the MP3 player.
Here’s a little trick I use with my waterproof MP3 player. I use a free music editing program called Audacity to overlay swim timing beeps on the music tracks. For example, if I want to swim a 1500m at 40 seconds per 50, I will put a beep sound in a single track (of sufficient length) each 40 seconds. No need to look at the pool clock anymore!
Maintaining your underwater MP3 player
This is an important one. Water and electronics generally don’t mix well. And if you don’t care for your player, its lifespan will be reduced.
Firstly, your player needs a rinse in fresh water after each use. If your model has earphones, the earphone tips will also need a good scrub. It’s important here to try not to get water into the earphones, or the 3.5mm audio jack. While they both will be waterproof, the more times you get them wet, the shorter the lifespan of your product.
Multiple issues can arise with an underwater MP3 player. For earphone style, the most common issues are the earphone wires degrading. This occurs because as you swim, the wires get bent a lot, and eventually the internal copper breaks resulting in static or intermittent sound. Swimbuds are a good replacement, if required. The next issue for both earphone style, and bone conduction MP3 players is that the internal batteries can only be recharged a certain number of times before their performance degrades. In general, if I get 6 months out of a set of earphones I am happy. And if I get 1 year out of the battery I am also happy. I should clarify this by noting my usage is for swim sessions around 4-5 times a week for around 1-2 hours each session.
How much to spend on a waterproof MP3 player
Waterproof MP3 players can be expensive. I remember my first waterproof MP3 player cost me hundreds of dollars. But guess what - it didn’t perform any better, or last any longer than many of the cheaper waterproof MP3 players on the market. Given the lifespan of a waterproof MP3 player, personally I think the SYRYN and Finis Duo MP3 players linked in this page hit the sweet spot.
How to choose a player
With the information presented above, you are in a strong position to choose an MP3 player that will meet your needs. If you are a fast swimmer, earphone style will be best. If you have trouble with earphone or earplugs being watertight, a bone conduction MP3 player will best. Bone conduction players are also easier if you regularly take off your goggles whilst you swim – as you don’t need to deal with the wires to each ear. My last few players I have purchased the SYRYN waterproof MP3 player and don’t have any complaints. I particularly like the clip that secures the player in place on the rear of your head. It is well designed to keep the player in place.