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These $99 bone conduction headphones work underwater -- and when you don't have your phone

Built-in memory and waterproofing, too? The H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport headphones have a lot to offer.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport waterproof bone conduction headphones

H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport waterproof bone conduction headphones 

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I like the new AirPods Pro. The sound is second to none, they integrate with the Apple ecosystem flawlessly, and they're sturdy enough to put up with day to day rough and tumble.

But they have limitations.

For example, you drop an earbud when you're outdoors and there's a chance you're never seeing it again. Also, keep them in while you're swimming and you'll be taking a trip to the Apple Store to buy a new set.

And if you don't have a phone with you (or an Apple Watch), then you're listening to nothing.

You know how hard that is? I'm a broken Generation Xer and I need constant stimulation.

The H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport waterproof bone conduction headphones allow me to be entertained in places where my AirPods would have given up. 

H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport tech specs

  • Speaker technology: Bone conduction
  • Water/dust resistance: IPX8 (water resistant to 12 feet/3.6 meters)
  • Battery life: 9 hours
  • Audio sources: Bluetooth and internal memory (support for a variety of file formats, including MP3, iTunes, and M4A)

At the heart of the H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport headphones is a pair of sealed bone conduction vibrators -- the speakers -- that sit on the cheekbones to carry the sounds into the ears through the head and jaw bone. The sound quality and levels are more than acceptable, and sound leakage does seem to be minimal. 

Also: The best headphones you can buy right now

Not familiar with bone conduction? It's worth knowing the pros and cons of this technology:


  • You can still interact with others while wearing your headphones (this might be a con for some people).
  • They don't block your ears.
  • No more sweaty, itchy earholes.
  • Safer because you have greater awareness of what's going on around you.


  • Sound quality isn't as perfect as in-ear or over-the-ear earbuds and headphones.
  • Can take some getting used to.
  • There's some sound leakage, so others might be able to hear what you're listening to.

The TRI Multi-Sport headphones fit behind your head as opposed to over it, and there are little loops that sit over the ears. The fit is good and I found they stay in place no matter what I did -- walking, hiking, jogging, cycling or even swimming. 

The fit is super comfortable, and I found I could wear them for hours -- and because nothing was stuffed into my ear canals, my ears didn't get sweaty or itchy!

The "behind the head" design is comfortable to wear and very secure

The "behind the head" design is comfortable to wear and very secure

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The Bluetooth connection to various devices was strong and stable out to several meters indoors, and a good 10 meters/33 feet outdoors. 

No complaints there.

But Bluetooth has limitations. 

Bluetooth doesn't work very well under water. Even a few inches of water is enough to block the signal, so when you're swimming it is recommended that you pre-load audio onto the headphones (alternatively, if you have a waterproof smartwatch, you could set it up so the watch is close to the headphones -- bit clumsy, but it works).

Lightweight, waterproof, ready for adventure!

Lightweight, waterproof, ready for adventure!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

How do you put audio files on these headphones?


Connect the headphones to the charging cable, plug this into a PC or Mac, and the headphones appear as an external storage drive onto which you can load music, podcasts, and other audio files (note that you can't use files that are protected by any digital rights management/DRM as found on Spotify and Apple Music).

Also: Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are basically perfect

The headphones give you eight gigabytes of storage, so there's plenty of room for your favorite tunes.

To control the headphones, there are three buttons on the side of the unit. As with most controls that are out of your sight, they can take a some time to get used to, but once your fingers figure out where they are, it all becomes second nature.

Three buttons allow you to control the headphones

Three buttons allow you to control the headphones

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The headset comes with a single proprietary charging magnetic charging cable (so don't lose it!) that plugs to USB-A (I wish this was USB-C because most things are these days). The cable is used for both charging and transfering files.

The combo charging/data transfer cable attaches securely using magnets

The combo charging/data transfer cable attaches securely using magnets

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

All in all, I'm impressed by the H2O Audio TRI Multi-Sport waterproof bone conduction headphones. I'm a big fan of bone conduction headphones in general, but enjoy the added functionality of built-in memory and waterproofing is welcomed.

And for $99, the price is right!

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