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These bone-conduction headphones are 'swim-ready'. I put them to the test

The H2O Audio Sonar Pro are water-resistant, bone-conduction headphones. I tested to see if it was all marketing or the real deal.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
H2O Audio Sonar PRO bone conduction waterproof headphones


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Is it because I'm a broken Gen Xer who requires constant stimulation and entertainment? Or is it because I have such a great collection of music and audiobooks that I can't bear to leave behind? I don't know, but nowadays it's rare to find me anywhere without headphones or earbuds of some description.

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I love the power and versatility of my AirPods Pro. And I wear my Shocks OpenRun Pro bone conduction sports headphones when walking, hiking, and cycling because they don't cut me off from my surroundings. But there's been a gap in my headphone-wearing needs: swimming. 

Not anymore!

Now, I have the H2O Audio Sonar Pro underwater headphones, and I can't see myself bringing anything else to the next pool party.

View at Amazon

Making headphones that work underwater can be a trivial challenge. Not only do they need to be fully waterproof and easy to control, but they cannot rely solely on Bluetooth -- because this wireless technology doesn't work reliably underwater. In fact, Bluetooth range underwater is reduced from as much as 240 meters (800 feet) to less than 8 cm (3 inches).

To get around this limitation, it is recommended that you pre-load audio onto the headphones using Playlist+ technology. 

How does this work?


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).

The Sonar Pro includes 8GB of storage, so there's plenty of room for your favorite tunes. 

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For the record, the Sonar Pro headphones are rated IPX8, meaning they can be submerged in water indefinitely. 

Swimmer wearing H2O Audio Sonar Pro.

Swimmer wearing H2O Audio Sonar Pro.

H2O Audio

Alternatively, if you have a waterproof smartwatch, you could set it up so the watch is close to the headphones. H20 Audio even makes a special holder for the Apple Watch to hold it on the strap of your goggles, close to the headphones.

Also: iPhone went for a swim? Here's how Siri can help eject water from its speakers

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

The controls on the H2O Audio Sonar Pro are big and easy to use.

The controls on the H2O Audio Sonar Pro are big and easy to use.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

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

Proprietary magnetic charging cable

Proprietary magnetic charging cable

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Onto the main bit -- do they work underwater?

Yes, they work incredibly well. Both music and spoken word comes across crisp and clear, and the overall experience is great. Sure, the quality is not on par with the likes of the AirPods Pro, but given that the Sonar Pro headphones are transmitting sound through my skull while I'm underwater, I'm happy with the experience.

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It does take a little time to get used to how these new bone-conduction headphones work compared to regular headphones; but if, like me, you're coming from other bone-conduction headphones, the transition is a smooth one.

If you don't want to have water in your ears, the Sonar Pro kit comes with earplugs that not only improve comfort but improve the quality of the audio.

Supplied earplugs

Supplied earplugs

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

At the time of writing, you can pick up the Sonar Pro headphones from Amazon for $160. But even without the discount, they're competitively priced and offer something your AirPods don't.

If you've dreamed of swimming to your favorite tunes, well, now you can! 

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