Review: H2O Audio H3 Waterproof Headphones
Waterproof and water resistant headphones have been around for years, and we've reviewed our fair share without finding any of them to be spectacular. Today, we're briefly covering two more alternatives, both from H2O Audio: the iHR Sweat Proof/Water Resistant Sport Headphones, which were initially offered for $30 but now have been bumped to $40, and the H3 Waterproof Headphones ($50), which like the company's earlier $40 H1 Waterproof Headphones are designed to be fully submersible.
In short, the H3 is a modestly improved version of the H1. Jet black with small silver accents rather than white and gray, H3 comes bundled with two sets of rubber earplugs that fit over the left and right speakers, then into your ears. You can still submerge them underwater to depths of up to 10 feet, and use them with H2O’s current and 2006-2007 waterproof iPod cases. A special headphone plug fits into the rubber grooves of H2O’s extended headphone ports, keeping water out, but the plug also works just fine with other waterproof cases from companies such as Otter Products, as well as unencased iPods.
As with the H1, the rub is that these headphones don’t sound great unless they’re actually being used above water. H2O has, as promised, boosted the bass and changed the impedance a little to make the headphones louder than before, which makes them more listenable, but the quality of the sound above water is merely acceptable, not fantastic. Underwater, their sound is better because they aren’t drowned out as much by outside noise, and can benefit from directing their audio more completely into your ear canals.
To that end, H2O has also enabled the cone-shaped earpieces to be moved up and down, not just left or right like the ones in H1. Though the headband isn’t incredibly comfortable, the combination of the more user-adjustable earpieces and the small audio tweaks leads to better sounding headphones—generally not as good as the Aquapac 100% Waterproof Headphones, thanks to a cave-like hollowness you’ll notice whenever they’ve above water—but they’re definitely more reliable below water.
In an ideal world, the H3 should have just replaced the H1 at the same price point, rather than serving as a more expensive alternative to it; H2O’s tweaks are iterative rather than sequel material. But there’s no doubt that these are better for underwater use than the H1; if there wasn’t a corresponding price premium to pay for that privilege, they would have rated higher.