Review: H2O Audio iHR Sweat Proof/Water Resistant Sport 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.
The iHR Sweat Proof/Water Resistant Sport Headphones are a different beast: they’re basically a pair of inexpensive on-ear headphones like Sennheiser’s old PMX60s, only coated with rubber rather than soft fabric, and not quite as impressive sounding. H2O designed iHR for outdoor activities and use during sports, rather than underwater submersion, but uses similar features: a coiled cable that expands or retracts easily for less clutter, and a flexible but small plastic band that wraps around the back of your head, using pressure to keep the headphones on. The color scheme remains neutral, predominantly black with gray accents, but the plug is different: it’s more typically sized than the H3’s, and so it still plugs into anything, but doesn’t form a watertight seal with H2O’s waterproof cases.
Just like the H3 earphones, iHR isn’t going to win any awards for its sound quality, and a $30 asking price struck us as more appropriate to its flat, midrange-heavy presentation than the current $40 tag it carries. Overall, it’s a step or two below the performance of Apple’s current $29 iPod pack-ins, lacking both their highs and lows, and not going to impress anyone sonically. But—and this is a big but—they’re splash-proof. We exposed them to water outdoors and indoors, going so far as to hold them for a while under a faucet, and though their performance was degraded, they kept on playing. Having fried a few pairs of cheap on-ear earphones in the rain, and seen iPod earbuds go bad from water exposure, it’s almost immaterial that Apple’s pack-ins sound better: they’re not going to survive if you’re using them heavily outdoors. iHR provides an alternative that sounds better above water than the H3, and sells for less.
So why the lower-than-H3 rating? The answer is simple: Aquapac still offers the best overall waterproof headphone solution we’ve tested; we preferred the sound and the comfort of the in-canal 100% Waterproof Headphones, which sell for the same $40 price and can survive full submersion. Had iHR remained at its original price, it might have been a good alternative, but at its current price, we’d pick the Aquapac solution any day. That said, the waterproof headphone category still has room to grow, as none of the options we’ve tested has struck us yet as excellent—they all involve compromises on comfort, sound quality, or performance that you may or may not be willing to make.