H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ Review: Bone Conduction Swimming Earphones with an Innovative Feature

The Lowdown

The H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ connects to swim goggles and makes wearing the device simple. The Bluetooth streaming is great when doing anything but swimming, and the onboard audio is there when you are in the water.



  • Have both Bluetooth and 8GB of onboard audio storage
  • Good battery life
  • PLAYLIST+ is brilliant


  • I prefer standalone swim earphones rather than relying on them being connected to my goggles
  • The audio quality underwater left much to be desired

I love when my pool is open, and I can swim laps; it’s a great form of low-impact exercise. But, let’s face it, doing fifty or a hundred laps is boring. Listening to music while you swim is a great way to pass the time, and the H2OAudio SONAR PRO seems like an innovative way to add headphones to your swimming goggles.

We were first introduced to H2OAudio years ago through their waterproof iPod shuffle case and wired waterproof earphones; that set-up worked fine so long as you didn’t mind the cable.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO headhones

The H2OAudio SONAR PRO is a substantial technological advance from the iPod shuffle days. These wireless earphones rely upon bone conduction which, as I discovered last summer with a different company’s product, is an excellent solution for listening to music in the water.

The SONAR PRO offers a few interesting innovations that may make them a compelling choice if you’ve been looking to take your tunes for a swim.

A woman wearing the H2OAudio SONAR PRO

As you would expect, the H2OAudio SONAR PRO is fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating, and they will perform when submerged up to 12′.

Loading them with music and charging them is accomplished using an included charging adapter that snaps on the earphones rather than plugging into them. That allows the SONAR PRO to remain fully sealed.


Designed to work with swim goggles, each bone conduction earphone snaps over the goggle’s strap. That way, once they are in place, you don’t have to fuss with goggles and earphones but, instead, have one accessory with which to deal.

Fully charged, the H2OAudio SONAR PRO delivers up to 7 hours of playback, enough for days of swimming between chargers.

SONAR PRO has Bluetooth, so you can stream music from your phone or tablet director to the device. It also means you can stream music from a smartwatch. That’s great since, for example, I already wear my Apple Watch while swimming to track how many laps I have done.

Woman swimming while wearing the H2OAudio SONAR PRO

Unfortunately, Bluetooth and water don’t do well together. When submerged just a few inches, the Bluetooth connection fails, and the music stops. As a result, Bluetooth streaming is only good when hanging on a lounger, floating on the surface, or gently doing the breaststroke without fully submerging your head.

Thankfully, H2OAudio SONAR PRO also has 8GB of built-in memory. That’s enough storage for up to 2,000 songs; since it supports Apple Music’s format, you can move songs you own to the device from your computer via the charging cable.

The advantage of having the music onboard is that it continues to play even when fully submerged since it doesn’t rely on a Bluetooth connection.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ Review: Bone Conduction Swimming Earphones with an Innovative Feature

Using the free H2O Audio for iOS or Android, you can not only update the software on the device and create folders for your music so you can listen to the collection of tunes that best meet your mood, but you can add songs to PLAYLIST+.

PLAYLIST+ is the company’s patent-pending solution that allows you to download your favorite playlists from a variety of streaming services and have them available offline. That means you can take your streaming music with you and access it without a phone or data connection.

It’s a cool technology that I would like to see adopted by other products. Here’s a better explanation:

The “speakers” on the SONAR PRO aren’t speakers. Instead, they rely on bone conduction and create vibrations that pass through the bones of the skull and let the wearer hear audio without the need to clock the ear canal.

Bone conduction on the H2OAudio SONAR PRO

Since the wearer’s ear remains open, the company includes a pair of earplugs in the box.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ Review: Bone Conduction Swimming Earphones with an Innovative Feature

We’ve tried and reviewed bone-conduction headphones previously. We’ve always been awed by the technology but have often found ourselves underwhelmed by the audio quality they produce. As we will explore in a moment, this is also true with the H2OAudio SONAR PRO.

The right side of the SONAR PRO has buttons to turn the earphones on and off, play/pause music and skip tracks.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ Review: Bone Conduction Swimming Earphones with an Innovative Feature

The left side of the SONAR PRO has two buttons for controlling the volume. One button also lets you switch from Bluetooth streaming to accessing onboard music.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ Review: Bone Conduction Swimming Earphones with an Innovative Feature

H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+Features:

  • SWIM OPTIMIZED: H2O Audio’s bone conduction technology delivers clear sound underwater – HASSLE-FREE. The speaker attaches to your swim goggles and delivers constant fail-safe sound.
  • OPEN EAR EXPERIENCE: SONAR PRO uses bone conduction speakers use enhanced speakers that provide an amazing sound in and out of water – with full situational awareness.
  • MP3 PLAYER BUILT-IN: The SONAR headphones have a built-in MP3 player with 8GB of memory, which can hold thousands of songs. Easily connect with MAC or PC and download your favorite music or podcasts. SONAR supports Apple iTunes music format (.m4a) and MP3. Simply copy/paste or drag&drop any music from your computer onto the SONAR and enjoy your swim.
  • BLUETOOTH: Connect your computer, iPhone, Android, or any music-enabled smartwatch – and enjoy running & biking with streaming music. Note Bluetooth range underwater is only a few inches. For swimming – use the PLAYLIST+ feature.
  • EASY TO USE: The SONAR small and compact design makes it seamless for your swim. It is easy to use with big buttons that have extra raised markings.
  • BLUETOOTH with SMART WATCH: SONAR can receive music from your smartwatch over a wireless Bluetooth connection. Pair your smartwatch (Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin Samsung, etc.) with the SONAR and attach the watch to your swim goggles.
    *NOTE: SONAR Bluetooth range underwater is about 4 “. Smart watch MUST be attached to your goggles (not on your wrist) for Bluetooth to function correctly. The wireless range on air is 30ft/10m. AVAILABLE – Apple Watch Clip for SONAR.
  • 100% WATERPROOF: H2O Audio Waterproof technology ensures that SONAR performs when submerged to 12ft (3m). Waterproof Rating: IPX8.
  • LONG BATTERY LIFE: 7 hours of playtime and memory capacity of over 2,000 songs (8GB). Download all your favorite music, and the laps will fly by.

So let’s talk about my experience.

H2OAudio SONAR PRO clipped to a man's swim goggles

Getting the H2OAudio SONAR PRO on my goggles took just a few minutes. Once they were connected to the goggle strap, I put the goggle on and moved the SONAR PRO into position so the “speakers” sat just in front of my ears.

It is worth taking some time to experiment with the position since where the device sits on your head can significantly impact the sound.

After that, I put in some earplugs and started swimming.

I started by using the Bluetooth streaming functionality. I had set my iPhone on the side of the pool and fired up my favorite playlist.

It worked fine as I prepared to swim, but I was quickly reminded that Bluetooth is not ideal for swimming.

The audio cut out each time my head went under the water, even the tiniest bit. I’m not talking about diving to the bottom of the pool. I’m talking about any degree of submersion was enough for the connection to pause. It resumed once I was above the water again, but the experience was terrible.

So I switched to the onboard music. I like the PLAYLIST+ feature and was impressed by it in my testing. The earphones I’d been using for swimming only allow you to load DRM-free music, and since I’d stopped purchasing music a few years ago, that limited my options, but I could always find something that worked.

With PLAYLIST+, I can grab and enjoy the latest music from my current “Favorites” playlist.

So, overall, there’s a lot that people may like.

The H2OAudio SONAR PRO connects to swim goggles and makes wearing the device simple. The Bluetooth streaming is great when doing anything but swimming, and the onboard audio is there when you are in the water.

The PLAYLIST+ feature lets you take your music with you on the go, even when you are offline, and the battery life is impressive.

Yes, there’s a lot that some people might like about the experience, but sadly, there wasn’t enough for me.

I didn’t find the “connect your earphones to the strap on your goggles” set up to be a great solution. Getting the earphones on the strap and optimally positioned was a pain. I could have gotten over that if it weren’t for the poor audio quality.

I’ve tried several different earphones that offer bone conduction. The early models sounded terrible, but as the technology improved, so did the sound quality. The technology advanced so much that I have a pair of bone-conducting headphones that sound great underwater! Sadly, that’s not the case here.

The sound I get from the SONAR PRO is better than nothing when it comes to pushing back against the boredom of swimming laps, but they are not something I would listen to by choice. Even when I put in earplugs, which increase the earphones’ volume and sound quality, I found the experience subpar.

Granted, had this been this my only experience with bone-conducting headphones, I might feel differently, but I have other similar products that sound much better. Even so, they don’t offer Bluetooth or PLAYLIST+, so I realize I’m not comparing apples to apples.

Still, it is all a matter of personal preference, and my preference may not be yours. So while the advantages of the H2OAudio SONAR PRO may make them a good choice for some people, for me, they fall short. That’s a bummer since I really like some of the innovations baked into the product.

The H2OAudio SONAR PRO with PLAYLIST+ sell for $179.99; they are available directly from the manufacturer.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Have both Bluetooth and 8GB of onboard audio storage; Good battery life; PLAYLIST+ is brilliant

What Needs Improvement: I prefer standalone swim earphones rather than relying on them being connected to my goggles; The audio quality underwater left much to be desired

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

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