Published on July 8th, 2009 | by Greg0
Waterblog: In the Pool With SwiMP3 and H20 Audio
We’ve been busy outdoors this season, but there is no better relief from putting up tents and rehydrating food than swimming. And swimming is even better when you can into the lake, ocean, pool, river, swamp or stream and listen to music, blocking out the piranhas, sharks, or other swimmers.
We’ve previously looked at the first version of SwiMP3 by Finis, and the idea is basically unchanged. The new version of device still uses bone conduction technology, and if you haven’t tried it before, it’s a bit of a trip. You kind of feel the sounds directly, and though the tone isn’t quite perfect (generally, music ends up being a bit flatter sounding), it’s quite good. After a few minutes, you’ll likely forget the technology and just enjoy your swim. Simply attach the small device to your goggles or mask, after first loading on some music via computer, PC or Mac, pretty easy to do. This time, it’s easy to use your own goggles, and the stereo sound is better/more realistic, though volume is still a bit of a problem and highly dependent on both being in the water and placing the devices carefully.
Battery life AND memory size have been doubled- eight hours of life in the rechargeable batteries is quite sufficient, and the 256 MB is barely enough (60 songs or so depending on your encoding and quality settings). Unfortunately, the SwiMP3 v2 still can’t handle AAC or OGG files, but can do WMAs. Our biggest issue was the slightly awkward two-part nature of the newer version- the controls are better and more accessible, but the devices look a little nerdier. Overall, a great upgrade by Finis, and at $135 or so, one of the best ways to get your tunes underwater.
But maybe you prefer regular headphones, or would rather use your own device instead of needing to have a special, separate one for your aquatic endeavors. H20 Audio has your back, thanks to a line of waterproof products for your iPod or iPhone. Not only to they make cases for diving, good for added depth, they make the Amphibx Waterproof Armbands, including one that works great with the iPod Touch or iPhone 2G, 3G, or 3Gs. We’ve looked at their headphones before, but the newer models (including a headset with microphone that we didn’t try) are in a whole other, um, league… It’s, uh, hard to fathom until you’ve tried them.
The Amphibx armband allows you to safely carry your MP3 player or phone to a depth of 12 feet, with a risk-free warranty that thankfully we didn’t have to test. Excellent for surfers, beachcombers, or those afraid of getting their devices a bit too sweaty, the neat connector allows you to use any normal 3.5mm minijack headphones or headsets safely. Also, we liked the special window, which allows you to still use the touch controls or click wheel on your device- with slightly reduced accuracy. You can even use your apps in the bathtub! We didn’t like that the case and the armband are actually separate- and that the unit is both a bit heavy and difficult to get your devices in and out of, requiring careful insertion and extraction. These aren’t fatal flaws, and at $75, it still offers great peace of mind for your expensive cellphone.
The H20 Audio Surge headphones are good enough for Michael Phelps (it appears), so they are definitely good enough for us. We liked the color scheme and solid cords, and the variety of included earbud tips. It’s a bit tough to get them fitted well, which is truly important for those trying to be active with them, but once you can find the proper snugness they stay in pretty well. Audio is surprisingly good- bass especially- though not quite as good as some others that we’ve reviewed. At least one person could not get them to stay in, and needed to use a swim cap. At around $55, they are a pretty good deal even for regular non-submersible headphones and are the best set of waterproof headphones or earbuds that we’ve tried.