The Life Acquatic: Swimming with Sound

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swimmers1.jpgSwimming is one of the best workouts one can get. Although running does burn calories a bit quicker, there is at least one distinct advantage to swimming: it produces virtually no impact. That makes it an appealing choice for those of us who don’t want to be crippled and arthritic by the time we’re middle-aged.

As a techie, however, I’m faced with a slight dilemma whenever I don my speedo (I don’t wear the tiny one) and goggles. Water and electronics tend not to cooperate too kindly. Fortunately as gadgets advance, clever engineers have found ways to insulate electronics from watery deaths. We can now use our most important devices, our audio players, in the water with no risk to the unit. Let’s take a look at a few of the options now available to swimmers.

Audio Players

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The coolest option in this category comes from SwimMan. For $250 the company will send you a 2nd generation iPod Shuffle that has been completely waterproofed. No big case, nothing awkward, just a regular looking 2G Shuffle. The package also includes a set of waterproof headphones. I’ve yet to try the headphones, so I can’t attest to their quality, but I really like the waterproof Shuffle.

Several other options exist that will enable your iPod to function in the depths of your pool. The most popular of which is made by H2O Audio. Its cases are made from heavy duty plastic and feel sturdy enough to go scuba diving with. It utilizes a two-way lock that appears to be impregnable by anything liquid.

It is sort of bulky, but you can clip or strap it with relative easy and it should stay out of the way. The audio port is rubberized and it keeps your headphones jacked in securely. My main problem with this case is the controls. They work, but they feel cheap and clumsy. I know you have to make concessions because it is underwater and all, but I wish that it incorporated something better.

This other option for underwater audio is a little more general. The iBagz from iFrogz is a simple idea that works flawlessly. It is essentially a ziploc bag for your DAP. Because it’s just a bag, you’re not limited to iPods.

This one isn’t as good for serious swimming, but it’s an effective solution for floating around in the pool. It’s also great for sports that you might get wet and messy in. I use one of these when I ride my mountain bike (a Turner Flux for those of you follow bikes).

Headphones

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I’ve tried a lot of of sets of waterproof headphones and I’ve only had luck with one pair. The 100% Waterproof Headphones from Aquapac seem to be the best thing currently available. The system is comprised of two earbuds that produce decent sound. They’re certainly not on par with real world options from etymotic, Ultimate Ears or Shure, but remember what I said about concessions? Yea that applies here too. If you want your music underwater, you’re going to have to expect that it won’t sound as good as on land.

This is still a developing market, so it hasn’t exactly reached the level of quality we expect from our everyday devices. What it has done, is reach a point that can thwart water without fail. I expect that in the near future, we’ll start seeing more gadgets built exclusively for the water. Until then, I guess we have to settle for this sort of half life.

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