Gear Corner: Swimming With Music Part 1

Some facts:

  1. I enjoy swimming.  Really I do, I like being in the water and the way it feels, sounds and looks.
  2. I get bored easily.
  3. Swim training (when it's not open water) involves a lot of back and forth laps in the pool.  That can get boring, even for people like me.
  4. I'm a tech-geek, and I probably wouldn't get up to half the exercise and training that I do without toys to play with.
With that in mind, it's easy to see why I'd invest in devices like those from H2O Audio.  I started way back buying one of their earlier editions for the 2nd generation iPod.
Exhibit A: The Accused
My first problem was having the wrong generation iPod Nano... I had a Black 1st edition which I lost after putting it in a jacket pocket in the spring, then not using the jacket again for an entire season.  I bought a 2nd generation one and was off into the water.  The problem with this 'Waterproof' Case was that it relied on a rubber gasket to maintain the seal, and this gasket was not fastened to the case with any kind of adhesive; it was up to the user to make sure there would be a seal every time you put the iPod into the case.  You can guess what happened...

Exhibit B: The Victim
Now normally, when burned by a poor quality product, I simply turn my back and walk away, but I guess my gear-head self wouldn't give up on the concept when I saw later generations of the products.

I got what is now branded as the Amphibx Armband.  What I liked about this piece was that different size devices could be fit into it; they kept in simple and it was easy and flexible to be able to connect the speaker/headphone jack.

Once the original iPod Nano had been recovered (it's probably gone through at least another two cycles of long-term loss and recovery), it had been eclipsed by other devices as a prime music device.  So it was a great candidate to be potentially sacrificed to the Water Gods in another experiment.  No issues, the armband hasn't leaked yet.

The problems weren't over yet though.  I still had the first generation earphones.  These things looked like the speakers from a telephone, only somewhat miniaturized.   They were hard to fit into my ears, and got uncomfortable after a while, but even worse, they'd let plenty water get between them and my ear canal.
My hands are pretty average size, so you get an idea of how big the speaker is...

So I would typically start playing music at a given volume, then start swimming.  As water got in my ear, the volume would seem to go down to the point where I couldn't really hear the music (I would have thought I'd hear the music better due to water being a denser medium than air, but I'm telling you what I experienced).  I'd turn up the volume to compensate, but the second the water cleared (if I took my head out of the water for sighting, or to take a break or anything), the music would be deafening.  

Someone told me there was a newer better model out so finally this year, I got a pair from Amazon*.  The Surge Sportwraps seem to be marketed for Boardsports more than swimming (probably because the band around the back doesn't play well with a swim cap), but I like that they hug the head; it's what I look for in running earphones too.

On my last Trifecta Tuesday, I went for a swim.  I was a little tired from a 16km run plus the Kyle's Krusade Virtual Race 5k (PR!), so I decided I simply wanted to crank out 1.5km in the pool without drill sets or anything complicated.  The perfect setting for the new kit.

Though I ended up stopping a few times in the first few hundred meters to adjust the phones in my ears and make the Sportwrap play nice with my goggles and swim cap, I can tell you the audio experience was better than ever before and the volume stayed at a fairly even level so I was able to enjoy music throughout the swim.  I'll revisit what effects that had on my swim experience in Part 2 of this series.

*H2O Audio has been re-branded to X-1 Audio with some new (yet again) product lines.  There still seems to be a Canadian Retailer using the H2O Audio Brand though.

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