The life aquatic
Review If you fancy some music while you work out at the gym or go jogging then the options are endless. Apple, Sanza, Samsung or Sony will all sell you something small and robust so you can fight the flab to Lady Gaga or Rage Against The Machine. Jump into the pool for a dozen lengths with any of them though and you will soon be listening to the sound of silence. Enter renowned swimwear makers Speedo with just the answer, the Aquabeat waterproof MP3 player.
Making a splash: Speedo's Aquabeat
The Aquabeat is actually only rated to a depth of 3 metres or 10 feet so you can't get too Jacques Cousteau with it, but it will suffice for stroking about in the pool or splashing around on the beaches of Bimini or Phuket. It's also buoyant, so there is no chance of you breaking the surface while it drifts to the bottom to be carted off by a larcenous crab.
The player itself is a small 35g rubberized lump with a clasp on the bottom so you can hook it to a bikini string or goggles strap. If you prefer to swim in the buff, then you can either stuff the Aquabeat where the sun don't shine or purchase the optional £15 arm band, which would be our recommendation.
Controls are very simple with a pressure pad on the top taking care of power, start, stop, skip forward and back, while a rocker pad on the side manages the volume. Press any control and a small 'beep' is heard letting you know the command has been acknowledged.
The only orifice in the Aquabeat is the 3.5mm jack which doubles up as both the headphones socket and the USB port. The bundled earphones are of the loop-around-the-ear type and while a bit of pain to get situated are very secure once in place - no matter how we thrashed, turned and twisted they never once fell out.
Simple controls, but no shuffle mode, alas
Speedo bundles three types of rubber ear-bud - one conventional pair that won't keep the water out and two sizes of three ridge buds that will. The rather short earphone cable is coiled for a third of its length which helps prevent users strangling themselves or snagging on undersea obstacle,s though Speedo also supplies a 1m extension cable to make life easier on dry land.
MUZAK MUZAK Everywhere
Again, I laugh.
This article took me so far down memory lane that I gasped just a little when I thought of how much cash I burned "just to listen to muzak"...
It began with ASTRALTUNES. The first "portable" cassette deck for personal listening and skiing. Astraltunes was essentially, a car tape deck ensconced in foam and harnessed to the front of one's chest. It was huge... and hugely popular... hence Sony emerges with the Walkman.
There were all kinds of personal players in between and one extraordinary device called "Aqua Tunes" which was essentially, a ziplock bag for your Walkman and waterproof earplugs. Never did seal right, but that doesn't mean I threw it away... in fact, it's right over...there!
Then the mp3 player phenomena... I bought one with an amazing 250 MB memory. Wow.
Now my Blackberry plays everything better than anything ever did before vinyl was eliminated... but you know what?? .... I CRAVE SILENCE.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN ... was no doubt, spoken by a musician.
Apple ipod shuffle - now waterproofed
If I had more pocket-money, I'd get one of these. Its not often that my twin passions of technology and swimming can combine safely. Not since the disastrous toaster-in-the-bathtub incident as a kid have I been able to indulge both.
The best news is that everyone here looking for a smaller gadget with a shuffle function can purchase a waterproofed ipod shuffle from SwimMan (http://www.swimman.com/main.html). Problem solved. Except, er.. that its still quite expensive. And it has to be posted from the USA. And apple has stopped making that design of shuffle. I think.
Another alternative is the Finis waterproof MP3 that is worn on the goggles and transmits sound directly through your skull. A swimming pal of mine says it works OK, but prefers waterproof earplugs.
Haven't tried the Speedo, but I'm using the Nu Dolphin since a few months for lap swimming. The 1GB version is around 40 quid. It works very well for me and I tend to do swim more often and longer since I have music.
A few general hints to consider regarding these devices: As you fix the player to the straps of your goggles, navigation is "blind". Also, typically swimming action doesn't allow for using a display or complex navigation. I have a fixed playlist with a couple of hours music. It's all selected tracks, no albums or junk. Except for an occasional skip forward, I switch this on when I get into the pool and off when I get out.
I'm using competitive swimmer goggles that come with a double rubber band. You normally twist the band to adjust the space between the eye pieces, which gives any unneeded cable length a good fix. I never remove the player from my goggles, making this a dedicated swimming-only player.
Considering all the above (dedicate swimming, limited navigation), 1 GB of space is more than plenty. Just shuffle your playlist before loading it onto the player if this is what you need.
The ear buds provided with the Nu keep the water out and I don't see the need for the ear clips the speedo has. In fact, I would be worried that these create too much turbulence.
Never tried podcasts or audio books yet so YMMV.
Bit pricey as well as it being a pain to have multiple mp3 devices. http://over-board.co.uk/ do some great cases so you can use your existing player in the pool etc...
..should include consideration of larcenous crabs. Chapeau!