I am a moderately active recreational swimmer and I like to exercise by swimming laps. Unfortunately, swimming laps can get tedious and boring, so I started to look into underwater music players. It took me awhile to eventually invest in some, but I wanted to share my results with the two major players in this market.
From my research, the two best underwater music players are the (a) Waterproofed iPod Shuffle + Underwater Audio Swimbuds Combo (as recommended by WireCutter) and the (b) Finis Duo. Here are my experiences with these two devices:
Waterproofed iPod Shuffle + Underwater Audio SwimBuds
The SwimBuds come with 9 different earbud styles and it took me awhile to figure out which one suited me best. I found the blue/flexible ones to work the best for me. They have a hook-like structure that helps keep it in my ear. All the other ones fell out of my ears soon after entering the water. The sound quality compared to any other non-aquatic headphone is subpar, but when you’re in the water, you couldn’t care less about it.
When everything works, it is phenomenal. It was awesome to listen to music while I swam my laps. However, it is very fickle. Even with the ear “hook”, it would occasionally fall out when I pushed off the wall. And even if it doesn’t fully come out of the ear cavity, any water that enters your ear causes a muffled sound. I probably had to adjust the earbuds once every 4-5 laps. It was less than desirable.
Probably the best part about this combo is that the iPod, clipped to my goggles, was so light that I didn’t even notice it when I swam. It was very easy to adjust the volume, switch songs, etc.
I can’t tell you how excited I was about trying this out. It uses some crazy “bone-conducting” technology to deliver music to your eardrum without putting anything directly into your ear. It is a much simpler device than the iPod + headphones and only utilizes a single wire to connect the two “bone-conducting” modules together.
When I first entered the water, the sound was incredible. I couldn’t believe my ears. I don’t even know how to describe it, but the music amplifies when everything is submerged underwater. However, I soon discovered two problems with it. First, the two modules need to go under your goggle strap and this caused a lot of problems for me. I use Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 goggles and I’ve never had a problem with them before, however with the Duo, it caused a lot of leakage while swimming. I had to constantly adjust it and tighten my strap before they worked reasonably well. Even then, any slight re-adjustment would cause the leaking to occur again.
Secondly, despite the sound being incredible when you’re underwater, actually swimming is a whole different story. Because your ears are completely open, the background water noises overwhelm the Duo’s bone-conducting technology. The result is a muffled/faint music sound while swimming. The splashes from swimming are too loud for you to have music blasting in your ears.
A minor problem I had with the Duo occurred while trying to change the volume of the music. It’s not just a button press, it requires you to hold down a button for 3 seconds. If you don’t hold it down for long enough it changes the song. Not a deal breaker, but just a little annoying.
While the Finis Duo is innovative as hell, it just doesn’t work as well as the iPod Shuffle + SwimBuds combo. Unfortunately, there still isn’t a perfect solution for music while swimming, but if I had to choose a technology to improve on, I would design better earbuds that miraculously fit all ear shapes.