New Toy!

I heard about the waterproof H2O Audio iPod Shuffle holder right around the time I started braving lap swim on my own, but I waited a long time to actually buy it. I didn’t have a newer-generation Shuffle, for one thing — I still had the long, skinny first version that looks like a pregnancy test — and for another, I wasn’t convinced it would actually work. I also didn’t want to become dependent on music for swimming the way I have for running; while I know I’m capable of running without music, making playlists is itself one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m going to have to wean myself off during triathlon training. I didn’t want to start off a new sport with the same crutch.

But then my parents got me a Shuffle for my birthday, and my latest stupid leg thing made me realize that at some point in my athletic life, I will almost certainly do something to myself that requires a significant stretch of swimming and pool-running. Plus, I came into a sizable amount of Amazon credit and the darn thing was (and still is) on sale there anyway. So I bit.

I put it in my hand for scale, but I really should have put my hand next to something for scale. I have tiny hands.

I’ve taken my new toy to the pool twice now — once on Tuesday for what turned out to be a very abbreviated swim (my fault for not checking the water aerobics schedule) and once on Thursday for a more normal 30-minute session. It’s certainly not enough for a proper review, as I have no idea how it’s going to hold up over time, but the two swims gave me a pretty good sense of the pros and cons.

The setup is easy: turn on the Shuffle (and in my case, queue up the playlist, because otherwise it’ll just play songs in order and skip my podcasts — or maybe I just don’t know how to use my Shuffle properly, which is eminently possible), plug it into the jack in the case, close the door with the waterproof seal and make sure it clicks, and hook the case onto your goggle straps. It took me about seventeen seconds to get the earphone cords tangled in my goggle straps, but really, it’s not challenging to get it going. The makers recommend putting the Shuffle in the case and submerging it in a bowl of water before trying it “live” for the first time, but I skipped that step. Living dangerously, that’s me.

I wasn’t expecting much in terms of sound quality, and I did not get much in terms of sound quality. It sounds — oddly enough! — like you’re listening to something under water. Sometimes the sound seemed to be stronger in one ear than the other, and sometimes it got wobbly and far away overall. I tested one song but mostly listened to podcasts — oh! how I have missed podcasts during these weeks of not running — and my gut feeling is that the sound is a bit more forgiving with songs. (Also, apparently listening to things while swimming does not stop my incessant counting. I just count over whatever I’m listening to. Same way I still get thinking done on a run while listening to a podcast, but less useful.)

Based on the reviews, I figured I was signing up to have a terrible time with the earbuds. By default, the device comes with rounded squishy tips, which just do not work for my oddly shaped ears. I’ve tried; it’s a no-go. So I was thrilled to find that there’s also an included pair of “tree” tips, which I also use on my regular earphones.

I'd never heard them called "tree" tips, but it's an apt name.

These were a pain in the ass to get on the earbuds (the opening is smaller and needed to be kind of stretched over the end of the earphones), but it was worth it. They don’t suction into my ears quite as well as my regular pair — the shape of the plastic bubble-y part is a little too large for that — but they’re far better than I expected. I still lost almost all sound a few hundred yards into Thursday’s swim when I knocked one a little loose; what ended up working best was making sure my swim cap was firmly over the plastic parts.

The case doesn’t feel particularly heavy, but it does add weight and probably a bit of drag, and I think I’ll need to loosen my goggles a bit when I swim with it; if I thought I knew goggle eyes before, I had another think coming after Thursday. I could feel the indentations. It was not pretty.

Overall, so far I’d call it a nice novelty. I’m not sure I would have bought it had it not been essentially free, but I’m glad to have it. I don’t plan to swim with it all the time, but it’s also hooked onto my goggles now, so it’s just as easy to use it as not.

And oh man, do I have a lot of Pop Culture Happy Hour to catch up on.

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5 thoughts on “New Toy!

  1. katie says:

    so, I’ve had one of these for about 2 years, and it’s been exchanged under warranty at least 4 times. I love it because I can listen to music while I swim but it just doesn’t seem to hold up longer than a few months. I’m curious to see if yours – a much newer version – holds up any better.

    • kimretta says:

      Mmm, good to know. I almost expect it to crap out at some point, and given that, I was surprised to see it was a one-year warranty — a lot can happen in a year! Glad you’ve been able to get yours replaced, at least, but that sounds annoying.

  2. Dana Swanson says:

    So glad to hear you’re able to get your podcasts in the water!! And thanks so much for the write up! Just a couple suggestions for you based on your review….since you mentioned you skipped the water test, I’m guessing you may have missed the troubleshooting section on what to do if the sound of the headphones is distorted right out of the box…because the headphones are sealed, the small waterproof membrane can sometimes get flexed out of place due to pressure differences during shipping. Playing the headphones at 90% volume for 5 – 10 minutes (obviously don’t wear them while you do this) can help push that membrane back to where it needs to be and drastically improve the sound quality. Also, a nice tip with getting the headphones to stay in (I swim with the exact same set-up you’re rockin….tree tip ear plugs n’ all) is to get the headphones well seated in your ear before you get in the water, while your hands and ears are still dry….you can even reach around your head (think left arm to right ear) and pull slightly up and back on the top outer portion of your ear while you put the ear bud in, then let your ear go. This changes the shape of your ear canal and really get’s that ear bud where it needs to go and creates a nice waterproof seal that will stay put through your entire workout. Getting a new Interval case set-up perfectly for yourself does usually take a few swims, as there’s quite a few personalization options, but once you figure out what works best for you and your ears, it’s amazing!! I routinely swim for just over an hour, with fins, doing sprints, butterfly, you name it! And I’ve never had an ear bud fall out while swimming….so hopefully some of these tips will help!!

    Best,
    Dana
    H2O Audio

    • kimra says:

      Thanks, Dana! The sound was actually pretty good out of the box so I did totally skip that troubleshooting section — it only got wonky on my second swim. I’ll try the 90% volume trick and see if that takes care of it.

      I really have to say thanks for including the tree tips — they weren’t in any of the pictures I saw of the included options, so I wasn’t expecting them, and they were a great surprise.

  3. Kelly says:

    that’s pretty awesome! I swam for an hour this morning and was very much wishing I had some sort of music situation going on. It can get so boring! Funny because I never listen to music while running and love it.

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