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’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.
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.