Confession: I’m not much of a swimmer. My participation in the sport is strictly that of an enthusiastic spectator.
Sure, there was a time not so long ago when I’d log several miles a week at the Y. It lasted three months, and then I got bored.
I got bored because I didn’t have music.
Music makes things less boring.
Just ask my spin instructor. He plays music really loud because pedaling for an hour and going nowhere would be really boring otherwise.
But I’ll take up lap swimming again now that I have a waterproof iPod Shuffle from Underwater Audio. The Corvallis, Ore.-based company waterproofs Apple’s nifty digital audio player and repackages it with a pair of earphones that do a swell job of keeping the water out and the music in.
Underwater Audio sent me its Swimbuds Sport Bundle, which includes a fourth-generation iPod Shuffle and earphones with four types of earbud tips. These include…
Trees: Three tiers of rubbery suction cups create a watertight seal in your ears. These are ideal for lap swimming and do a heck of a job canceling out noise.
Fins: Also good for serious swimming, but offer a different fit than the trees.
Ergos: Used for land exercises, these transparent jobbies allow you to hear the most ambient noise, keeping you street safe while you run or ride a bike.
Mushrooms: Designed for normal everyday use.
I found that the trees held up their end of the bargain during a test run, which consisted of 40 minutes of leisurely lap swimming in my own pool. The sound is fine. It’s clear and balanced, not tinny. The bass is there. What more do you want under water? Out of water, the sound quality holds up. I went for a three-mile run with the ergos. They were comfortable. More importantly, they stayed put, making the amphibious Swimbuds a solid choice for the triathlete.
Confession: I totally screwed up the first time putting in the Swimbuds. This particular pair goes in upside down. You know those stiff little stems at the bottom of earbuds that transition to the cord? Inserted properly, they’re supposed to be pointed up. That’s because you’re supposed to tuck the cord on each side of your head under your goggles, helping them stay firmly in your earholes. Like this...
Because I didn’t read the instructions the first time around, water got into my right ear, leaving only the left channel piping tunes into my head.
The cord is considerably shorter than your daily use headphones, making it easy to wind around the band of your goggles where you clip the iPod.
If this sounds like too much headgear for swimming, it’s not. There’s minimal drag. You'll barely notice it’s there.
The verdict: The sound quality is more than reasonable. The in-ear headphones will stay in place even during kickturns, or so I’m told. I can’t do kickturns. (They did, however, withstand a cannonball.) I do have one minor quibble: The buttons on the iPod are a bit stiff – perhaps as a result of being waterproofed – but it’s far from a deal breaker.
Aquatics facilities with well-stocked pro shops or kiosks may want to add more gear for serious swimmers, perhaps to capitalize on the current aqua cross-training craze, might want to consider Underwater Audio. It does exactly what it says on the tin.