Gear Review: Waterproof iPod And Swimbuds By Underwater Audio

Every athlete wants to improve. From runners to kayakers and even badminton players, if we share nothing else in common, the drive to get better is what keeps us training and connects us. We all want to see results and, whenever possible, we want to have fun in the process.

When it comes to the benefits of music in exercise, formal research is inconclusive. Yet, even those not convinced of the scientific benefits can see that, at the very least, music makes exercise more enjoyable.

The proof is as close as the nearest fitness center. You'd be hard-pressed to find more than one or two people there without an iPod, headphones and the idea that they have perfect rhythm. But take a trip to the pool and you might not see a single music device.

It's not that waterproof devices aren't available (or waterproof cases for that matter); it's that these products don't have a flawless record. Swimmers aren't going to let a leaky case ruin their device, or shell out money for one that doesn't work. 

The less-than-stellar track record of other "waterproof" devices made us skeptical of Underwater Audio's iPod shuffle. We had to test it out.

Before they send out each iPod Shuffle, Underwater Audio seals it from the inside using a proprietary process. Then they check each iPod by soaking it in water for a minimum of eight hours (usually overnight). Underwater Audio tests the iPods in salt, fresh and chlorinated water and they are waterproof to depths of 200 feet. The Swimbuds are guaranteed only to 10 feet, but other headphones are available for reaching greater depths.

Not convinced, we conducted our own tests. First we took the iPod for a run in the rain. It held up without issue. Next, we tested it in chlorinated water, taking it for a 20-minute swim, which required the use of the Swimbuds. The device worked well, thought initially the headphones were tough to seal. With some maneuvering and Vaseline, which is included in the pack, to help keep the water out, they fitted securely.

For the final experiment, we replicated Underwater Audio's eight-hour test. With the iPod playing music and the headphones plugged in, we then dropped it into a foot of water and let it sit overnight. We had not charged the iPod since the run in the rain, so we expected to find the battery dead, and possibly the device in the same state. When we pulled it out eight hours later, music was still playing from the headphones and the iPod battery somehow still had 25 percent of its power left.

The fact that the device works is the most important part, but what makes this underwater MP3 player stand out from others is the fact that it's an iPod. The company has taken the most successful portable music device on the market and made it available to swimmers, surfers, snorkelers —  anyone who wants to enjoy music under or around water.

It's as simple as synching your playlists and using it like any other iPod. The quality is what you'd expect from Apple; the only discernable difference is that you can feel the flexible waterproof seal when you press the buttons. The waterproof Shuffle comes with Apple headphones, which are not waterproof. But Underwater Audio sells bundles that include waterproof headphones. The waterproof iPod alone is $149; the bundle we tested costs $165.

Waterproof headphones alone sell for $40. They worked well underwater, and the variety of ear bud sizes ensured a good fit. The cord is short, which is suitable for swimming. An optional extension is available for other uses. The sound quality was slightly above average but doesn't compete with out-of-water models.

For more information, or to buy a waterproof iPod or Swimbuds, visit Underwater Audio.