Product Review: H2o Audio Interval Headphone System

This is the first of what we hope to be many swim-related product reviews. If you want a product reviewed, please leave us a comment!

Product: H2o Audio Interval Headphone System for iPod Shuffle 2G (also made for 3G)

A new year’s resolution of mine is to do at least one long (which I’m defining as 2+ hour) swim each weekend, so to garner motivation, I gave myself an H2o Audio waterproof 2G iPod Shuffle headphone system as a Christmas gift, courtesy of my longtime-accumulating AmEx points. I spent 50 minutes trying it out today, and I’m sure glad I did. Though I was pleased with the system, I encountered several surprises, which I’ll discuss below.

Earphones

The kit includes five sets of earbuds, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them not fitting. I fit the earbuds to my ears before hitting the pool, and left the rest at home so I wouldn’t lose them. This turned out to be a mistake. The manual says, “Some users may find it preferable to use different size earplugs for each ear,” and I concur. The left earbud stayed in without discomfort almost the entire 50 minutes, but the right earbud kept falling out. I guess my ear openings are different sizes! Putting my cap over the earbud helped at first, but eventually jammed the earbud farther in my ear canal, and then I couldn’t hear anything.

The manual also states: “Larger size earplugs may be preferable during active or in-water use as they may offer more contact with the ear and may improve the watertight seal.”

Bottom line: Bring all of the earbuds with you during its first use, because earbuds may fit you differently when underwater. The system comes with a nifty little (waterproof) case that’s plenty big enough for the housing and all 10 earbuds.

Placement

The unit has two clips on its backside, which rest over the goggle straps. The manual shows a photo of the unit placed in the center of the head. The plastic adjuster clip on my Speedo Women’s Vanquisher goggles also lies directly behind the center of my head, so I tried placing the unit to the side of the clip.  Unfortunately, the wires connected to the earbuds turned out to be too short for this to work successfully. Perhaps the short wires minimize the risk of getting them caught on something. But if the unit was not resting directly in the center of my goggle strap behind my head, one wire would become too taut, causing its earbud to fall out of my ear.

After I moved the goggle-adjuster clip to one side of the goggle strap, I slid the unit to the middle of my head. The earbuds stayed in place, though the end of the strap poked my temple at first, so it took some tweaking to get it right.

I don’t know how the wires would be long enough to fit a person with a large head, though.

Sound

The sound quality was excellent. The instructions recommend playing the iPod inside the case for 30 minutes before using it in the water (to eliminate a vacuum that may have formed during shipment), which I did. Upon my very first use of the unit, before the 30-minute play, the sound was crystal clear — but I wasn’t underwater.

Use

I used the set while swimming freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. When I pushed off the wall rather forcefully, particularly in backstroke, it would slide down. Maybe I have an odd-shaped head, but tightening the goggles seemed to help. Unfortunately, I was near the end of my workout when I realized this, so I’ll have to test this hypothesis some other time.

The buttons on the case mapped directly to my iPod. I found they worked well, though I had to press the buttons much harder than without the case. I’m not sure if this was due to the case being brand new, or because the stems behind the buttons had a long way to poke. Once I got used to this, it wasn’t a big deal.

Was I worried about my iPod getting wet?

Not really. The case contains a removable silicone seal, which protects the iPod from the water, and I made sure the case was sealed tightly without any silicone hanging out before using it. All the raving Amazon and Apple Store reviews also helped me put my faith in this product.

The instructions strongly suggest submerging the case sans iPod in a glass of water for 30 minutes, then opening it up to check for water. Because I was too eager to get my unit to the pool and try it out, I didn’t do this. If for nothing else besides peace of mind, I’d highly recommend the test before putting your iPod inside.

My iPod didn’t get wet. I didn’t open the case until it was completely dry and I was far away from the pool, and my iPod emerged unscathed.

Warranty

Registering my product doubled my warranty to two years, so I’d say that’s a good deal. The warranty covers material and workmanship defects — so if you forget to close your case (which I’d say is really hard to do) before you swim, you’re out of luck.

If you’ve purchased one of these, I’d recommend a trial swim for experimentation before plunging ahead into using it on a long swim. I wouldn’t use this while swimming with a group for similar reasons to why I wouldn’t recommend cycling with headphones. All in all, it was neat to swim with music. Next time, I’ll have to work on (and post) my playlist.

Do you use waterproof housing for your mp3 player or own another type of underwater mp3 player? What has been your experience? Please leave your opinions in the comments.

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8 responses to “Product Review: H2o Audio Interval Headphone System

  1. I got an H2O Audio Capture Case for my ipod Nano for Christmas, and strapped that to my arm on my weekend swim…it’s a bit bulky to be on your arm while swimming, but the cool thing is it has video! So I was able to take some video of myself swimming and check out my stroke. Then once I was done filming, I went back to rocking out. It’s a pretty cool lil’ toy….

  2. That’s neat! How do you angle the case? Can you capture your full stroke/range of motion on the other arm?

    • I did a couple things…I clipped it to one of my swim fins and sunk it to the bottom of the pool (it floats on it’s own, which is good so you don’t lose it…) so I could swim over it. Then I also wrapped the headphone cord around my water bottle so the case hung down over the + on the side of the pool…that worked out great! I could see my stroke going away and coming back towards it.

  3. I have been using the new Interval system (3g?) for the new generation of shuffle and I’m pretty happy with it. Having tunes in the pool is AWESOME. I have only been swimming for 2.5 months and I dont know if I could swim as much as I have been without the Interval (10+ sessions/week). I do have a few complaints about it, but the checks in the “plus column” far outweigh the checks in the “minus column”. I’ve had my Interval since early November and as soon as I got it I did the recommended 30 min play to equalize the headphones, and that seemed to work to even out the sound level balance between the two headphones. But I had issues with the left headphone a few weeks later, and eventually the left headphone died completely. I sent the unit back to H2O Audio right after new years and they have received it, tested my issue and are sending me a replacement. As it is with all manufactured goods, not every single piece is perfect. Im sure they have a strong QA department in china where the product is produced but sometimes sub grade items slip through even the best testing procedures. I know, I’ve managed QA departments. They sent out my replacement on Jan 11 2010, and I hope to have it back in the coming week, but seeing as I am in British Columbia Canada, it may take a little longer with customs and all.
    Their Industrial Design guys should take a look at the slots your goggle straps are supposed to go through, there are some really sharp points which snag on the rubber goggle straps. These should have larger radiused fillets but seeing as the mold is already made I doubt this will ever be changed. They could build an insert for the mold but that’ll cost money. If your strap catches on the sharp point there is a chance you could break off the plastic goggle strap attachment arm. Another design feature that would be a welcome addition would be an interlock on the door so that the controls only work if the door has a positive seal. I know someone who fried a brand new shuffle because the door wasn’t fully closed. They had opened the case and not fully closed it. An interlock would ensure this never happens by locking out the ipod from playing if there isn’t a positive connection when the door is closed. A pretty simple circuit (although it may be cost prohibitive). My last issue is with the earbuds, specifically the way they fit. I’ve tried all the different sized buds, but I cant seem to keep them in my ears for the whole hour in the pool. And once they slip out, and water either gets in your ear or in the headphone, sound quality goes downhill. I mean, you can turn the volume up and still hear the music, but you lose all the bass response. Im sure with some more human factors/ergonomic research, they could tackle this problem for the 5th generation of shuffle that Im sure will come out in a few years. Finally, the case design is a little bulky when you consider the size of the shuffle. If they went away from a big hinged door and towards a design where you slipped the shuffle in to a pocket that ran the length of the shuffle and then a cap on the end, they could drastically reduce the case size. (Hey H2O Audio, if you’re reading this, get a hold of me, I’ve got some sketches for you guys). But, those few things aside, it’s a wicked product that motivates you in the pool.

  4. You can get in touch with H2o Audio on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/h2oaudio and if you send them a direct message, you’ll get a 25% off code!

  5. i just received my h2o case with the earphones tested the case in the sink everything was dry inside and the next day i went sea-dooing was working great until it got wet. the case was about a quarter full and surprise no more music i dont know if its a faulty case or what loved the idea of tunes while riding i guess ya cant do everything with them

  6. I received the 2G version as a gift last year and loved it at first. After a few weeks one earphone stopped working. Since I don’t have a receipt I am out of luck. After doing a little research it’s a common problem with this company. Both the earphone going dead and lousy customer service. You have to do some digging to find the reviews because H2O will not allow negative reviews on the website – shocking right. Bottom line, I’ve been swimming all my life and I can say these two things with all certainty – 1. Having music to listen while working out will make the time fly and increase your yardage: 2. Don’t buy from H2O Audio – there’s other companies out there that make a similar product. Check out the reviews and buy from someone else.

  7. Hi Dennis, i took have a H2O, one earphone stopped working….and then the other….now im without music…..
    You mention there are other companies….any you recommend?

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