One of the common complaints in swimming laps is boredom. Lavod hope to make that a thing of the past with their MusicTube, a waterproof MP3 player. Certified to IPx8 standard, it will be waterproof for up to 2 hours in 2 meters of water.
The MP3 player itself is a compact metal tube 62mm long with a diameter of 19mm. One end features a short cable with a waterproof 3.5mm jack, and the other end is the home to the controls. Controls are basic, giving you power, play/pause, track skip and volume adjustment.
The controls are adequate for this device type whilst exercising, but not very well conceived. There are four buttons on that 19mm diameter round base, which means they are all very small. You can just about skip tracks whilst running, but anything else and you really need to stop.
Those controls are also a little quirky with annoying fades between actions, so changing tracks fades down before starting the next and the same happens with pause – we’d much prefer pause to be an instant stop, in case you need to listen to something. Volume adjustment is also a long press on the track skip buttons, which can be a little too fiddly.
You get two sets of headphones with the MP3 player, one regular set and the waterproof set. The headphones plug straight into the 3.5mm waterproof dongle on the player, so you can choose whichever suits your current requirements. The regular headphones are the lanyard variety so worn around the neck, with the earbuds then plugging into your ears.
Unfortunately these headphones are fraught with problems. The lanyard is short, so once connected to the player, you can’t do anything with it, it has to hang around your neck – you’d struggle even to get it into a top pocket. The earbuds are also really large and hard and we found them to be extremely uncomfortable. As a result of the ill fit, the sound quality suffers, there is little in the way of external noise isolation so overall the experience is poor. Of course, for normal use, you could just plug in your own headphones and use them instead.
But if you are buying a waterproof MP3 player, you will probably be more interested in the waterproof headphones. These are better conceived, giving you an in-ear type headphone with a selection of three different sized rubbers to get a proper fit. These are partnered with plastic over-ear supports on the cables, so when all is fitted, it feels nice and secure. Fitting takes some fiddling around to get it right, but the result is pretty good.
The waterproof headphones have a longer cable on them giving you the freedom of movement to get involved with whatever activity you choose, from swimming to running. The sound quality is not very good from these headphones – not that you’d notice if you are going to be swimming – but they fail alongside the Sennheiser sports range, which would also suit runners, but perhaps not those going totally submerged.
Using your own headphones increases the quality a fair amount but also reveals some of the other flaws in the player. There is a good deal of background noise that comes from the player, plenty of chirping and hissing as it goes about its business, so as a standalone player, this model falls short of the mark from a quality point of view.
To support your sporting ambitions you also get an orange neoprene armband, into which the MP3 player slides. You can also arrange for the cables to be supported by the armband, with various loop-through options and a flap that you can use to secure the headphone when not in use. We like this type of armband because of the natural stretch that the material has, meaning it is good for using during exercise. Unfortunately it seems a little small and even with the Velcro adjustment, we had it on the biggest size, so if you are packing plenty of muscle, or fat, on your arms, then this might not work for you.
As a sealed unit, charging the MP3 player takes place through the 3.5mm jack via USB. No wall charger is supplied, so you’ll be using the USB on your PC, at the same time as you load the player up with music. Battery life needs to be topped up too, as we found that the player would slowly drain the battery when not in use – so worth charging the day before you head out swimming. At 4GB it will take a fair number of tracks, enough to keep you swimming for some time, but with no screen, you are basically limited to jumping through and ensuring it contains a suitable playlist for your chosen activity. It supports MP3 and WMA.
We strapped on the Lavod MusicTube and headed down to the local pool to test it out as a swimming device. First of all, you might find that the lifeguards stop you in your tracks. We asked the lifeguards what they thought and the response was a concern that the swimmer would not be aware of their surroundings, or be able to hear safety announcements or instructions. This is certainly true, just as it is with riding a bike, your awareness of your surroundings is reduced. In a pool this might be okay, but in open water, such as at the beach, you’ll want to be aware of surfers or boats sharing your swimming area.
The experience is somewhat bizarre, but works better than we first expected. So long as you have the fitting right, then you can listen perfectly happily whilst you swim. It is best to ensure they are fitted well before you get in the water as any water that gets trapped between the headphone and your ear drum will just slosh around and dull the music.
But you don’t have to use it whilst swimming, it could be used for any sport where you are likely to get wet, or even just in the shower if you are that way inclined.
Thank you to Maplin for the loan of this product.