Swimming is a great sport, but up and down, up and down the length of the pool can be dull. No music, no sounds of the world, just the rush of water passing your ears and the occasional announcement over the Tannoy.
The Finis SwimMP3 (yes awful name we know) aims to change all that. It is a waterproof MP3 system that allows you to listen to your favourite tracks in the pool without getting your usual MP3 player (read iPod) wet and damaged.
The system is a fairly simple affair, lacking in any real concept of stylish design, that attaches to your goggles. Rather than come with earphones that you stick in your ears, the system works via bone conduction.
It's a goofy approach, but one that actually works. You basically place the SwiMP3 so that its large pads are over your temples, leaving your ears free to hear the lifeguard's whistle, but also so you don't have anything messing with your ears - which can be uncomfortable and potentially unbalance you in the water.
Controls are found on the device itself, and you'll get play, fast forward, rewind and volume controls. To save on space, the volume and skip buttons are on the same button, which can mean that you skip track when all you wanted to do was turn the volume up, but for the most part it is easy to master.
With 256MB of storage this isn't going to hold your whole collection, but then I would be surprised if you can swim for that long. 256MB will give you around 60 songs. That's more than enough for a good hour swim (around 2 miles if you are good) so the small storage for us isn't an issue.
Transferring songs to the device is as easy as plugging it in and dragging and dropping the tracks over. Built into the system is a USB dongle and that lets you access the drive via the usual methods. There is no iTunes support thanks to a recent change to iTunes via the 8.2.1 update, although older iTunes versions shouldn't have a problem.
Once you're turned on and set-up from a comfort point of view you'll forget you've got the SwiMP3 on. Because it avoids your ears there is nothing to fall out or become uncomfortable.
We would have forgotten about it completely if it wasn't for the constant stares from other swimmers. This isn't a device you should wear if you don't like people smirking at you.
Of course bombing up and down the lanes you won't care what the slow coaches think, you'll care what it sounds like and after some time in the pool (the things we do for you…) we can report back that it's a very strange, but enjoyable experience.
Sound wise, we found it worked better underwater than on top. If you are a breast stoker who doesn't like to get their hair wet this is really isn't for you, however for real swimmers, the SwiMP3 sounded better once we got moving.
The sound, considering it's not in your ears and you are underwater is very good. It's not going to be the best audio you've ever heard, but then you are underwater, and frankly that's not the point. The point is all about making your 30-minute swim more enjoyable be it listening to music, an audiobook, or podcast.
There is also the motivational aspect to this too - swimming to The Prodigy is an awesome, but tiring, experience we've found. Perhaps we need to consider a playlist that more closely reflects our stroke rate in the water?
If your session down the pool is starting to get a little dull, this will certainly liven it up.
The SwiMP3 isn't the most beautifully designed product in the world, nor is it the most stylish, however it achieves what it sets out to do - let you listen to music underwater.
For that reason if you are a bored regular swimmer, this is a must.