Friday, January 29, 2010

Product Review: h2oAudio Capture waterproof case and headphones

As has been previously noted, I'm a big nerd. I geek out at the prospect of new gear coming out, but especially when it's gear I get to use. So you can imagine my disappointment when my first set of h2oAudio  waterproof headphones turned out to be defective. Thankfully, their customer service was terrific, and got me my replacement quickly and without hassle.

So, I received my replacement headset on tuesday, and took the unit to the BU FitRec pool on wednesday night, and again today.

The Capture case is a new waterproof case for the 5th generation iPod Nano. They make cases for the various iPod models, but since I have a Nano, this was the one for me. This new case supports the Nano's built in video camera and enlarged screen. It's made of a completely clear plastic with a strong hinge, and the locking mechanism is foolproof with pictures on the front to differentiate between locked and unlocked. The iPod slides into the opened case, and down onto a built in 3.5mm audio plug. This completely insulates the iPod from the earphone connection.

The waterproof headphones come with 5 extra sets of earplugs providing a range of sizes to fit different sized ears. The headphones use a standard 3.5 audio plug, but have a huge rubber casing protecting the attachment of the jack to the cable. This is used to ensure water can't get in around the headphone connection point. The audio plug connects to the audio jack of the headphone case, located inside a short sleeve at the bottom of the case.

Once i was actually in the water and swimming with the unit, I realized two important things:

  1. The armband that comes with the case doesn't cut it for swimming.  It may work well for smaller users in a running environment, or perhaps for surfing or boating, but certainly not for anyone of a larger build or with a decent amount of bicep muscle mass, as many swimmers do. And in my view, definitely not for swimming.
  2. The ear buds need to be worn with the cord coming behind the back as opposed to in the front. Swimming freestyle or breast stroke with the cords being worn in front, the motions can be strong enough to cause the ear buds to pop out. 
Aside from the waterproof aspect of the Capture, the most important point is of course the sound quality. I found the sound to be superb. Considering all of the technical requirements of building a waterproof system, I wouldn't have been surprised to hear the audio quality take a back seat. Thankfully not only is the audio crisp and clear, but it doesn't seem to distort, even at higher volume. I am not sure the ear buds produce enough bass for my liking, but that will take additional testing to determine. There's no tinny-ness to the sound, and the quality is at least comparable to standard headphones. The only weird thing is that if you don't have the music very loud is that you can hear the sloshing of the water around your head as you swim.

I know that I'm not the only user who has has these issues, as another swimmer (a normal sized guy) came up to me afterwards with his own h2oAudio unit (and here I was thinking I was the coolest guy at the pool), and was asking me about the earplug adjustments and how I was doing with using the unit. He was having specific problems with one earplug not fitting right, and with the fit of the armband. I mentioned getting the various sized earplugs wet, and that I had abandoned the idea of using the armband while swimming, and simply clipped the unit to the waistband on the back of my tri shorts, which worked perfectly for me.

In closing, I have to say the h2oAudio system lived up to what I thought it would, and more really. It took me a couple laps to get used to having it on, because it's a bit different to have headphones in while swimming. After a couple laps, I hardly noticed I had them on, and just enjoyed the music.

Note: I purchased the h2oAudio system reviewed above at a discount through my sponsorship deal with the company. I was under no obligation to review the unit or provide any feedback whatsoever. I do these reviews with the purpose of providing real world experience regarding items triathletes might want to buy.

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