Jan 08 2005
First off it looks quite strange, you get lots of looks whilst swimming. If you like to chat to people then it’s a good ice breaker!
It has 128MB of memory, which is reasonable for music, if you set it to random then most people won’t get bored even if they swim every day. If like me you listen to talk shows, conferences etc then 128MB is more than enough, in fact the way I use it I tend to load it up with just 2 * 30 minute MP3 files, less than 30MB, why 2, just in case I don’t fancy the the content of the first one and need an alternative. Each day I just delete the talks I have listened to and download another.
My main source of talks right now is IT Conversations
I find that lots of the things I want to listen to are too long for my swims, so I split them into 20-30 minute sessions depending on how long I want to swim that day. I use Cool MP3 Splitter for this.
With a couple of clicks, and in a couple of seconds, you go from:
Open Source Code – Managing the Opportunity.mp3
Open Source Code – Managing the Opportunity-001.mp3
Open Source Code – Managing the Opportunity-002.mp3
Open Source Code – Managing the Opportunity-003.mp3
Open Source Code – Managing the Opportunity-004.mp3
So how does this thing work. Well you wear it just like a pair of goggles, it comes with goggles, but you can fit it to your own. The MP3 player itself is at the back of your head and its easy to reach and locate the controls. Two pads rest on your cheek bones and the vibrations reach your ear through the vibration in the cheek bones. The quality is OK, not fantastic. Even with ear plugs you can still hear the splashing of the water as you swim, especially with front crawl or butterfly. But set of max volume I find I can follow 95% of a well recorded talk and music of course especially rock, is no problem. I have found that if the speaker is quiet, or the recording is not very clear then its a bit of a struggle to make out very word, (and there is no way to got back if you miss a bit). Another quirk is that the volume is higher when your head is under water, so if you are doing breaststroke you need to get used to the fact that with each stroke there is a slight volume variation as your head rises and falls.
The MP3 player functions themselves are VERY basic. On, off, pause, random, next track, previous track. If you listen to music thats not too bad but if you listen to a 30 minute talk, then basically you can start it and stop it but that’s it. You also need to take care with pause – which is achieved by pressing next and previous track buttons together – because a few times I have failed to pause and instead done a next/previous. This means you have to listen to say 15 minutes of talk all over again as their is no fast forward!
The battery life is claimed to be 4 hours and it charges through the USB connection, not many people will find this a limitation! There is some PC software with the player, Music Match, but I have not tried it yet (and don’t expect to). The player just appears as a Drive in explorer and I drag and drop files to it. The USB cable is yet another unique type to add to my collection – sigh!
It only supports MP3 format, which is a bit of a pain if you have all of your music in WMA as I do, but there are plenty of batch converters around and with Windows Media Player 10 you can switch the default to MP3. Note if you use Windows 2003 Server like me you have to wait for SP1 to get Windows Media Player v10!
There is no display on the device, so you have to find the track you want using next and previous, and no concept of playlists etc. For music I device my mood then just download a folder of songs for the day and set to random. For talks as I said before I just download 2 maybe three so next and previous navigation is no problem.
Although the manufacturers claim ear plugs are optional, I don’t agree, unless you have your own silent pool and swim breast stroke only then its unlikely you will be happy with the level of background noise. I tried the molded plugs that were supplied with the player first, they fitted really snugly, but I found they leaked slightly but suppressed the sound well. Then I tried foam plugs and these were leak-proof and suppressed the sound just as well so I use these now. One set lasts about 20 swims if you dry them off on your towel each time and leave them for a couple of days to dry. Just a tip – buy them off the Internet in bulk, not two a a time from the Chemist, they are about 50 times cheaper!
Overall summary – very expensive – but in my case it has resulted in me swimming longer, more regularly and being more productive. I think it payed back in about a month!