MP3 players have dramatically increased in popularity over the past few years, as there has been an increase in the number of customized MP3 players aimed at niche markets. I’ll today review the Finis SwiMP3v2 player, an innovative, waterproof MP3 player that can be attached to a pair of swim goggles or snorkels.
The original SwiMP3 had more than 35,000 owners, and Finis immediately began work on the second generation player, seeing the demand for an upgraded version. Furthermore, the original SwiMP3 had a few issues that needed to be ironed out, which the company has been able to do in the second version of the device.
This is the second-generation SwiMP3 player, which offers a slimmed down style and improved functionality. Today CDFreaks will take a look at the device, noting all of the great things and lackluster issues that we discovered during testing. (As an aside, I feel I need to mention that despite my calling it the SwiMP3 throughout the review, I am referring to the SwiMP3v2.)
Finis is well known in the swim community as a manufacturer of clothing, goggles, and other swim products. I’m not surprised the company decided to release an MP3 player designed for swimmers, because most waterproof MP3 players still have disappointing sound quality.
Similar to running and cycling, swimming is based on a constant swim tempo — and listening to music while swimming could be helpful, if the sound is good and it’s somewhat easy to use. The device itself supports drag-and-drop of MP3 and WMA files directly on to the device, with no need for software installation.
The SwiMP3, available from Finis with an MSRP of $149.99, has custom engineering so it uses bone conduction to eliminate the need for headphones or ear buds. Normal air conduction is routinely muffled while swimming.
If you’re looking for a device that is easy to use, then the SwiMP3 definitely isn’t for you. I like to consider myself a somewhat tech-savvy guy, but it took me 25 minutes of tinkering, and I I struggled so much that I actually had to read the instructions. After I was more comfortable with the controls, I was then able to control the MP3 player a bit more easily.
The physical design of the MP3 player is interesting, with two plastic earpieces that are connected to a cord wrapped behind the head. The right ear piece serves as the main controls for the MP3 player, with four basic buttons: Power, volume up/down button, forward/backward button, and a stop button.
The ear pieces can be easily removed and placed on a different pair of swim goggles or snorkels — as most swimmers have a select few pairs of swim goggles they like to use, it was nice Finis didn’t try and make the SwiMP3 a proprietary product for just Finis swim goggles.
After the device has been figured out, adding additional music is simple — just drag and drop files — and you should be good to go. The SwiMP3 has such a low storage capacity, and I’m somewhat disappointed Finis could add additional storage space.
The device has controls built directly into an integrated MP3 panel that offers an on/off switch, volume button, next/previous track search, shuffle functions, and pause. I didn’t notice it when out of the water, but while swimming, it unfortunately becomes obvious that the volume button shares the same button as the next/previous track button — changing the volume or browsing through songs proved to be extremely precarious.
It’s possible to accidentally turn off the MP3 player while trying to raise the volume, a problem I ran into several times in the water. I would have liked if the power button was a bit larger, so I wouldn’t have managed to turn it off randomly.
The first-generation SwiMP3 didn’t have WMA support, volume, shuffle, or resume buttons, which the new model does. Make use of these functions, even though they may be difficult to learn, they are absolutely vital.
Based on bone conduction — with sound vibrating directly into the inner ear — instead of air conduction, which is what a waterproof MP3 player would do, bone conduction provides much clearer sound. Finis provided an informational packet showing research and evidence indicating bone conduction is a “safe, well-established hearing mechanism in humans.”
In the pool while swimming, the SwiMP3 sound quality is impressive, and you can instantly tell there is a unique sound quality. I strongly recommend setting the volume before jumping into the pool, because it can be difficult to figure out in the water.
Outside of the water, I’d strongly recommend against listening to SwiMP3, as the sound quality is rather atrocious. When out of the water, people around you will likely be able to hear whatever you’re listening to. Once you jump into the pool and go under water, however, anyone swimming laps in the lanes next to you will be unable to hear your music.
Oddly enough, the SwiMP3 doesn’t float, so make sure the earpieces are securely attached to your goggles, or they might end up at the bottom of the pool.
The MP3 player has just 256MB of storage, and ships with 60 songs. As mentioned previously, the MSRP of the SwiMP3 is $149.99, though it can likely be found for a lower price online. I know a few of you will be shocked by the price of the unit, but it’s a price worth paying for anyone who wants to listen to music while swimming.
Despite several minor inconveniences, the Finis SwiMP3 is something I’ll definitely use again in the future. It took a bit of getting used to, especially trying to work the controls without accidentally pressing buttons, but it turned out to be a fairly pleasurable experience.
Anyone who is looking to swim laps or just play in the pool should look into the SwiMP3 unit from Finis. It’s a bit pricey considering the included storage capacity, but there are so few waterproof MP3 players — or devices that actually sound good under water — so Finis has the ability to charge what it wants.
Overall, it was a frustrating, yet beneficial experience learning how to use the SwiMP3 player.