Note: this is a guest-written review from Gitamba Saila-Ngita, I felt I didn’t spend enough time using MP3 players myself (not to mention any athletic activities whatsoever) to do an adequate review of the product.
These days the iPod™ is ubiquitous, even to the extent that the term “iPod” has become synonymous with MP3 Player but, it might not be the only game in town! There are other options–especially when you want to take your music to… the extreme!
I recently had the opportunity to check out Freestyle Audio’s SoundWave. Their slogan, “Take Your Music There”, which is coupled with lifestyle images of the outdoors, and instantly got me wondering whether this little 2″x3″ device could withstand the wear and tear of mother nature. The SoundWave comes with everything you need to get started right out of the box; such as waterproof headphones, a replacement belt clip, USB™ transfer cable, arm band, and my personal favorite, 50 free music downloads from the eMusic service (Apple please take note).
The device also comes with a slew of pre-installed tunes which allows you to take it for a spin as soon as you’re ready. It can hold 2GB of music via internal storage (no SD slots to expand it), and packs a substantial 18 hour playback time.
Getting started was fairly quick and rather painless. After I set up my eMusic account, I uploaded some music onto the device before taking it out for a swim. One major difference between SoundWave and the iPod is that the SoundWave has no official software interface to your computer. This may not be a “make or break” deal for all MP3 Player users, but whether it be iTunes or Windows Media Player, it is definitely a convenience to have something that plays well with not only your music but your gadgets too.
Now before I go further, I’m always rather skeptical of any waterproofed electronic, ESPECIALLY something like an MP3 player. Usually the “waterproofing” is inadequate, or you sacrifice size to put your device into something as massive as an Otterbox. In some cases you could be like our friend David Spieser who had his iPod™ Shuffle “Waterproofed” for a pretty penny.
Once in the water, things got kind of dicey. The SoundWave features six buttons, each with multiple functions that are displayed on simple and very tiny digital screen. I found the buttons very difficult to press. This may be partly due to the waterproofing, but it definitely made skipping through songs mid-swim a challenge. There is also a 5 second fade out when you skip, so trying to get to that next song to pump up your work out gets really annoying very quickly. I recommend setting up a play list, or enabling the shuffle function to make your work out as fluid as possible (On a side note, for some reason even with correct IDV3 tag encoding all my songs, no matter where I put them, displayed as gibberish – I am still trying to figure out why that happened). I swam for about an hour and also submerged the device up to its maximum depth of 10 feet.
To my surprise, the device showed absolutely no signs of taking on water. The waterproof earphones held up great too, although I wish they were slightly more comfortable (it uses a standard headphone jack so I imagine you could find something waterproof that suits you). The sound quality both under water and above is not bad. The little guy also supports the WOW audio codec and multiple types of EQ to help tailor the experience to your liking.
All around, the Free Style Audio’s SoundWave can take the beating you dish out while getting your sweat(or swim!) on. I recommend this to people who’ve been looking to bring a tough and rugged portable music player with them on active outings, where you won’t need to worry if it can take on a variety of physical and active elements.