My new H20 Audio Interval and iPod Shuffle

Today I was in Target and I was surprised to see a small display with H20 Audio products. They had their headphones, cases that attach to goggle straps, and arm bands. I’ve always wanted to try out some of the latest generation waterproof music devices but I’m highly skeptical of how well they work. A long time ago I had a late 90′s Speedo brand waterproof radio that was a total hunk of crap that kind of soured me to the whole idea. Anyways… I saw their display and my impulsive nature started to kick in, I decided that this would be a belated birthday present to myself. The H2O Audio Interval itself is $79.99, not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but much less than a lot of the other aquatic MP3 players… The catch is that it does not come with the MP3 player! It’s just a waterproof case with integrated headphones, you need to supply your own 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle. At the moment you can pick up a Shuffle for under $50, I got mine for $48.79. So total price was $128.78 plus tax which is about par for the course when you compare it to other systems.


The Interval System


Inside view


With iPod installed

When I got home I opened everything up and read all the directions. I didn’t want to make a dumb mistake that cost me an iPod, even a cheap one! The Interval’s directions recommend doing a soak test to make sure the unit works before you insert the iPod. So I got a small container and filled it with water and left the Interval in there while I loaded up the iPod. I made sure to hold the Interval underwater for a while (it floats) and play with all the buttons. After about 30 minutes of messing around with iTunes I took the Interval out of the water. After drying off the case I opened it up. Totally dry. No leaks. Now that I knew it actually worked it was time to take it to the pool.


soak test

At the pool I got the unit strapped to my goggles (TYR Socket Rockets with a regular flat rubber strap) which was pretty easy. I did have to tighten up my straps quite a bit however to ensure the Interval wouldn’t drag my goggles right off my head. The buttons on the back of the unit are very easy to manipulate, I got the music playing, and jumped in the pool hoping for the best. I hit the water without incident. Everything was working and the music was pumping. Phew!

I wanted to swim all strokes at a variety of speeds. Although the Interval didn’t hold perfectly still it did hold up just fine to flip turns, butterfly and anything else I could think of. It did tend to move down the back of my head to a lower position that I usually wear my straps, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Midway through I switched to a pair of goggles with a silicone strap and the unit still drifted downward a little bit but held much better than my plain rubber strap did.

The sound quality was far beyond my expectations. The headphones make a really solid seal with your ear canal and the sound is very clear. Obviously it’s not as good as what you’d have on dry land, but it’s not bad at all. The only downside I found to the headphones is that you can’t really hear anything else. Even if you turn off the music it would still be a struggle to hear someone talking to you, but I bought this for the days that I work out by myself so that’s not really a problem.

Another major bonus for the Interval is that since it uses an iPod it is iTunes compatible. No messing around with other software or changing file formats required! In online reviews of other waterproof MP3 players I’ve seen compatability issues to be a major gripe.


rear view on my goggle strap


Side View on my goggles

Overall I dig the H2O Audio Interval. Honestly I didn’t think I would, but it really surprised me with how well it worked. It’s not perfect, but it is very good. I wish it weren’t as bulky, but the newest iPod Shuffle is much smaller so if they develop a case for that I think it will be awesome. Longevity is another matter all together. I’m totally stoked with it on day one, we’ll see how long it really lasts. If I have a major failure I’ll make sure to update my review with it, but the design is so simple I don’t really see any problems in the near future.

You can get your hands on the H20 Interval in person at Target like I did or you can order it online.

**UPDATE 17JUN09: I came up with a fix for holding the unit in place. A latex swim cap does wonders. Read more

**UPDATE 18AUG09: I have been having problems with one of the earbuds staying in place. When they are firmly in the ear they sound pretty good, when the seal is broken… not so much. I’m experimenting with some different sized ear pieces to see if I can get this problem fixed.

7 Responses to “H2O Audio Interval Waterproof iPod System Review”

  1. the17thman says:

    Hmm….it would be interesting if not impossible to make this for the latest shuffle. The controller is built into the headphone set. Plus I don't know how I feel about wearing the big pouch on the back of my head. Just seems odd.

  2. Rob D says:

    It is weird to strap a little plastic box to the back of your head, but it's not as awkward as you would expect. Totally beats trying to swim with an armband mp3 protector anyways.

    The thing I want to figure out is how to attach the Interval with a magnetic strip like you talked about in your post about Michael Phelps becoming a sponsor.

    I'm curious to see if they can come up with a way to deal with the newest shuffle. I would much prefer to swim with a device that size.

  3. Jim says:

    I've also had problems with the box moving around on my goggle strap. You are also right about the just OK sound quality, but I've had problems with the earbuds staying in my ears with fliptuns and laps full out. I've also used the Swimman waterproof iPod Shuffle and headset. The difference is amazing! US Masters Swimming http://www.usms.org has good discussion of Swimman vs H2O. Rob, check out Swimman stuff at http://www.swimman.com See if they will give you one to try out!

  4. Rob D says:

    Jim – I'm still trying to figure out the smartest way to keep it steady… maybe I just need to wear scuba goggles with the fat strap on the back :) I'm also thinking that I might be able to just wear a latex cap over the top, not sure if that would mash the buttons or be really uncomfortable though. I've been curious about the Swimman as well but the H20 Audio device won out because it caught me in a Target where my impulse purchase defenses are at their weakest… I'd like to get my hands on a Swimman at some point, but I'm not about to buy another waterproof MP3 device just yet.

  5. Ross says:

    I could not agree more with Jim, the H2o I have tried out and the ear buds just simply do not work. Lets be realistic it fits only in your ear and so with any drag or bump it falls out…also I had a lot of problems with water getting in the ear canal if they do happen to come off in the water.
    The Swimman headset is much better I feel because it connects to the goggle strap putting the drag on a something that can handle being bumped. Also the Swimman headset has much better ear buds that are soft and fit into the ear perfectly and they even have a smaller size ear bud!
    My buddy was telling me he found the Swimman and headset for a little cheaper than the actual swimman.com website…..www.H2omymusic.com
    -Best!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have some experience with both the H2o and the Swimman. Swimman is a perfect device. The earbuds are flanged just like an ear plug, so they completely seal out the water, and they stay in place. I clip the waterproof iPod to the back of my swimsuit. I found that clipping the earbud cord to my google strap (as they suggest) put pressure on the side of my ear and it hurt after awhile. So I just let them hang and they stay in place just fine. It's a great product when you just want to get in the pool and do endless laps.

  7. Dana says:

    Hey Rob,
    Came across your blog today after seeing one of your tweets. We’ve released two new generations of the Interval since the one you tried. It’s now smaller and has a couple of different improvements. We also offer an additional 9 sizes of ear tips in our Pro Fit Kit. I started working for this company because of my love of the Interval case, and I can honestly say that this is absolutely the best swim product we’ve made yet! Let us know if you want to check it out.

    Happy swimming!
    Dana
    dana@h2oaudio.com