MP3 PLAYEROceanic H2O Audio
Rebreather divers, are you tired of silent diving Trimix divers, are you bored with doing long stops Groovy divers, do you find the rhythm of the reef just too repetitive and crave something less subtle You need the H2O Audio MP3 player! Its designed to work under water, and is rated to 66m.
     Now there would seem little point in reviewing a normal MP3 player - this is not a hi-fi magazine. But to my knowledge this is the only model that will be suitable for use by divers.
     Suffice to say that you download 128Mb of music via your PC or Mac (64Mb to 512Mb versions available), then you navigate through the menu of the LCD to play the tracks of your choice.
     The only thing that those familiar with MP3 players need to know is that the underwater headphones are powered by a separate 9V battery and operated by an additional on/off switch. The indicator light for this is unmistakably bright.
     You can also press the menu button and then navigate your way around using left-right and up-down buttons. You need to learn the idiosyncrasies of short and long pushes to get the full benefits of all the options.
     Learn to use the MP3 player before you take it under water. It is also an FM receiver but that does not apply to this application unless you have an aerial on your SMB and a very long wire!
     The earpieces or headphones fit to your mask strap and the music is heard extremely clearly, though it has a lot more treble than is nice if you use them in air. Thats clearly because the treble gets filtered a little by vibrations through water.
     The MP3 player and its speaker amplifier module fit into a handy Plexiglas housing which shuts onto a big gasket and is held shut by a secure cam-catch that locks in place. The through-housing controls allow access to most of the controls of the MP3 player, but basically you will want to be able to select a track, play it and control the volume. The volume control is pushed to get incremental adjustments. Otherwise there are too many options that make it challenging for a diver at depth.
     The unit can be clipped to a BC D-ring or hidden away in a BC pocket, although I recommend clipping it to an internal D-ring in the latter case.
     So whats it like to use under water Well, first the music you download is very important. It should be both to your taste and conducive to good diving. I was limited to the selection that had been downloaded by the diver who got his hands on the unit before me.
     I found that, whether it was Jimi Hendrix, Blur or Blondie, the music was quite distracting for someone hunting good shots with a camera and gas-switching during the dive. It simply added enormously to the task-loading. It was better suited to motorway-driving, the type of music that helps you lose your licence.
     Bopping along at less than 9m, rather than simply bobbing along as I would normally do, gently off-gassing, I found myself getting so into the music that I stopped looking at what I had come to see. So for me it was not a great success.
     Music for me is something to enjoy between dives rather than during one, though I admit that this innovation would be perfect when making long hangs on a deco-bar.
     Grant Searancke, one of the dive-guides from my. Hurricane, used it while diving with his rebreather. He too found it very distracting. Later, he told me that he became paranoid about his handset displays and kept checking them every 30 seconds, because he was sure he would never hear a warning buzzer. On the other hand, I had trouble getting Simon, the videographer from my. Sea Serpent, to hand the player back after diving with it. He loved the experience. I guess its down to personality.
     I know it has an on/off switch but the temptation is to listen and lose your way. I got round this by fitting the headphones to a separate mask. When I wanted to listen I had to change masks, and that made it less tempting to use at depth.
     It made me disciplined enough to make the change only when distractions were needed, rather than simply dangerous.
     The final verdict Anyone who is gadget-mad will want one. Initially, that seems to include everyone.
     Not everyone who tried out the device thought it was such a good idea after they had used it and Im not sure that everyone is qualified by personality to use one. I wouldnt want to see anyones body recovered with music still blasting in deaf ears.
     Be aware that another diver sporting headphones and a vacant gaze may not be too aware of what he is doing, let alone aware of any problem you might be having.
The 128Mb Oceanic H2O Audio MP3 player tested costs £315, the 64Mb version £295.
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