Underwater Audio: Why is This Shuffle Different from All other Shuffles?

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

Here is a picture of two iPod shuffles. Yes, they are different colors but have the same shape, design, controls and capacity.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

If you look, touch or listen to these iPod shuffles, the ONLY difference you might notice is that the buttons on one are a tiny bit stiffer than the other. There’s no other difference.

You would, however, only be willing to do this with one of those iPod shuffles…

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

Put the wrong one in this ramekin of water, and you will be left with a tie clip (read: malfunctioning iPod shuffle) rather than an mp3 player. Put the other in the ramekin and … you can listen to music, change tracks, and even use voice over to learn what you are hearing. Welcome to the wonderful world of Underwater Audio, a company that takes your everyday, ordinary iPod shuffle and hits it with a layer of waterproofing from the inside out. That yields an iPod shuffle that looks like any other iPod shuffle — but it is now one that is completely waterproof. It not only works, but it works well.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

Let’s first look at the waterproofing employed by Underwater Audio, and then we can turn to the experience of using the iPod shuffle and waterproof headphones the company sent to me.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

Underwater Audio explains that there are two challenges when it comes to trying to waterproof an iPod shuffle. There is the challenge of creating a waterproof seal that completely protects all of the interior electronics. After all, the smallest flaw on the seal will result in a tie clip (i.e. that dead shuffle we were talking about a little while ago). A single bubble, crack or impurity will allow water access to the interior of the player and destroy it.

Underwater Audio employs several proprietary steps that ensure waterproofing material makes its way into every single nook and cranny inside the shuffle. Then there is the challenge of getting the waterproofing inside the iPod shuffle without damaging the delicate electronics inside. As they point out, “Every time you open the iPod, you dramatically increase the future failure rate. Apple press-fits and glues the shuffle together at the factory – you essentially have to break it to open it.” Underwater Audio addresses this challenge by developing a waterproofing process that doesn’t require them to open the shuffle. That’s a pretty neat trick.

The company then took extra steps to make sure their product worked the way it should. They stress tested their product in salt water to a depth of over 200 feet. The result? “Even under this intense pressure, our process creates seals that show no sign of failure or water intrusion.”

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

The company then went even further — they put their waterproofed iPod in salt water and plugged and unplugged headphones 800 times. They also submerged them for weeks at a time. The result from these tests? “Once again, the seals and connections showed no sign of failure or water intrusion.” In other words, Underwater Audio has found a way to safely waterproof an iPod shuffle without the bulk of a waterproof case. You can even plug and unplug the headphones while the shuffle is underwater. That’s a good trick!

When you purchase an iPod shuffle from Underwater Audio, you get an iPod shuffle at a premium price. For that extra money you get an iPod shuffle with all the features of … an iPod shuffle. Even the Voice Over feature works. This is great when trying to “navigate” your music without having to look at the device. Then again, since the shuffle doesn’t have a screen there isn’t all that much to look at even when you do look at it!

What You Get:

  • Genuine Apple iPod shuffle (4th generation, 2GB) waterproofed by Underwater Audio
  • Original Apple USB cable and earbuds
  • Full warranty on iPod against manufacture’s defects
  • Does not include waterproof headphones but you can easily bundle them in

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

Review of the Shuffle:

There honestly isn’t much to say about the iPod shuffle. As I previously noted, it still looks like a shuffle. The waterproofing does leave the buttons a bit tighter than the ones on the stock shuffle, but while the buttons feel tight they still work. I am amazed by the fact that the shuffle actually IS waterproof and am even more impressed that the waterproofing allows you to unplug headphones with the device completely submerged.

It is not, however, possible to review the Underwater Audio iPod shuffle without also talking about the headphones the company has available for purchase.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

One could, of course, use something like the Monster iSport waterproof headphones I reviewed ages ago. (Read the review. Buy Them.)

The issue with the iSport headphones however, is the price; they are almost as much as the iPod shuffle itself. Underwater Audio makes two pair of headphones available for bundling with the iPod shuffle. As they explain,

When we started searching for waterproof headphones, we couldn’t find anything on the market that worked for swimmers. Finally, Swimbuds extra-short cord waterproof headphones arrived on the scene.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

My review sample came with Swimbuds’ EXTRA-SHORT cord waterproof headphones. These headphones are 100% waterproof, are designed to be used in, under and around water and come with a number of inserts so you can get both the comfort and fit you want. The company notes that these Swimbuds headphones are easy to use, stay in and, thanks to an extra-short cord, there isn’t extra cord to flop around while you swim. The extra-short cord is about 10″ long, and it is ideal for clipping the iPod shuffle to your goggles when swimming. (Okay, “ideal” in theory, but that wasn’t my wife Elana’s experience. More on that in a moment.) The Swimbuds also come with a 39″ (1m) waterproof extension cord for those times when you want the extra length.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

What you get:

One pair of Waterproof Short Cord Swimbuds Waterproof Headphones

1 FREE 39-inch (1m) Swimbuds Waterproof Audio Extension Cord (white

4 sets of interchangeable waterproof earbuds to create a custom fit

1 set of earbuds to use for out of the water

Important: The company notes that, for safety reasons, these and all headphones that create a tight seal should not be used below 10 feet.

I found the earbuds to be comfortable; they stayed in and sounded fine. I write “fine”, because I don’t see these earbuds being on the same level as some of the high-end offerings we’ve recently reviewed. Then again they don’t have to be. These are better than “good enough”, and they are waterproof; that is all they need to be.

I used the iPod shuffle and Waterproof Short Cord Swimbuds Waterproof Headphones in the shower for a week, and they worked just fine. I then asked Elana to use them while swimming; this is what she had to say about it.

Before you write anything you need to note that this review is based on swimming without a swim cap, because there is no way I could use this system with goggles and a swim cap without causing the discomfort and red marks that resulted from the pressure of the headphones. There was no reason for the over-the-ear piece. The earbuds stayed in without them, so I can’t figure out why they are there, and they were actually problematic. They fell off, flapped against my head in the water, AND they caused abrasions where they came into contact with my cap and head.

That noted, the sound quality was great both in and out of the water; that’s hard when you are doing freestyle and your head is going in and out of the water constantly.

The whole issue is the headset. With better earbuds I would have been happy, but theses earbuds aren’t usable for me.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

That leads me to this conclusion … I love the idea of a waterproof iPod shuffle. I love having a music device that can get wet, go for a swim or be dropped in water without failing. I’m mixed on the earbuds, and Elana calls them a complete fail. The Monster iSport earbuds will cost more, but if you are serious about your music, and you want to go waterproof/underwater, then you will want to invest in a better pair of waterproof headphones. Check out all the offerings here.

Underwater Audio iPod shuffle

MSRP: iPod shuffle and headphone bundle regular price: $220; the bundle is currently $165

What I Like: You can really use the iPod underwater without having to put it into a protective case; You can plug and unplug the headphones underwater; Looks like a standard iPod shuffle

What Needs Improvement: Headphones that shipped with my review sample sound okay but not great and were problematic for Elana; Waterproofing takes a $49 iPod shuffle and triples the price

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.