Gear Test: H2O Audio Waterproof Case + Phones

Ever wanted to go swimming with your iPod/iPhone?

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Stepping into the shower while listening to your iPod is a bizarre sensation. Since most of us treat our Apple devices better than we would treat our own children, the instinct to keep our music-bearing babies out of life-threatening water pulls hard. If you can get past the idea of endangering your beloved, the thought of hearing music in any pleasurable way while underwater is still weird.

But the H2O Amphibx waterproof armband functions as advertised: The neoprene-ish band and plastic enclosure shed even direct spray from the showerhead, and continued blasting choice cuts from Prize Country, Traindodge, The Life and Times, and Mastodon even after total submersion in a full sink. The Surge headphones also formed an impressive seal, rendering songs perfectly audible, with only a mild thrum interfering when water pounded directly on top of my skull.

The Amphibx arm band is meant for iPhones and iPods, but will accomodate most MP3 players of similar size. Plugging your device in and sliding it into the enclosure is intuitive, if a bit clumsy. The plastic window allows for touch sensitivity, but it works much better on an iPhone: With a regular iPod Classic, I struggled with the click wheel when I attempted to cycle through artists or select a song.

The armband itself resembles an amphibious tank: The heavy, wetsuit-like material covers the entire upper arm and gets heavier when wet. But it stays pretty comfortable; I was even able to manage pull-ups on a tree branch without too much pinching or discomfort. It also wraps tight without cutting off circulation—no bouncing or sliding happened once I adjusted the fit.

The Surge headphones delivered surprisingly high audio quality, even on dry land. Like most expensive inner-ear headphones, you can hear surface details (like guitar picks scratching on strings) that you’ll miss on standard earbuds. The bass is rich and heavy, and while it might obscure the quietest treble audio elements, it’s mostly a welcome feature on the driving beats that usually form the backbone of exercise-friendly music.

So who is this product for, anyway? H2O markets their waterproof setup as ideal for lap swimmers, kayakers, wakeboarders, and surfers (personally, I’d rather hear the shark before it chomps on my arm). But anybody looking for super-burly protection while hiking with their iPod in ultra-wet climes (think the Pacific Northwest or Alaska) or while backpacking on a hybrid trip that involves a lot of paddling can trust the Amphibx to keep their Apple babies safe. As for me, I’m happy to just continue listening to music in the shower after I finish a run or a workout.

The H2O Audio Amphibx Waterproof Armband ($80) and Surge waterproof headphones ($60) are listed as waterproof to 12 feet. We’ll test that as soon as the contractors finish work on the olympic-size pool I’m building in the yard I don’t have.

—Ted Alvarez

H2O Audio