San Diego-based H2O Audio has come out with a sealed waterproof housing that it claims will enable you and your iPod Mini to go wakeboarding, surfing, snowboarding, swimming or kayaking. The housing is called the SV-iMini and it retails for $149.95. Supposedly, the SV-iMini housing is submersible up to 10 feet, but after reading a few mixed reviews I was hesitant to risk losing my $250 iPod to King Neptune--but was willing to give it a shot anyway in the name of science.
My SV-iMini came equipped with a waterproof headset, silicon earplugs, a secure latching system, and an easy-access control panel to manipulate the MP3 player functions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the available neoprene armband, but eventually I made do by placing the unit down my back and inside a flap in my wetsuit, which actually worked out great and was totally comfortable.
I first tried the unit out on a recent surf trip to Baja. A few friends and I planned on spending a day tow-surfing a local beachbreak before heading over to Todos Santos the next day when the swell peaked. Our first day at the beachbreak I didn’t feel comfortable enough surfing with the unit on because conditions were extremely hollow and way overhead. Instead, I wore it while I towed my friend into some bombs and was surprised to discover that it was loud enough to hear over the noise of the engine and comfortable and durable enough to withstand an occasional soaking.
- SV-iMini Price: US$149.95 MSRP
- Availability: H2O Audio: www.h2oaudio.com
- Device: iPod Waterproof Casing
- Basic specs: Submersible up to 10ft./3m., secure latching system
So far, so good.
The next day we headed over to Todos, and again with the wave faces approaching 30 feet on the sets, I was reluctant to subject my iPod to unnecessary torture. However, it was awesome to have the ability to listen to some of my favorite music during the 25-minute ride out and ride in from Todos. The best part was watching my friends Chuck and Sean charge some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen with Slayer blaring through my ears--it added a lot to the overall experience.
A few days after our trip I finally had a chance to take the iPod out for a surf. This time, instead of double-overhead beachbreak or massive Todos, the waves were head-high, slightly high tide, and had good shape. Paddling out, I was curious to see how the first duck-dive would go and if the headphones would come off underwater; remarkably, they held firm.
Once I got out into the lineup, I swam underwater to test how the music would sound; oddly enough, the sound quality underwater using the "waterproof" earphones was better than the sound quality above the surface. The headphones definitely seemed to respond better at a certain angle inside my ear, but overall I was pleased with their performance and their fit. The only time I really had a problem with the unit during my session was when I fell off and they came off my head. Minor.
I surfed for almost two hours and I have to admit it was pretty cool to be able to listen to my favorite Steel Pulse album and then my favorite Sublime songs as I paddled out, waited for and rode waves.
Overall, I can easily foresee a number of productive uses for the SV-iMini in a multitude of water activities. My gut feeling is that the housing will perform fine if it's not kept underwater for an extended period of time, or subjected to conditions that will get it knocked around a bit. For activities like surfing in mellow waves, kayaking, paddling or riding a WaveRunner, I don’t think too much can go wrong if you’re careful. However, for activities like swimming, wakeboarding, snowboarding, or surfing in heavier conditions, you might be asking for trouble.
My overall impression with the SV-iMini is positive and I’m enthusiastic to see the technology evolve as these players get smaller and the housings become more durable. If you’re a person who truly enjoys music while you pursue your activities and want to experience something different, I’d say give it a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised.