FX-Sport have launched an innovative set of swimming headphones with an integrated premium mp3 player, preloaded customizable workouts, a Tempo Trainer and a Lap Pacemaker. All with a tested methodology for delivering quality audio whilst swimming.
Waterproof MP3 players. The current options:
There are two main options available to swimmers today who want to listen to music whilst swimming. “In ear” headphones and bone conduction headphones. Results are often very mixed. In ear headphones are entirely dependent on the fit in the swimmer’s ear, or actually a consistent fit. Whilst swimming, the water from the pool enters the ear, but also sweat is produced which lubricates the area. In addition, continual movement of the jaw moves the physical space in the ear. If water gets past the earphone fit, sound becomes muffled and much time can be spent adjusting this rather than concentrating on the swimming.
With bone conduction headphones, mechanical vibrations send sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. They are usually worn on the upper cheekbone. These headphones do not produce audio quality comparable to headphones which deliver audio directly into the ear. The method does work though. If used for swimming however, there is a big discrepancy between the audio quality under the water and over the water as well as a difference in actual volume.
Today, Bluetooth is a common way of listening to music, especially from our phones. In the water however, Bluetooth simply does not work. In fact, Bluetooth signals will struggle when faced with traveling through our own bodies, which of course are mainly water. This is commonly experienced with runners if their phone is on the other side of their body from the earphone containing the antenna. Any device which is offering Bluetooth as a method to use whilst swimming will always have problems.
Research tells us that the experience of many people who attempt to swim listening to music is “very average”. Some do achieve a level of satisfaction, but it seems there is a low bar of expectation.
FX-SPORT swimming headphones. A premium 8GB waterproof MP3 player with a better way to deliver audio.
One of the first things to point out is that the FX-Sport VRX headphone “system” is fully waterproof, but the headphones themselves are not fully waterproof. This was entirely on purpose. The “on the ear” headphones are categorized as “sweatproof, rainproof and humidity proof”. This means they are allowed a higher level of music quality with much better bass. The headphones are made fully waterproof for swimming, using a silicone skin accessory [bought separately] into which the headphones are placed and then worn under a provided swim cap. Once inside the accessory, a type of microenvironment is created, which contains air. As we know, speakers require air to produce bass and in this environment, the speakers now have air to produce bass. If the device itself was fully waterproof, there would be compromises on music quality, something apparent with all “fully waterproof” audio devices.
Silicone putty earplugs are then provided to be worn in the ear underneath the headphones. These will block water from entering the ear canal but will allow sound through. By using this method, we avoid the much experienced “muffled” sound when water enters the ear canal using typical “in-ear” earphones. There is also a consistency of sound above and below the water. The headphones have an extra embedded amplifier which means there is plenty of volume to play with whilst maintaining good quality audio. Underneath the provided swim cap, the fit is then very secure with flip turns presenting no problem.
The integrated 8GB mp3 player on the VRX headphones allows a user to skip tracks, skip playlists and use Shuffle Mode. The headphones also have the ability to fast forward and rewind within tracks, something that has proved very popular for use with audiobooks. Playlist names are also voiced using text to speech software to further improve music navigation. The mp3 player is I-Tunes compatible.
Tempo trainer, lap pacemaker and customizable workouts also preloaded on the integrated waterproof MP3 player.
The VRX headphones now have some new additions for swimming, with a variety of options:
- To hear a voice coach continuously saying “stroke, stroke…” for your choice of stroke rate per minute ranging from 50 strokes per minute to 90 strokes per minute. [No music].
- 15 seconds of “stroke” voice coach followed by either 1 minute or 2 minutes worth of your music [your choice of stroke rate per minute].
- 30 seconds of “stroke” voice coach followed by 2 minutes worth of your music [again, your choice of stroke rate per minute].
This is the only Tempo Trainer that will allow a user to also listen to their own music OR to just use the Tempo Trainer.
- Option to have a voiced Lap Time Pacemaker for each length, ranging from 17 seconds to 35-seconds per length. Time notifications are cumulative and will count the lengths. So for example “25 seconds, 1 length…50 seconds, 2 lengths…1 minute 15, 3 lengths…” etc. with your own music between time notifications. As long as the swimmer keeps pace, the Lap Counter will be 100% accurate. A workout can be paused to “catch up” if necessary.
Why is a tempo trainer beneficial for swimming?
A simple advantage of using such a Tempo Trainer is that it will act as a pacemaker to help you maintain your speed over the duration of your swim. It is very common in sports like running to have another athlete act as pacemaker for part of the race. Many people can quickly beat their personal bests once they start to use a tempo trainer!
Another benefit is that by maintaining a consistent pace and rhythm, a swimmer can remove “dead spots” or pauses within your stroke technique. Dead spots can be brought on by too much “Overgliding”. This means that a swimmer’s stroke may have too much glide and it results in a distinct unproductive pause in the technique of your swimming.
Lap pacemaker, 100% accurate lap counter and your own music.
In any sport, having a pacemaker is a great way to maintain the speed you need to achieve a PB. Lapses of concentration may be one reason to go off pace. Or perhaps a perception that you are maintaining your pace, when actually you are slower [or faster!]. To have an audible notification can be better than having to pause and focus on your watch. In fact if you take even just 1/10th of a second to focus on your watch [or clock on the wall] after each length, that’s 5 seconds every 50 lengths lost just by looking at your watch and probably more.
With regard to lap counters, some devices do now attempt to measure the number of lengths you swim. Feedback seems to be that even when finely tuned, these can be at least 5% inaccurate. However, over 100 lengths that is + or – 5 lengths. So you may have swam 95 lengths, or it could be 105. When used in conjunction with a lap pacemaker however, as long as you keep pace with your pacemaker, your lap count will be 100% accurate. If you do lose pace a little, a simple press of the pause button on the headphones will allow you to catch up and then another press to resume.
It is important to realize that all workout messages provided on the VRX headphones will play in conjunction with your own music. Music tracks can be scrolled independently and will not affect the workout messages. A message plays and then returns the user to their own music.
A user can also activate one of the many preloaded workouts which all work in conjunction with your own music. Swimming workouts are of course available, as well as hundreds of land-based workouts in many categories. Circuit training, HIIT workouts, abdominal and core strength workouts, Calisthenic workouts, fartlek running and multi-week running programs are just a few and all are preloaded, many voiced by world-class trainers.
A user can also however, create workouts in their own words using the simple text to speech software downloaded from the FX-Sport site. Messages are simply typed in with a time they should play at and uploaded to the headphones. Male and female voices are available.
In conclusion, the FX-Sport VRX headphones have unique offerings for both land-based and water-based training. For swimming, the methodology used does have a solid foundation in logical application.
FX-Sport was founded by Duncan Walsh, an ex-professional squash player and veteran world champion. Alongside a team of hand-picked electronic specialists, Walsh came up with a wire-free music solution that offers great quality music for both swimming and land-based training, with real use practicalities. During the creation of this product, innovative ideas were conceived, implemented, and tested on the market. Today, the VRX is the culmination of these tests and FX-Sport now works with an increasing number of industry experts to offer a genuine training aid, with real use practicalities.
Article and images courtesy of FX-Sport