H2O Audio has been producing waterproof housing for MP3 players since 2004 and it shows. Although the company's first device, the Oceanic DV-X
, was highly innovative and commendably easy to use, it was expensive and bulky. Of course, it was designed for scuba diving, so that was understandable. H2O Audio continued producing more swimmer-friendly housing for iRiver MP3 players and iPods, but the resulting cases--such as the SV iMini
--were lackluster. Most recently, we got our hands on the H2O Audio for Nano ($79.95) and were pleasantly surprised by the improvements.
True to the player it houses, the H2O Audio for Nano is reasonably compact, measuring about 5 by 2.3 by 0.8 inches. And unlike its predecessor, this case includes the necessary neoprene armband for keeping the player in place while you swim laps or frolic in the waves. Not included are the slightly uncomfortable waterproof headphones
($39.95 list price; $29 street price), but we have to give H2O Audio credit for the adjustable earpieces and the behind-the-neck, ear-wrap styling. It's probably the best for keeping the 'phones secure while you're active in the water.
The housing itself is a pain--quite literally. Our fingers were aching after several tries at getting it open. But this is all in the name of keeping your Nano bone dry and in perfect working order, which the case does excellently. The controls--a center dial and button surrounded by the four other clickable controls found on the iPod--also work well. Scrolling takes a second to register, but the other controls are all highly responsive. As for performance, sound quality through the headphones is about what you'd expect from a waterproof pair--that is, not great, but fine for their purpose. We're keeping our fingers crossed that H2O Audio is selling them separately so that the company can offer improved sets in the future.