For the athletically inclined amongst us, a good pair of headphones is an essential piece of gear: it’s motivation, encouragement and drive all in one device. However, those who pursue water-based activities have significantly fewer options; most of them suffering in the quality of audio. The Duo Mp3 player from FINIS is the most recent addition to FINIS’s underwater audio family. The fourth-gen audio device has had the benefit of experience and blows the competition out of the water.
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FINIS have been building innovating swimming accessories for years, and if you are a swimmer and looking for a piece of gear that may be a little cutting edge, FINIS is the company to look at. They offer the usual swimming accessories, such as snorkels, swimwear and more, but they’re also willing to look outside the box and build some of most innovative headphones we’ve ever used.
What makes the FINIS Duo stand out from the pack is the amazingly clear quality of audio, even underwater. Many companies have underwater MP3 players that utilize the tradition sporty ear bud headphones, which often sounds muddled and unclear underwater, if they even stay in the ear. The FINIS Duo’s headphones are designed to sit upon your cheekbone rather than your ears. The audio is then transmitted via bone conduction – the audio waves vibrate up your jaw bones, arriving to your inner ear without interference.
For the uninitiated listeners of Bone Conduction, it is truly an odd feeling at first, but the quality, even underwater, is well worth getting use to the sensation.
The original model using bone conduction, the FINIS SwiMP3, made a splash in 2005 when it was released. We took a look at that device some years ago, and while we loved it then, FINIS clearly has not been sitting on their laurels. The Duo is refined in almost every way.
The storage space has increase four-fold, from 1gb to 4gb – enough space for 1000 songs. The Duo also supports a nice range of formats, notably Mp3 and WMA making it useful for mostly people on any platform.
Bone Conduction Audio Transmission
Great clear sound without Headphones or Ear Buds
MP3 and WMA Compatible, iTunes Convertible
Listen to music, audio books, podcasts and more
4GB of Storage
Stores approximately 1000 songs, 60 hours of music
Built in USB Plug
Easy to use, download and charge quickly,Improved cover for easy on and off
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery
Lasts over 7 hours per charge
Sound is clearest when submerged in water
The Duo is not without it’s flaws, however. The newly designed charging dock left much to be desired. Using a much-maligned magnetic connection – a feature we love to hate – the charger does present some issues. After a couple of test laps, we had trouble connecting on the first try. The unit seems to be a bit finicky, and needs some encouragement to connect properly. When it does connect, on say a laptop, the magnetic connector almost always becomes dislodged due to movement or bumping it. We also seriously wish there was a playlist option.
The new button set up is a lot cleaner and more intuitive, which is perhaps one of the best features: no one wants to stop while swimming just to turn the tunes up.
The device is also a little finicky to wear and use underwater. The Duo uses clips to hook onto the straps of our googles, and it’s more complicated than we thought and took us a while to get comfortable. Actually, at first it was downright uncomfortable.
As a general rule, do not use iTunes. When used to load the Duo, you have to be really careful to weed out non-mp3 formats. iTunes loves Mp3, but it loves AAC more, and the Duo is not compatible with AAC. This could be an oversight, it could be that AAC is still up and coming, but when iTunes is the biggest music store in the world, I get the feeling that AAC should at least be supported.
It’s hard to be very critical of the Duo: usually sports Mp3 players are reserved for the runners and bikers amongst us, and those who swim have very few options. The Duo is far and away the best option: it has it’s flaws but you ARE using an MP3 player underwater for hours at a time. Yes, it can take a bit to get used to, and get it to fit right, but to be clear wearing an MP3 player underwater is going to take come coaxing on the comfort front: it’s not like swimmer have many places to put a player.
We found the Duo hard to test. We received the device in February, leaving us the option of testing in a pool, which worked well, and is, assumedly, the environment most athletes will also use the Duo. However, we can help but feel that we should have tested the device while swimming with waves, windsurfing, and surfing.
The Duo has received mixed reviews so far: half glowing, about half annoyed by the charging or other issues. However, even with all those issues taken into account, the Duo has a great battery life, and simply brilliant audio quality. Among it’s peers, the Duo has absolutely taken the lead.