Speedo LZR Aquabeat 2GB
Speedo is better known for swimwear than MP3 players. That said, its new LZR Aquabeat is certainly playing to the company's traditional strengths, as it's designed to be used while you're swimming.
The Aquabeat has a rubberised casing that feels sturdy and is also waterproof. The back has clips, through which you can thread your swimming goggle straps; this means the Aquabeat will sit snugly against the back of your head. In the unlikely event that it does come unattached it will float, thereby making it easy to retrieve.
There's no display for browsing songs, but this isn't a huge problem due to the small number of tracks you can fit in its 2GB of memory. There's a volume rocker and buttons for skipping back and forth between tracks. The play button has a ribbed texture, unlike the others, making it easy distinguish by touch. However, songs can't be set to play randomly, simply cycling through a continuous loop until you press the stop button.
The headphone socket also doubles as a USB port, so you'll have to use the included USB adaptor cable to connect it to your PC (although you can also use an adaptor cable for a second- or third-generation iPod Shuffle). Songs can be copied to the Aquabeat using Windows Explorer, but if you want songs to play in a specific order, you'll have to use the included transfer program. Unfortunately, it's incredibly slow and you can add only one song at a time. Using Windows Explorer, it took over seven-and- a-half minutes to transfer 500MB of songs - over twice as long as many other players.
The accompanying waterproof earphones are essential for listening to music underwater. The earplug sleeves depend on a good seal to keep water out of your ears. Two sizes are included, but not everyone will get a comfortable fit that also keeps out water. The earphones hook behind your ears, so they should stay securely in place whatever your preferred stroke. Out of water they sound tinny, and not nearly as good as a high-quality set of normal earphones. Underwater, though, they sound surprisingly clear with no distortion and a respectable amount of bass.
Annoyingly, there's no hold switch, so it's easy to play songs accidentally and run down the battery. This isn't likely to happen when swimming, but it happened to us more than once when the Aquabeat was being transported around in a bag. Still, in our tests, it managed nearly 15 hours of playback, which should be enough for even the keenest swimmers.
If you want to listen to music while you swim, the Aquabeat does the job. However, it makes serious sacrifices compared with other players, such as the lack of a hold switch and display, so it's a fish out of water away from the pool.