Swimming with music: JBL vs Shokz vs Sony comparing music mp3 players

June 7, 2023   Comments (0)

Formerly called AfterShokz Endurance, now Shokz OpenSwim

TL;DR: Cough up the dough and get the Shokz OpenSwim. Don’t waste time on JBL (ugh), Sony or Pyle or anything else

If you want to swim with music, my caveats, explanations, and explorations on waterproof mp3 players for swimming that I’ve tried in the last decade, read on. Click on any image to expand

I’ve been swimming seriously (for joy, not competition) since 2013 and way back in 2014 or so I thought music would only enhance my experience, help me set a pace, and also entertain me and stimulate my brain as I did laps with an unchanging scenery. At my peak form, pre-pandemic, I was doing 2,000m in 1.25 hours (slow, slow) and I’m building back but you can only imagine that going back and forth in an environment, where only obnoxious humans change, can get a little too same!

Back in 2014 I bought my first music player and it was a no-name Chinese mp3 player for some $20. It worked until one day it didn’t. I didn’t seal the usb port cover fully and the electronic components drowned.

The Sony Walkman nw-ws413

The Sony Walkman nw-ws413 + charger

I then tried the Pyle (rated well, cheapish, easily available). Same problem. Water got in. Or maybe they just stopped charging one day. I honestly can’t recall.

By 2016 time I’d found a place in Bandra that sold the Sony NW-WS413SBM waterproof walkman.

Back then it was just over 5k retail with warranty. Initially my mac wouldn’t read it to transfer music, but a couple of resets and it finally became quite good at detecting it was an external drive. Until some time in  2018 it stopped holding a charge. It was just out of warranty, but Sony was amazing about giving me a huge discount on a fresh, updated piece (Sony NWWS413BM). So, all in all, I paid maybe 3k more for the upgrade.

Then came the pandemic. Pools were shut for 2 years in all of Maharashtra state, where I live. From March 24, 2020 until February 4, 2022, I didn’t get in the water. I mean, it wasn’t just me. Swimmers and athletes contemplated relocating to use pools elsewhere. The Maharashtra swim team was pretty much living in Gujarat!

When I got ready to swim again the Sony had given up the ghost. This happens if you don’t turn it on even once in two years.

The JBL Endurance Dive

The JBL Endurance Dive is a scam. This is the replacement set I got.

At this point, I finally got the JBL dive. No link because, trust me, you don’t want it. WHAT A COLOSSAL WASTE OF MONEY this product has been.

Whoever designed it, approved it, and then released it to the public has never, ever even TRIED to swim with it. It’s the epitome of false marketing to call it a “dive” model and just glomming on a random name for a feature that actually doesn’t work. Perhaps because it is rated IPX7? That doesn’t mean you can swim with it. Seriously, use it as a bluetooth headset, connect it with your phone if you want and go run in the rain, but don’t bother swimming.

First: getting it into swim mode is next to impossible. My first time, I spent 30 minutes of my 45 minute swim time trying to get it to do the three taps to stay at “mp3” locked mode.

REALLY useless instructions

Really useless instructions for the JBL Endurance Dive

I watched video tutorials and practiced after that. Of three more swims, I managed once for a few minutes to get it in the right mode. That triple tap was impossible. After the second tap, the device has had enough and done what it needs to do (bluetooth pairing mode) with or without your third tap. I went bonkers spacing them and trying all kinds of rhythms and speed.

IF you get it into locked mp3 mode and it starts playing, you can change nothing. NOTHING. You cannot control volume, you cannot skip a track, go back, pause. Nothing. The playlist is locked. IF you can get it to actually go into swim mode.

It never worked again.  I called JBL, trekked to their service centre and even the technicians could not make it work. They replaced the set, no questions asked, but would not let me open it in the centre and would not speak to whether this one would work. No surprises, dear reader: it didn’t. It’s a terrible design flaw and only after much research can you find reviews basically saying people have just thrown it away.

More useless instructions

More useless instructions for the JBL Endurance Dive

I haven’t even been able to give mine away; the quality of the ear hooks is so bad, they look like my cat chewed them (and she hasn’t, she has better taste). Getting the touch button to respond to anything is terrible. There are no controls for volume or shuffle or answer and the touch sensitivity is … well, it’s too good for itself which makes it too bad for a user.

So, finally, I bit the bullet and after researching the hell out of swim blogs, reviews, youtube unboxings and more, I decided the Shokz (formerly Aftershokz) were going to get my money. $150 in the US plus some ridiculous $9 for shipping and holy cow, this has only underscored that it’s better to go with premium the first time than to shaft yourself by going with second and third best numerous times.

The Shokz OpenSwim

The Shokz OpenSwim with charger and silicone earplugs

The Shokz are FLAWLESS. They’re designed to stay put.

Bone conduction means you can get consistent sound when you go under the surface AND when you come up for air. I can hear bass. I can even listen to podcasts without missing alternate words when I surface — a major flaw with in-ear swimming mp3 players — because water still enters your canals when you dip and out. With earplugs in the ears, ambient noise and pressure stays the same. It’s wonderful.

Just like with the Sony, there is a dedicated button for start/stop/program. Long press the volume up or down for skipping forward and back a track.  It’s got shuffle and repeat mode. You can press the middle button to check battery health as well.

The charger also doubles as the USB interface and no computer so far has had trouble reading it to load music.

Okay, now if you don’t already now this: BLUETOOTH DOES NOT WORK UNDERWATER. If you’ve been told (or sold something that says) it does, it’s an outright lie.

To load up ANY swimming music player, you’re going to have to physically load music files on to it like it’s an external drive. So, here are my tips on how to do that in an age of streaming services for music.

Buttons! Ergonomic, and intuitive.

  1. Pay for and download the music and then transfer it from your computer or USB connected device to the headset.
  2. Get an audio capture extension for your browser and record the track while playing the music you want on youtube or some or web based app.
  3. Get two female stereo jacks and play music off your phone while recording it into a digital handheld recorder (I use a Tascam for work so I have one of them and I have a Zoom H1n both of which take a 3.5″ input) which I then transfer to the Shokz after normalizing the gain on Hindenburg because I’m an audio nerd and I can.

3 out of 5
Sony NW-WS410 swimming Mp3 Walkman series: 3.5 stars out of 5
JBL Endurance Dive: 0 bloody stars out of 5
Shokz OpenSwim: 6 out of 5


Disclaimers: I’m not being paid for this blog post but if Shokz wants to give me any gear, I’ll happily accept. JBL has never replied to my emails or reviews. Sony is a stalwart and their customer service is just tops. I’m an amazon affiliate and if you buy anything through one of my links, I get like 0.01% commission on it. 

FYIme, myself & iMusicswimmingtech

Hangar hangover (Riga)

July 16, 2019   Comments (0)

#throwback to this day last year, at the covered Central market in Riga, a UNESCO world heritage site and also Europe's largest bazaar. The market is made of 5 repurposed zeppelin hangars -- there are only four more in the world -- and was finished in 1930 at the same riverside site where an open produce market has existed since the mid 16th century. We loved it. We browsed through clothes, purses, a meat section, household stuff, flowers, a very meaty food court, cheeses, and much produce. We finally bought cherries and plums, but not much else, eventually finding a bistro in the style of a Polish
#throwback to this day last year, at the covered Central market in Riga, a UNESCO world heritage site and also Europe’s largest bazaar. The market is made of 5 repurposed zeppelin hangars — there are only four more in the world — and was finished in 1930 at the same riverside site where an open produce market has existed since the mid 16th century. We loved it. We browsed through clothes, purses, a meat section, household stuff, flowers, a very meaty food court, cheeses, and much produce. We finally bought cherries and plums, but not much else, eventually finding a bistro in the style of a Polish “bar mleczny” with the most amazing rye bread and kotlety close by after working up quite an appetite.


#throwback #europe #summer #summerholiday #2018 #historical #blog #wp #nostalgia #sunnydays #worldtravelpics #worlderlust #wander #worldheritagesite via Instagram https://ift.tt/2k3l0Kt


Behind the mask

July 2, 2019   Comments (0)

Binoy Kumar Sur makes papier maché masks for dance theatre troupes and religious parades mostly. There was a time when business was better, now it’s dwindling. He inherited this shop in Shankhari Bazaar, old Dhaka, from his father. It’s more than 80 years old. It takes him about 5 days to make 10 leopard masks, but the Kali goddesses take at least double that much time. He was most gracious to us, perhaps happy to have an interested audience.  (more…)


It’s called RMG

June 24, 2019   Comments (0)

As part of a solutions story for the BBC World Service, I visited a factory where an incredible scheme has been rolled out to give workers the benefits of health insurance as an add-on to their monthly grocery shopping. Over the course of two days we talked to workers in the ready-made garment export industry and saw for ourselves that the conditions were really good. In 2013 a garment factory collapse killed more than 1,000 people and since then, (more…)


City lights

March 29, 2019   Comments (0)

The Udaipur City Palace lights at night, reflecting in Lake Pichola. The photo was taken by me,
but from @paddyvir‘s phone which has a far better camera than mine.
#nofilter #gorgeous #nightsky#citylights #cityoflakes#mightyudaipur #blog #udaipurlove
#udaipurcity #Rajasthan#incredibleindia #worldtravelpics#worlderlust #wandering
#pretty#nighttime #nighttimephotography


picture perfect

March 28, 2019   Comments (0)

Gangaur Ghat gleams under a crescent moon over Lake Pichola, taken from the best spot for a visit or a meal 😀 I’m a bit biased, I admit. But seriously, this view is ever changing and yet constantly mesmerizing and beautiful.

#udaipur #History #incredibleIndia #Rajasthan #wecouldberoyals

→ DesiDeshTravel

“healthy” cake

December 25, 2018   Comments (0)

The texture of flourless cakes is my most favorite thing ever. I took this boozy chocolate cake to @saminasodyssey’s Christmas do and I was a greedy child who brought home leftovers.

It’s flourless and sugarless, but not eggless by any means… 8 eggs went in this beaut.

Plus I added in some of the almond pulp from my almond mylk, which worked a charm. I ran out of dark rum so augmented it with fine Tawny Port. And of course, it’s sweetened with dates!

#norefinedsugar #yum #baking #homebaker #blog #decadent #dark #madagascarchocolate #singleoriginchocolate #Christmas #alcohol via Instagram http://bit.ly/2Q57Er6


Wow Vilnius

August 10, 2018   Comments (0)

#throwback to our trip to Vilnius and some fun things we did there. I loved this brilliant sculpture (top right) – an abstract portrait of 16th century Polish queen Barbara Radziwiłł, Grand Duchess of Lithuania – by Vladas Vildžiūnas, from 1979.

It’s on what translates as German Street and one side had to be completely rebuilt after the bombing in WWII.

I loved Vilnius more than I’d expected to. We’d planned only two days and 1 night here and we really lucked out. The location of our B&B was fabulous, the city was easy to navigate and I loved that the “old” town was a living city – I mean the university is smack in the  middle of it (like Krakow) and it was teaming with students and locals, not just tourists like Riga or Tallinn old town were.

Plus there was Užupis, the cheeky artists’ republic with their lovely constitution that affords respect to cats and humans alike. On our first evening there in the square of the Cathedral, we saw dozens of hot air balloons go past. And I just adored the sculpture of Grand Duke Gediminas. (Of course, we also found the lucky star and did little turns while making a wish.) Later we walked up the Hill of Three Crosses in Kalnai Park – it was a good climb and the wooden path kept disappearing down corners, a little stairway to … well, toward heaven.

#sculpture #publicart #europe #Lithuania #Vilnius #summertime #summer2018 #blog #wp #rainy #showers #cloudy #summerholiday
on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmS0Lq3Fqu3/ style=”text-align: center; width: 500px;”


Later, Latvia

July 11, 2018   Comments (0)

Latvia was lovely to us and we wished we’d had a little more time. Our Riga apartment couldn’t have been in a better location (though google maps deserves two slaps for bringing us to it the long, long way around) and Sigulda was splendid. We loved walking around Riga and cycling around the tiny, flowery Sigulda with it’s astonishingly good bakery cafe and peach railway station. I don’t know if I’ll be back, but life is long…


Egged on

July 5, 2018   Comments (0)

Somehow, last night, I forgot the cardinal rule of eggs and microwaves. Given that I exploded one in the shared kitchen back at King College and then repented at leisure while I cleaned the space and the microwave for hours…you’d think I’d know better. It’s done in tabata style – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Everyone knows that. It’s fairly easy and I haven’t forgotten it in years.
But last night, I was re-heating a previously boiled egg. I stuck it in the microwave for one minute.
And then, I took it out and placed it on one of these suckers to slice: (more…)

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