Headphones to dive for
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Everyone knows this but few will admit it: swimming is really, really boring. Running or doing your gym routine, you can liven up with music or, as I do on my Peloton, watching the evening news. But with swimming, not so much. Splash splash, glug glug is about it for a soundtrack.
There are some underwater music players out there but they tend to be old-school MP3 players with a limited memory and supposedly waterproof earbuds that leak.
Zygo, from California, was developed by two high-school pals who set out to design a system that could stream coaching programmes, music, podcasts or whatever from your phone or tablet to a swimmer – Bluetooth being almost useless if you’re in water and completely useless when you are actually under water.
They experimented with frequencies and antennas until they got it right. With Zygo, you can supposedly transmit content up to half a mile on the water’s surface, and 50m if you are underwater as deep as 60cm. Impressive stuff – although, full disclosure, lockdown restricted my experimentation to being submerged in a deep bath.
Here’s how Zygo works. Your devices stream by Bluetooth to a transmitter unit that looks like a small walkie-talkie – and is. Someone on land or a boat can interrupt your music to talk to you, although you can’t talk back (which would be nice, especially if you were in trouble – never mind).
The next bit is getting the music, or coaching programme or coach, to your ears, and it does this by bone conduction. The Zygo headset vibrates as if it has hornets inside delivering sound to a spot just in front of your ears, whence it travels to your auditory equipment. The quality ain’t hi-fi, but it’s OK. And your ears are free to hear whatever else is going on about you.
If you want to turn the sound off, there are controls on the headset or, better, you can use your Apple Watch, which you may well be wearing in case you need to take a call while swimming.
Not everyone will think it’s ideal being able to listen to music or radio while taking a dip or scuba diving in the Caribbean. But as someone who wants to be able to listen to Radio 4 anywhere in any country, I’m all for worlds colliding. Zygo is clever and life-enhancing.
Zygo Sol, £222 plus shipping, shopzygo.com