Freestyle Audio has released the “world’s first completely submergible and waterproof mp3 player.” Waterproof to 10 feet, shock resistant, and lightweight, the Freestyle Audio 512 gets points for awesome battery life and for tapping into an important and cash-heavy niche market. Let’s find out if the $90 USD MP3 player rises to the occasion or if it’ll sink like a brick.
Features & Design
The Freestyle Audio 512DMP is a confusing mixture of atrocious design and useful waterproof functionality. The housing of the Freestyle Audio 512 is made of cheap-feeling plastic that conjures memories of bargain-basement MP3 players made in the late ‘90s. Freestyle Audio makes their MP3 players in 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB sizes (even though their included product documentation cites 128MB, 256MB, and 512MB options).
The Freestyle Audio 512 I got came with two sets of headphones: waterproof and standard. The standard earbuds are ultra cheap and sound like garbage for everything but recordings of static-laden AM radio broadcasts and Bueller-esque class lectures. The waterproof headphones felt fine and comfortable, but the output was tiny and hollow — worse than the land lubber set. The waterproof headphones come with three sizes of earbuds. The smallest set seemed to fit me best. Changing the earbuds was painfully annoying. The earbuds pop off quickly, but getting the new set back on took a fair amount of patience and some swearing.
The Freestyle Audio 512 can be used with other headphones; however, due to the waterproofing design of the Freestyle Audio housing, headsets need to be able to push down into the headphone jack far enough to complete the waterproof seal. Not all headphones will fit that mold, so you’ll have to find a workable headset by good ole’ trial and error.
The Freestyle Audio 512 comes with a mini CD with MP3 management software for Windows users. It also comes with a neoprene armband for use while running, biking, or swimming. The Freestyle Audio 512 also has a built-in lanyard hook, so it can be worn around the neck.
The frequency range is 20Hz to 20KHz, which is not that bad. Output is 27mW and 90dB. Battery life is roughly 35 hours, which could be the most impressive feature of this MP3 player, aside from the waterproof housing.
It’ll work with Windows Me, 2000, and XP, as well as OS 9.6 and above.
If your music is in any other format than MP3, you’ll have to convert everything to MP3 for use on the Freestyle Audio 512.
The Freestyle Audio 512DMP w/ waterproof headphones
Setup & Use
Initial setup of the Freestyle Audio 512 is simple and fast. After removing the Freestyle Audio 512 and accessories from the product packaging, simply connect the player to your computer using the USB-to-1/8-inch audio jack. The same cable that connects the Freestyle Audio 512 to your computer is used for charging and syncing, which helps reduce cable clutter.
As soon as the Freestyle Audio 512 is connected to your system, whether PC or Mac, the LED indicator will light up, indicating that it is charging and ready to sync. On both PCs and Macs, the Freestyle Audio 512 shows up as a flash drive. Once visible in Windows Explorer or Finder, simply drag and drop your mp3 files onto the drive. Sadly, the Freestyle Audio 512 has a USB 1.1 connection, so transferring 512MB of MP3 files will take awhile. In my initial tests, transferring roughly 400MB of files took 17 minutes. On my second-gen iPod shuffle, the same transfer took just over one minute.
The Freestyle Audio 512 has four controller buttons. One for volume up, one for volume down, a third button for rewind/back, and a fourth jumbled button for forward/on/off/play/stop. The buttons are covered by thick rubberized and waterproof knobs, so you really have to push hard to engage the controls. Having one knobby button for forward/on/off/play/stop makes for surprisingly sloppy control.
The Freestyle Audio 512 does not have an LCD screen, so it acts as a shuffle device.
If you can manage to get past the annoying earbuds and controls, the audio output is not altogether bad. It’s not very good, either. Depending on the song and file encoding, the audio is simply acceptable. Of course, the better your earphones are, the more tolerable the audio. Again, the stock headphones are so bad, you’ll strain to hear your music.
While most MP3 players come with one-year limited warranties, the Freestyle Audio 512 comes with a 90-day warranty. This means that if anything happens to the player after three months of normal use (e.g. if water seeps in through the seals, if corrosion happens, or if the battery just goes belly up), you’ll have to pay to get it repaired. We all know that technology is transient, but a three-month limited warranty is really sticking it to the pay-no-attention-to-details consumer.
According to the Freestyle Audio 512 user manual, the waterproof MP3 player should not be used (and the manufacturer will not be responsible for damages if it is used) in high humidity environments. This is a waterproof MP3 player — rated to 10 feet deep — that can’t be used in places with high humidity. Things that make you say “hmmm”…
The Freestyle Audio 512 MP3 player is not for those with discerning taste or for those who enjoy listening to music. If I was given one of these MP3 players as a gift, I would likely feel offended; or more likely, I would feel bad for the person who dropped nearly $90 USD on a hokey MP3 player. I might even drive them back to the store they got it from to help them get a refund.
My suggestion: if you need a waterproof mp3 player, buy an iPod nano and hook yourself up with a waterproof housing for it. There are plenty of waterproof housings available for under $30 USD, or about $60 complete with decent waterproof headphones.
This is a great time for the hip young crowd to learn a valuable Latin phrase: Caveat Emptor! Google it, kids.
• 1GB sizes available
• Waterproof to 10 feet
• Will store documents as well as mp3 files
• Makes the iPod nano seem even better
• Terrible headphones
• Clunky, cheap controls
• No LCD screen
• Can’t be used in high humidity conditions