Monday, June 01, 2015

How I Hacked my Swimmers' MP3 Player's Headphones to Make it Louder

So I decided to hack my Sony Walkman Swim Headphones – an imperfect but adequate solution to a volume problem.

This past Christmas, I received an MP3 player which can be worn while swimming. I was excited but afraid some of the more negative reviews I'd read might be true. That being that they've not been perfected yet and water can baffle the sound.

Mine was a Sony Walkman NWZW273 4-gigabyte MP3 player which is submersible. I won't get into the features outside of those for swimming except to say that the unit is like the iPod Shuffle in that it is a very small. Instead of one piece with wired headphones, my was a two-piece wireless MP3 player with ear-buds connected directly to the two player parts.The unit is light and I barely notice it on my head when I'm swimming. 

As part of the water-resistance feature, the package includes two types of ear-buds--those that are designed for swimming and those which can be used for either swimming or not. The two are basically the same except that the swimming ear-buds have a second filter to prevent water getting into them (a first filter exists on the end of the plastic tubing that runs into the player and to which the ear-buds attach).

While it was a good idea, I found this second filter feature to be a big problem for me in that they muffled the sound such that the volume was insufficient and nearly inaudible when combined with the splashing sound of my freestyle stroke. The standard ear-buds (no filter) provided much better volume transmission but allowed water to get in (even after experimenting with various sized ear-buds Sony provides), baffling the sound equivalently or worse when that happened. Ergo, I had a problem.

Realizing this baffled sound might make the unit unusable for my purposes (swimming), I googled this issue and found some other swimmers using the unit had similar complaints. Some advised switching to a different MP3 product which offers jaw-bone (skull) sound conductivity, but those suckers cost over a $100, are bulkier and, to my eye, resemble scuba equipment!

Instead, I decided I'd try to hack the unit by finding a better pair of ear-buds to replace those that came with the unit. Spinning through the myriad listings of ear-buds available through Amazon.com, I found some water-proof ear-buds for $4, that apparently came from China. This was a reasonable financial risk, I told my cheap self who really wanted this Sony player to do what it was supposed to but didn't want to spend much to fix it.

Upon arrival, the new earphones resembled standard earphones with larger than usual ear-buds designed like a pair of mason screws, each with three increasingly wide rings whose purpose apparently was to offer both universal sizing and to prevent water penetration into the ears. Removing the rubber ear-bud components from the wires I noted they had no water filter at all.

Well my idea worked. Swapping out the Sony soft rubber ear-buds for the harder rubber Chinese ear-buds jumped the volume up considerably. Bottom line, they successfully keep the water out of my ears for the most part*. The sound is even louder, when I put my ears (even my entire head) below the water surface. 

I am now a happy rocking swimmer!

* Water still gets in occasionally and a good shake of the head or ear-bud usually removes it. I've found that if this does not improve the volume, water has most likely gotten into the plastic tubing past the first (permanent) filter. When this happens, I've successfully repaired this by removing the ear-buds and placing the tubing a few inches from a halogen desk lamp for a few minutes which has draws the water out of the inside of the tubing. Pressing a soft cotton cloth over the filter may also draw the water out (this solution eliminates the need of a trip home before using the player again).

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My blog has problems posting replies to reader-comments so my answer(s) is/are included below ...

The following is the link to the headphones I bought. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F408EYK  ... remember, upon receipt of these new headphones, I simply swapped out the old earbuds with this product's new earbuds. 

10 comments:

  1. What is the name of these new headphones that you bought from amazon?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I definitely appreciate your blog. Excellent work!
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    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah as the time moves on newer and latest technology is evolving, now you can have plenty of choices for water resistance headphones , just go to amazon or ebay and you will find a lot instead of doing any kind of hack and risking your headphone to break , just go and find the one from there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thanks for sharing the tip. great job! My Blog

    ReplyDelete
  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2017

    So many options now with varying results. Have tried a few but wouldn't part with my FX Sport phones. A little unusual in concept but the music quality both in and out of the water are amazing. A little bit of a faff to get them ready but nothing better when swimming. I got mine here http://www.fx-sport.net/product/products/silicone-skin-plus-swimcap/

    ReplyDelete

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