Oddly, I’d been thinking for a few weeks “I really need to get better at swimming”. Largely due to the fact that a few of my friends were doing an Ironman and I opted out because there wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d ever get past the swim section with my pathetic breaststroke. The only problem, aside from the fact I am utterly useless at swimming, is that I also find it ridiculously boring.
I say oddly because a few weeks ago the team at JBL set up a challenge whereby a group of journalists would spend a month trying to do as much training as possible in order to win a JBL Xtreme 2 speaker. All activity, whether that be running, swimming or cycling, would be recorded on Strava to see who’d do the most by the end. We’d also get to test out a pair of JBL headphones whilst we attempted to top the leaderboard. One of which was the Endurance Dive Headphones – perfect. Finally I might be able to make swimming a bit more interesting.
What do they do?
The Dive headphones are part of JBL’s Endurance range. A series of bluetooth headphones designed to be used for various sporting endeavours. The Dive are the most functional of that range. The first being the Sprint (designed for running) and the second, the Jump (designed for multi sport and cross-training). The Dive sit at the top of the group because as well as being ergonomically designed to stay in during exercise and to be waterproof, they also have the ability to hold locally stored mp3 files. The main reason being so you can listen to music underwater.
The first thing I noticed about the headphones is that they’re a neat looking piece of kit. When you slip them over your ears and twist the plastic bit that circles around them, they do suddenly seem to fit in very snuggly (it’s apparently called Twistlock). Not only are the earbuds comfortable, but they also hold out a hell of a lot of sound.
Aesthetically, they’re a nice looking pair of headphones for sport and fitness, but they may be a bit much for general day-to-day use. They Twistlock design does also make it hard to take them on and off at somewhere like work, where invariably people will wander over and talk to you.
So yeah, ruddy good design if you’re specifically using them for fitness.
Okay, now this is the major thing, and to be honest, I didn’t read the instructions in a lot of depth before I tried them the first time. However, there’s a big learning curve with the interface for the Dive headphones. There are no buttons on the headset, so all the controls are hidden on a touch sensitive section that sits over the ear bud. That may not sound too tricky initially. But the Dive’s essentially switch between two modes: In water and out of water.
When you’re underwater you need to turn the touch sensitivity off and the MP3 player kicks in. The reason for this is that the water itself will affect the touch pad on the ear and bluetooth won’t work very well underwater. I didn’t know this initially and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Switching between the two uses gestures based on touching the pad for a certain amount of time.
It’s basically a whole new operational system which is probably unlike anything you’ve used before. I actually sat in my flat working it out before the second time I went to the pool and I still got confused. Here’s the instructions from the website product page (I think this may be something that’s cropped up a fair bit). Might be worth lying in the bath for half an hour and testing it out. It’s quite hard to do it in a pool
You also turn the headphones off automatically when you remove the headphones due to the fact that when the bud touches the plastic collar, a bit of tech does it for you.
I’ve used the Dive for running, swimming and just general use and the sound is really good. They’re loud, very noise isolating and they’ve got a really nice bass to them. Getting the sound right underwater is a lot trickier, and you really need to play around to find out what works best for you. As I spent a good twenty minutes messing about with them I thin I completely filled my ears with water, so I couldn’t hear a great deal after that. Since then I’ve worked out a system for putting them on and leaving them there that works well. The sound obviously isn’t as good as it would be out of the water, not by a long shot, but it definitely works better than I’d have expected from underwater headphones.
Pretty damn good actually. Works for wight hours of bluetooth use, which seems to be spot on from my experience. It also has a ten minute fast charge option that’ll charge you for an hour. Lovely.
Thank heavens I worked this out. Having completely ignored the instruction the first time I thought the bluetooth would be fine underwater. Nope, you need to manually move over MP3s to the headphones like it’s a memory card. That in itself it painless. The only issue of course is actually finding some MP3s. I ended up raiding my old Amazon music account for downloads and sticking those on. Was actually quite a nice trip down memory lane.
At £89.99, they’re not cheap, but waterproof headphones are a bit of a rarity. As standalone headphones the Dive are a ruddy nice options for sport and fitness and could easily go toe to toe with some of the much more expensive market leaders when it comes to running and the gym.
To be honest the fact that they’re waterproof actually makes it harder to review them because the technology is so open to difficulties. It’s almost as if the JBL Dive headphones can do way too much and any inherent issues with them is based solely on the difficulty in managing it all.
I actually really like them, and once I worked out how to use them in the pool I liked them a hell of a lot more. I’m still getting my head around some of the touch controls even now, but when I manage to do it right, they’re a really nice pair of headphones for sports people.
To find out more about the JBL Endurance Dives head to the website here.