Disclaimer: I received a set of Xtrainerz to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
As a triathlete, I go to the pool a lot. Okay, not a lot. In fact, not even as much as I really should. Sorry, Coach. But one thing that I’ve found makes swimming so much easier is listening to podcasts while I swim. A year or so ago, I bought a waterproof iPod shuffle with waterproof earbuds. I would load up my podcasts at home, clip the shuffle to my swim cap, and swim, listening to the dulcet tones of a random podcast (often The Baby-Sitters Club Club, let’s be honest).
But this system came with a few annoyances. First, earbuds have cords, and every so often, I would have things all twisted up such that when I turned my head to breathe, the earbud would pull in a weird way. Second, the earbuds had “custom” rubber things on each of them to fit any ear. You know what? Those things fall off and end up at the bottom of a swim bag way too easily. But the biggest problem I had was that water would get in my ear around the earbuds and then completely block the sound so I couldn’t hear anything. It was incredibly annoying, and if I wanted to keep listening, I had to stop and reposition the earbud.
Then I got the chance to try the Xtrainerz by Aftershokz. These probably look somewhat familiar, if you’ve used Aftershokz products before, and they work in a similar way – rather than the sound going into your ears, it uses bone conduction. The Xtrainers, however, are designed to be used in water (or out of water, but more about that later).
I will admit, I didn’t have the highest of hopes. I figured they would work, but wouldn’t be a huge difference from my current system.
Friends, I was so very wrong. Once I figured out how best to position the Xtrainerz on my head inside my swim cap along with all of my hair (I have a LOT of hair), I started the podcast playing and began my swim. Instead of the water entering my ears blocking the sound, it enhanced it. Which, of course, makes total sense if you’ve worn other bone conduction headphones before. If you block out the external noise, you can hear the sound through the bone conduction that much better. So when the water blocks out the noise, the sound becomes even clearer.
I am still so impressed at the sound quality. With podcasts, it’s always a risk, because words can easily be lost with poor sound quality, but it’s seriously not an issue here. This is definitely a game changer if you want to listen to music or podcasts while you swim.
Now, let’s go into some of the details and the questions many people have.
Can I stream music? Nope. Though this isn’t unique to the Xtrainerz – you can’t stream with any of the currently available swim music players. Why? Bluetooth can’t transmit through water. So you will have to physically transfer the music to your phone. That means that you won’t be able to transfer your Spotify playlist. If you still have old school music from iTunes, you can use that, or go my route and use podcasts. They’re free and entertaining and definitely make the laps go faster. The Xtrainerz will hold 4GB of music or podcasts. That’s around 1200 songs, or many, many hours of podcasts. If you really want to swim longer than that, well, you might be a fish.
How do you load music or podcasts? You just connect the Xtrainers to your computer using the cord that comes with it (also used for charging), and it appears as a new disk. You can then drag and drop your files. I used iTunes to download some podcasts, then just dragged them directly from the iTunes screen onto the Xtrainers. I’m on Mac, and was worried I’d have issues, since it seems like so many things are made for PC. I had no issue at all.
Can I use these while running? You can! The Xtrainers have a little button on the side to change them from general mode to swim mode. On swim mode, the pitch is apparently changed slightly to make it easier to hear underwater. But you can definitely load up the Xtrainers for a run, and you won’t have to worry about killing your phone battery or whether or not the rain (or your sweat) will damage your Xtrainerz.
How’s the battery? The battery lasts 8 hours, and will fully charge in 1.5 hours. What I like best is that when you turn them on, the voice over (named Audrey) will tell you if the battery is high, medium, or low, so you know when you need to charge. I have yet to need to charge mine (because I need to go to the pool more often), so I can confidently say I’m happy with the battery. And if you forget to turn them off, they do have an auto-off, so no worries there.
If you’ve been considering getting a music player to get you through all those laps at the pool, I definitely recommend the Xtrainerz. I’m so impressed by how well they work, and how little trouble they cause me while I swim. No more excuses for a long pause between sets!