Cigar Aficionado

Oregon Scientific Waterproof MP3

Conundrum: you like to work out to the stirring strains of Wagner's "The Valkyrie," but your favorite regimen involves swimming and you know that water and your iPod don't mix. Oregon Scientific plunges in with a solution: a waterproof MP3 player made especially for lap swimmers.

The three models of the OS MP 120 hold a range of audio memory, including 128, 256 and 512 megabytes, and also play FM radio, all while clipped to the strap of your goggles. And it's pretty much ready to go straight out of the package. The hardest part of loading audio content is unscrewing the waterproof base of the unit (which is fairly easy, do it with a nickel) prior to plugging in the USB cable that connects to your computer. If the operating system is Windows ME, 2000 or XP, or MacIntosh OS 9.0 or above, your computer will recognize the unit and display it as a removable drive (Windows) or desktop drive icon (Mac). Then just drag and drop from your collection of MP3 (or WMA) files. Older operating systems require you to load supplied software.

The built-in rechargeable battery powers up through the USB cable on juice supplied by your computer. After two to three hours, you get about a 10-hour charge (longer than I care to swim, unless I'm stranded at sea). Waterproof earphones (you can plug in your own headset when you're not submerged) with snug earbuds bring you the tunes. Note: the unit is only waterproof to a meter, so this is not for scuba divers.

The one knock is that the maximum volume isn't very loud considering you'll likely use it in a noisy natatorium venue. The controls are relatively sophisticated, but a bit overambitious for using while swimming. You can scroll through MP3 files and FM channels you preset and choose preset equalizer formats (normal, rock, jazz, classical or pop). But try doing that when you're doing a brisk Australian crawl with controls that are on the side of your head. It's best to put your tunes in order that will have the Valkyries flying just when you need the added boost. Perhaps the future will bring readouts on your goggles.