Several weeks ago, Mullet Central got an email inviting us to take a first look at a new audio device that its makers said was destined to change the way we think about music when paddling.
I admit, I was skeptical. But definitely intrigued.
I sometimes listen, as discretely as possible, to a playlist or two when I am doing training runs, to get me fired up or to help me keep a tempo. But, most of the time, I don’t want music to interfere with my – or anyone else’s – connection to nature and certainly with my safety when it comes to being able to hear boat traffic. Usually I just stream the tunes from my phone, in it’s waterproof case, which is also sometimes in a dry bag. So, really, even I can’t even hear it sometimes.
Okay, most of the time.
I’ve tried the inexpensive, suction cup Bluetooth speakers but…suction cups don’t always suction.
You truly can’t hear that playlist when the Bluetooth is 10 feet or more underwater.
I tried to use one of those speakers for my first Chattajack but turning it on and controlling it while standing up and panicking about making the 10 mile cut off …yeah….no. The second Chattajack, the thing stayed home.
I digress. I agreed to meet the team from Fusion at Raleigh Durham International Airport during one of their layovers as they were traveling overseas to promote this game changing product.
Fusion is an Auckland, New Zeland company long in the business of making quality marine electronics, but recently purchased by Garmin. After backgrounding me on the company, the guys got down to brass tacks and showed me the StereoActive watersports stereo.
Now, in all fairness, I have not tested this yet. But I am itching too. Hopefully for Chattajack. Why? Design. Design, Design. A lot of thought and testing went into this paddle tune box. The folks who built it are paddlers themselves. They spent a lot of time testing prototypes on the board to see what would work and what wouldn’t. One of the things I am most anxious to try for myself is the button controls. They’ve engineered them so that you should easily be able to adjust volume, play, stop, etc. by using your paddle. The buttons are “scalloped” so a tap of the blade should engage them easily.
No stopping to bend over and futz.
StereoActive is a Bluetooth device, so it is capable of streaming Spotify or Pandora and it is both iPhone and Android compatible. It is also an AM/FM radio and weather radio. Having the weather radio at hand is a very nice feature, especially for touring. It can also do playback via USB.
It’s a very versatile device with lots of applications– not just paddling. Fishing, general boating, even the hot tub or swimming pool.
One of the things that also grabbed my attention was the design/placement of the speakers. It will target the sound toward you as you paddle – it’s not necessarily going to broadcast the music to everyone around you, per se.
At first glance, I thought the unit was a bit too large to be practical. But in order for the StereoActive to do everything it does, it had to have some real estate. One of those things is…wait for it…buoyancy. Yes, that’s right. This baby, even though it looks large, actually FLOATS. It has a great, secure and unique mounting system but in the event that you drop it or whatever, it will be easy to recover.
One of the ways Fusion has helped mitigate the size is that they have designed a “safe” for things like phones, keys and wallets that sits underneath the stero unit. Brilliant. Good use of space and multitasking.
And yes, the safe FLOATS too.
Sitting in the Starbucks at the airport terminal, the sound quality was really, really nice. I am by no means an audiophile but I can say that it sounded much richer than the $25 dollar wireless speaker I have from Amazon.
Since it is now a Garmin product, the Fusion folks tell me that there is the promise of some very cool integration with Garmin’s smart watches and training tools like the Fenix 3.
BOOM. They had me at “integration with the Fenix 3.”
I absolutely cannot wait to try out the StereoActive.
When I do, I’ll report back. Stay tuned!