Gear Review: Fusion Stereo Active

Lisa Schell Columns, Electronics, Gear, Gear, The Inland Paddler Leave a Comment

One of the best additions to my arsenal of electronic training tools came late in this past season, and it was something completely unexpected: a bluetooth stereo.

But not just any bluetooth stereo.

The Fusion StereoActive.

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It’s made by a New Zealand company that has been in the business of making marine electronics for sometime but was recently acquired by Garmin. I had the opportunity to get a briefing on the product by its designers a couple of months before the stereo went to market.

I will admit, prior to that meeting, I was dubious.   Bluetooth stereos are now a dime a dozen, it seems.  And you can get waterproof ones that will stick on the deck of your board or canoe for cheap. Why was this going to be a game changer?

The Fusion guys walked me through their design process in meticulous detail.  The head designer is a paddleboarder and he tried and tested his prototypes on the waters not far from Fusion’s Auckland offices.  They wanted a product that would deliver great sound, stand up to the elements involved, usable in a wide variety of applications AND be easy to control – especially if you have a paddle in your hands.

At first glance, you will notice that the StereoActive is a bit big.  Okay, really big. But in order to do everything Fusion wants it to do, it has to be.  And the kicker there is that this thing floats. YES, REALLY. I know. I tried it. But in order to test that aspect of the unit, I had to remove it from the “puck” mounting bracket and actually throw it in the water!! (I had a tether attached, mind you.) The puck mounting system is the beefiest thing I have ever seen.

Not only is the adhesive intense, the locking system that attaches to the stereo itself is impressive.  Once it is locked in, it is really not going anywhere. You can’t say that about the cheap suction cup speakers.  I mounted the StereoActive to the deck of my OC1 and huli’d after huli’d after huli’d, and the thing didn’t budge. Just to be on the safe side, there is a spot in the unit to attached a tether or carry strap, which adds extra security.

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The design of the StereoActive is such that it “aims” the sound at you as you paddle.  That means you can turn the volume down and still hear your music or interval timer without everyone else on the water hearing it too. Controlling that volume, or any of the other functions is super easy – the large buttons are scalloped in shape, which means you can use the edge of your paddle. In the OC, that wasn’t necessary but it work liked a charm on the SUP.  Not having to stop, bend over or even sit down was amazing.

Integration

But, not only was the manual control of the device extremely ergonomic and paddler friendly, since it is a Garmin product, it is compatible with my Fenix 3 watch, as well as any number of the other new Garmin smart watch or activity tracker devices.  That means I can control it from my wrist!  Set up and pairing was flawless. That made me giggle with geeky delight.

I always paddle with my phone, for safety and during the race season, I have a favorite interval timer I use which give out audible cues.  Sometimes it is hard to hear those cues, especially if I have the phone tucked away in a dry bag, in addition to my waterproof case. That’s how the Fusion Stereo Active became my new best friend. Using bluetooth, I was quickly able to pair the Stereo Active to my phone, enabling me to stream the audio from my interval app. It was amazing!!! I could hear my audio cues and my playlist perfectly! I didn’t screw up my interval session for lack of missing a cue and getting off track. As for the phone, it went into the Active Safe, an accessory for the stereo which attached to the bottom and provides a secure, waterproof place for things like keys and your phone.  Brilliant, purpose built design.  Now I can have my interval timer, hear it and not worry about the phone.

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Once paired, the StereoActive can stream anything whether it is your playlist, music from a service like Spotify, or your favorite online radio station. You can also listen to mp3 music via a waterproof usb port.  In addition, there is a built in am-fm radio and weather radio, which is a fantastic safety feature.

 

Other Applications

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The Fusion StereoActive has other uses, too. You can take this baby anywhere – camping, boating, sailing, anywhere were you need a super rugged device.  And you can even use it at home.  The sound quality is super impressive.  The only drawback I can see is that it is a bit heavy, especially with the ActiveSafe attached, but then again, form follows function. Cost per unit, without the ActiveSafe is $299, but remember, you are getting an IPX7 rated waterproof, floating, Bluetooth stereo with quality sound and multiple uses.

And did I say it floats?

I can’t wait to get back into interval training with the StereoActive -my workouts are going to be a lot less frustrating and definitely more energized!

 

Product Specifications

Sources Bluetooth / USB / AM / FM / iPhone / Android / Weatherband (Weatherband available in USA only)
Tuner AM / FM (Japan, Australasia, Europe, USA) + Weatherband (Weatherband available in USA only)
USB Format FAT 32
USB Audio Format MP3 (Maximum 250 files per folder and 250 in the root directory)
Made for iPod and iPhone Apple IAP2 Lightning Connector Products: iPhone 7/Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s/Plus, iPhone 6/Plus, iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPod touch 5th/6th gen
AOA Android Open Accessory Android Open Source Protocol – List of Devices Coming Soon
Speaker Size 2 x 2.5” Custom Design + Passive Radiator
Amplifier Output Class-D / 40 watts (2 X 20W Stereo)
Battery Up To 20 Hours Dual Internal rechargeable high powered lithium ion cells provides up to 20 hours of use
Charging Requirements 110~220 Volt AC wall charger (supplied) or 12vdc 2a car charger (optional accessory) – charges within 3 hours