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Mechen M3 review: A jack of all trades digital audio player but a master at none
11:00 am | May 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Portable Media Players | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Mechen M3: Three-minute review

The Mechen M3 appears to be feature-rich on the surface but when it comes down to it, it's not the most talented of music players. Because of this, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Mechen’s engineers were so preoccupied with whether they could do certain things, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Mechen is a Chinese tech company that sells a small range of MP3 players. If you’ve seen one of them, it’s probably because you’ve found it listed on Amazon alongside a small army of similar low-cost Chinese MP3 players.

Most of the best cheap MP3 players focus on nailing one area: maybe they’ve got great file support for music tracks, or they have a lightweight and easily-portable design, or they have loads of space for music. Mechen’s angle is to go for breadth instead of depth: it’s not just an MP3 player but a portable video player, a mini eReader, a little recording device and more.

However, to return to that Jurassic Park quote from the opening, Mechen has seemingly stuffed in lots of these features without making sure that they’re worth including in the first place.

File format support for both video and e-book functionality is incredibly limited, missing out on most of the standard files you’ll probably have in your library – and then, if you spend ages poring over a file converter to transform your library into a compatible one, you’ll still be viewing these videos or pages on an absolutely tiny display.

Similarly the touch-screen is a neat feature in an MP3 player this cheap, but the interface doesn’t seem to have been designed with a touch-screen in mind. Navigation beyond the main menu is annoying and hard, and in my testing I often just gave up and started listening to whatever music was already in front of me.

That’s not to say that the Mechen M3 is rubbish. It can record your voice and also audio from a device connected via the 3.5mm jack, which could be really handy in certain situations. It also has a design that’s surprisingly premium-feeling for its price.

And at the end of the day, this is an incredibly cheap MP3 player that… well, plays MP3s. So if that’s all you need, it’s fit for purpose – it’s just a shame about all the failed attempts at making it more than that to compete with the best MP3 players.

Mechen M3 review: Price and release date

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Costs $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99
  • Available since January 2024

The Mechen M3 is positioned at the low end of the MP3 player price scale: you can pick it up for $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99, and often for between 10%-25% less thanks to frequent sales on Amazon.

At that price, you’re probably finding this MP3 listed alongside countless similar affordable MP3 players, all with similar feature sets and specs.

It’s a relatively new MP3 player, having only been listed on Amazon from early January, so it’s a little more up-to-date than some rival devices which stay listed on the site for years.

Mechen M3 review: Features

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 64GB memory, expandable to 128GB
  • Offers video playback, eReader, FM radio, images and more...
  • ...but only select file formats, which hampers functionality

There are an absolutely massive number of features offered by the Mechen MP3, including some that’ll have very particular uses for savvy users.

For starters, this ‘MP3 player’ lets you view a range of other file types beyond MP3s, and beyond audio ones in general. From the homepage you can see options for music, video, radio, photos and more.

Let’s start with the radio: if you’re using wired headphones, you can tune into FM radio and even record live radio onto the Mechen. Why wired headphones? Well it’s because they act as an antennae, so you won’t be able to use Bluetooth connectivity for the radio.

The Mechen offers the ability for you to watch videos you’ve uploaded… with the massive caveat that they have to be AVI or AMV file types. That means the most common file formats like MP4, MOV, FLV and WMV are all out the window. I found an AVI file to test, but for some reason it still wouldn’t play on the device.

This same issue affects the eReader functionality. Almost all the standards are out: no PDF, no EPUB, no CBR, no MOBI, obviously none of the Kindle file formats. Instead, all you can read is TXT files, like what Notepad creates – my lengthy eReader library features exactly none of this type of file.

Mechen has also put in a voice recorder into its M3, so you can leave yourself voice notes or record meetings, but it’s expanded that in a neat way. If you connect a music-playing device to the Mechen via a 3.5mm - 3.5mm audio cable, you can record from that other device straight onto the Mechen.

In theory that’s great, though as always there are some kinks. If you’re recording set audio, you need to manually make sure it’s synced up. Plugging the Mechen to your device overrides the audio-out so, if you’re trying to record a call, you won’t actually be able to hear what the other person is saying. Plus, there are plenty of legal questions that’ll depend on your region and app; for example, Spotify bans the recording of songs in this manner.

What’s left on the homepage? There are stopwatch, calendar, alarm and theme-toggling options which all do what you’d expect.

The Mechen has Bluetooth functionality, so you can connect it to speakers, headphones or earbuds if you’d rather use them than wired audio. Curiously Mechen’s website lists the device as supporting Bluetooth 5.0 but Amazon bumps that to Bluetooth 5.3.

By default there’s 64GB on-board storage on the Mechen, which is a decent amount for the price. Using a microSD card you can bump that up by 128GB storage, which allows for loads of music, video or text files.

In terms of battery life, Mechen generally states 500mAh without giving a figure on how much entertainment this actually is; that’s because it’ll depend on what kind of format you’re using. I managed to get through many hours of music streaming without the battery dropping much, but battery use will increase a lot if you’re mainly looking at videos or reading with the display always on.

  • Features score: 2.5/5

Mechen M3 review: Sound quality

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Neutral sound though with some peaking
  • In-box headphones aren't great

The M3 plays a few different file formats including MP3, WAV, FMA and FLAC, all pretty standard options. There’s no on-board equalizer so you’re going to have to listen to what you get.

Your sound will mostly depend on which headphones you decide to use alongside the Mechen M3; as a word of advice I’d tell you to avoid using the in-box ones because they sound absolutely terrible. The M3 also has a built-in speaker but this sounds even worse – don’t use it!

Generally speaking, the Mechen M3’s sound is fairly neutral. It tends ever so slightly towards treble over bass, but not so much that it’ll annoy anyone with particular tastes.

I did notice some peaking across the board, and on headphones that really shouldn’t be exhibiting it, so I imagine audiophiles won’t be impressed by the audio capabilities of the M3.

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Design

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small body but heavy
  • Premium design with glass body
  • Five different color options

The Mechen M3 is quite small as MP3 players go – this isn’t a massive smartphone-replacement that’ll burn a hole in your pocket. It’s just 1 cm thick, 5 cm in width and  7cm tall, which makes it roughly one third the size of my smartphone.

I’ve felt lighter MP3 players though. It tips the scales to the tune of 87g, in part thanks to its glass and metal build which feels pretty premium for a low-cost device like this. While glass tech gadgets can be a little fragile, a silicon case included in the box will let the device survive a drop or two.

The earlier comparison to a smartphone stands for lots of the device’s design: it has a small screen on the front with a fairly thick bezel and chin, a volume rocker and power button on the right edge above the USB-C port, a microSD card slot on the left edge and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. Squint, and this is basically a smartphone.

That display is 2.4-inches across diagonally, with a resolution of 240 x 320, and unlike many same-price rivals it’s a touch screen. It’s not especially bright, but it’s fit for purpose if you’re not using it in direct sunlight.

Mechen offers five color options for the M3: black (as you can see in the review pictures), light blue, pink, purple and red. There’s no difference in these devices beyond the color.

While the premium-looking design sets the Mechen 64GB apart from some similar-priced rivals, the lack of portability consideration like a gap for a strap or lanyard, or a holding clip, does make the device a little awkward to carry around. It’s small enough to totally disappear in your pocket after all!

  • Design score: 4/5

Mechen M3 review: Usability and setup

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Plugs into PC with USB-C cable
  • Main menu is easy to navigate...
  • ...but further menus aren't

The Mechen is pretty easy to set up, but when uploading your files, you’ll need to make sure you have your library in order.

That’s because when you plug the device into your PC, you need to upload different types of file into different areas: eBooks needed to be added to one folder, music to another, pictures to a third and videos to a fourth. You can’t just drag and drop your entire library into one area and expect it to work. It’s not an overly complex task, you just need to make sure your library isn’t one massive list of all the various file formats.

Initially, navigating the M3 is a breeze. Basically everything you need is housed in one of two menu screens, which you can swipe between like the most barebones smartphone in the world. Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find.

It’s when you get into long menus of tracks that things can be a little complicated. Arrows at the bottom let you move one option forward or backward, but if you’ve got hundreds of artists to sift through, that could take a while. Swiping up and down sometimes jumps through pages, but sometimes just didn’t do anything.

If I have another one small gripe, it’s that sometimes the options can be a little small; I’ve got pretty average-sized hands and I often mis-clicked and selected a different option than I intended to.

  • Usability & setup score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Value

  • Best considered solely as MP3 player
  • Design feels very premium

Whether you’re just looking for an MP3 player, or an all-in-one mini entertainment device, the Menchen MP3 offers you great value for money.

Despite being very cheap, the Mechen doesn’t feel like a tacky Amazon-filler; it has an impressive number of features for a device so affordable.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Mechen M3?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Mechen M3 review: Also consider

How I tested the Mechen M3

  • Three-week testing period
  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested
  • Used at home, in office and on walks

I tested the Mechen M3 alongside several other MP3 players, and it was the last I reviewed, so it enjoyed a three-week testing period.

For the majority of the testing time, I used the Mechen M3's in-box headphones and also the Sony WH-1000XM3s (via Bluetooth and wired). Most of the testing was done listening to music, with a range of genres tested, but I also tried listening to the radio, recording audio from my phone, watching videos and reading eBooks. Not all of these features worked due to file format issues.

As stated I tested the Mechen alongside some of its rival and I have a five-year history of testing various gadgets for TechRadar.

Pure Woodland review: charming, practical and hitting the right notes
1:00 pm | January 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers DAB Radios Gadgets Hi-Fi | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Pure Woodland: Two-minute review

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker and DAB radio isn’t the cutting edge of modern technology but it knows how to be good at what it does. It has the right name, looking eco-friendly right down to its cardboard and paper only box (besides a couple of cable ties). In a fetching green, it’s just asking for you to hook it up to a tree on a hot summer’s day. 

None of this would matter if it was awful to use but some thought has been put into it. Its carry handle is soft and easy to grip onto while its 14 hours of battery life is about right for a busy day out full of music and relaxation.

This isn’t just about music though as the Pure Woodland also has a reliable DAB and FM radio component. Pull up that antenna and you’re good to go with the DAB radio automatically tuning in and the FM radio only a few steps away. It works well giving you plenty of suitable options with the LCD screen highlighting what station is playing. 

At £139.99 / €149.99, it’s not the most competitively priced radio/speaker combo but it’s reasonable. It’s going to last a while too with IP67 waterproofing and some reinforced bumpers to help it handle a few blows while you take it out and about with you.

Simple to use with its stylish yet easy to distinguish buttons, the Pure Woodland is that device that everyone will figure out making it an easy radio to provide the whole family with. Outdoors, it blends in well while on the living room bookshelf, it’s going to be just as capable with a long USB cable proving useful. 

As its closest rival, the Robert Revival RD70 might be better looking but if you need something that can travel with you, the Pure Woodland is a tempting proposition among a busy world of the best DAB radios and best Bluetooth speakers

Pure Woodland review: Price and release date

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in July 2023
  • Costs £139.99 / €149.99
  • Only available in the UK and Europe

The Pure Woodland was released in the UK and Europe in July 2023. It costs £139.99 and €149.99 in respective markets, which places it squarely in the mid-range market. 

It’s a little cheaper than some popular favorites like the non-portable but stylish Robert Revival RD70, although pricier than the Sony XDR-P1, which has proved a hit among those looking for something portable.

It’s bulkier than the latter too although the Pure Woodland would certainly look better in your living room than the dated stylings of the Sony XDR-P1. You also get a rechargeable battery here rather than needing to dig out AA batteries all the time. 

Pure Woodland review: Features

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio on the floor

(Image credit: Future)
  • IP67 waterproofing
  • Carry handle
  • DAB and FM radio as well as speaker

It’s perhaps weird to think immediately of the carry handle of the Pure Woodland but it feels like a genuine feature rather than a design component. So many portable speakers omit a useful way of carrying them  and are rarely light enough to throw in a bag. 

While at the time of this review, it’s the wrong time of year to be spending long days outside – the Pure Woodland feels like something you could take on a picnic with you alongside your bag of food. The handle is soft to hold too which is so important compared to it biting through your hand. 

Besides the handle, the Pure Woodland is also pretty robust with IP67 waterproofing and a build that’s light to carry yet feels like it could handle a few knocks. Its 14 hour battery life also means you have a day’s worth of picnicking without needing a power source. 

The Bluetooth 5.1 that's onboard is reliable and means no dropouts to speak of. You can also switch to DAB radio mode or a FM radio if you choose. The former is pretty much automatic while the latter requires some adjustments but odds are you’ll be focusing on DAB anyhow. 

Don’t count on any extra physical connections like an aux-in socket but otherwise, the Pure Woodland has it covered.

Features score: 4 / 5 

Pure Woodland review: Sound quality

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio facing down

(Image credit: Future)
  • 10W speaker
  • Crisp audio 
  • Lacking a little oomph at times 

I’m not really counting on the Pure Woodland to be an audiophile’s dream. Instead, it’s a balanced mix of offering everything the average person needs. Listening to a talk-focused station like LBC brings out how crisp voices sound while switching over to music demonstrates that this isn’t a bass-heavy party speaker but it still does the job well for adding ambience to your picnic, working day, or general chill out moment.

When my random playlist switched to Corner Shop’s Brimful of Asha (yes, really), I was pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic it sounded. It broke through the background noise of my dehumidifier and my mechanical keyboard well. Elsewhere, more vocal heavy tracks like Harry Styles’s Sign of the Times feels tamer and not quite as powerful as one might like. Similarly, Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling doesn’t quite get you in the party mood. 

However, it’s all likeable and pleasant enough. As cliched as it might sound, the Pure Woodland is a reliable all-rounder. Nothing sounds poor or over processed and the soundstage is reasonable for this speaker, at least indoors. 

Sound quality: 4 / 5 

Pure Woodland review: Design

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio

(Image credit: Future)
  • Pleasantly tactile
  • Clear preset buttons 
  • Reinforced bumpers

The Pure Woodland looks a little dated but on the other hand, it’s also really practical. It has the aforementioned carry handle which has been designed to be soft to hold onto yet sturdy. It’ll easily hook onto something too. It also has a string of tactile buttons laid out well so none of them are too close to each other. Unlike other devices, there are no long presses or double taps necessary so it’s simple enough for anyone to figure out.

Six presets are available in all with three DAB and three FM giving you some options. Pairing to Bluetooth takes mere moments. Next to the buttons is a thin LCD screen so you can see what station you’ve picked. 

On the back, there’s nothing to speak of. A USB-C port for charging. For a change, a long USB cable is included so you’ve got a fair bit of stretch if you need to keep it plugged in. 14 hours of battery life means this won’t be too commonplace, fortunately. Reinforced bumpers at the top and bottom of the device adds to the robustness of the Pure Woodland. 

Design score: 4 / 5

Pure Woodland review: Value

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio

(Image credit: Future)
  • About average for what it offers
  • A little cheaper than more stylish options
  • Built to last

The Pure Woodland feels like something that will last a long time. It’s going to handle a muddy picnic in a British summer as well as it’ll handle living comfortably on your bookcase too. 

It’s not as good looking as the Robert Revival RD70 but it’s portable which is vital for some people. On the other hand, it’s far better looking than the cheaper Sony XDR-P1 and will look nice in your home during the winter months. A jack of all trades? Maybe, but it works. 

Should you buy the Pure Woodland?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if... 

Pure Woodland review: Also consider

How I tested the Pure Woodland

The Pure Woodland Bluetooth speaker with DAB radio

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for one week 
  • Used around the home and briefly outside (winter!)
  • 10 years of audio reviewing experience

I lived with the Pure Woodland by plonking it in the same room as I work while also moving it around the home including my living room. For a brief time, I took it outside but the weather has been awful and I feel less waterproof than the Pure Woodland. 

Around the house, it was used while I worked as background noise as well as while I cooked and cleaned. It was all very domesticated and pleasant -- just like how most people are likely to use the Pure Woodland. 

I listened to a wide variety of music. This included my faithful (and somewhat embarrassing) 1990s playlist along with more recent releases such as those of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. I also listened to the radio a lot -- mostly a mixture of LBC, BBC Radio 5 Live, and BBC Radio 4. 

Music was streamed through Apple Music and Spotify, while I used the DAB side of things predominantly for the radio with some FM testing too.

Over the past decade, I’ve reviewed dozens of speakers, headphones, and earbuds. Covering a wide range of price ranges, these go from super cheap ‘how could they make it for so little?’ level to much more expensive options.

Zygo Solo review
7:04 pm | July 21, 2021

Author: admin | Category: Computers Fitness Headphones Gadgets Health & Fitness | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Editor's note

  • Original review date: July 2021
  • Original price $229 (£218.00, around AU$400.00)
  • Prices holding steady

Update: February 2024. Zygo is still unopposed three years on as the best premium option for in-pool workouts. The Zygo Solo vs H20 Audio Tri versus feature we did last year has a lot of points that remain relevant one year on: the FM radio transmitter means if you want to stream, Zygo Solo is the best option, especially if you want to stream guided workouts. The continued limited availability in the UK and AU is a big frustration, but otherwise for US swimmers, Zygo is the premium headphone set for you. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Two-minute review

Is this the Peloton of the pool? With the success of that workout streaming service clearly in its sights comes Zygo Solo, a unique audio gadget for swimmers.

We’ve seen waterproof headphones and bone conduction headphones before, but not like this. Since Bluetooth can't penetrate water, all other swim headphones are little more than waterproof MP3 players (pretty much that music file format’s last stand). The Zygo Solo is different, and is able to stream content from a smartphone through water using an FM transmitter that can penetrate water.

It’s something of a 'hallelujah!' moment for swimmers, many of whom have by now experimented with the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 and then the Aftershokz Xtrainerz, both of which are good at what they do, but only play MP3s. Does anyone even have any MP3s anymore?

Zygo Solo equipment

The Zygo Solo kit consists of a headset, FM transmitter, stand and charging case, plus a pair of earplugs (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

A four-piece set consisting of headset, FM transmitter, stand and charging case, the Zygo Solo has a lot more hardware than your average pair of super-slim swimming headphones.

It works like this: your phone connects to the FM transmitter via Bluetooth and the transmitter to the headset via radio frequency. It’s easy to set up, though there’s definitely more physical equipment to deal with. It also means taking a lot of gear poolside. Fine in a private swimming pool, but not so great in a public pool where you’ll have to keep one eye on your stuff while you swim.

Nevertheless, committed swimmers with the right environment will adore the Zygo Solo. A long overdue audio upgrade for the pool, it’s surprisingly easy to use, offers great FM-quality sound and has hundreds of excellent on-demand workouts that can really change how you approach your swimming fitness. Or you can just listen to your own music, audiobooks or podcasts without having to drag-and-drop MP3 files prior to a swim.

How does Zygo Solo compare to its underwater MP3 player competitors? It blows them out of the water, of course – and it’s priced accordingly.

Zygo Solo price and availability

  • Out now
  • Costs $299 / £218 (about AU$400)

Available in the US, Canada and the UK in two sizes – standard and large – the Zygo Solo costs $299 / £218 (about AU$400) for the full package. A replacement headset costs $99 / £72 (about AU$150), while an external mic costs US$30/UK£22 (about AU$40), and is useful if a coach wants to use the FM transmitter as a hands-free walkie talkie.

If you want Peloton-inspired streaming swim workouts (comprising short and long audio workouts delivered by instructors and paired with music) then you also need to take out a Zygo All Access Monthly Plan, which costs $14.99 / £12.99 (about AU$20) per month after a 14-day trial.

In future Zygo tells us it’s planning metric tracking similar to that offered by the best running watches, leaderboards, and truly Peloton-style live classes. On Zygo’s website you can purchase an app gift certificate for an entire year for $149 / £108 (about AU$200), which gives you two months free.

Zygo Solo design

  • Headset weighs 66g
  • Waterproof to 2ft / 60cm
  • FM transmitter streams to 55yds / 50m

The Zygo Solo is, technically speaking, by far the most ambitious set of swimming headphones available. Predictably that means it comes with some baggage. The package consists of an IP68-rated waterproof headset, an IP67-rated (waterproof for 30 minutes) FM transmitter and stand, a pair of earplugs and a charging case.

While the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 and the Aftershokz Xtrainerz weigh 32g and 29g, respectively, the Zygo Solo headset weighs 66g. Why? It’s got a radio receiver as well as a battery inside that makes it possible to receive audio from the FM transmitter connected wirelessly to a smartphone.

The 101g FM transmitter itself is a figure of eight-shaped device that’s also waterproof, so it’s fine to leave it close to the water. Also included is a small 25g holder for the FM transmitter that keeps it upright, which extends its range.

Zygo Solo headset with transmitter

The Zygo Solo is considerably heavier than other swimming headphones due to its radio receiver (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

Meanwhile, the charging case itself weighs 450g, and 623g with both the headset and the transmitter inside. Resembling the kind of case you might find housing a pair of the best noise cancelling headphones, it’s rounded and compact, and fairly easily fits inside a swim bag. The headset also has an accelerometer inside, so expect activity tracking soon.

Zygo Solo setup

  • Connects via FM transmitter
  • Streams any audio from a smartphone

Despite a slightly convoluted hardware arrangement compared to MP3 swim players, the Zygo Solo is always easy to set-up. It takes a bit of getting used to. If you’re used to entering the pool with just a pair of goggles, or even if you’re used to donning an MP3 swim player, the Zygo Solo seems a lot to get used to.

The headset feels reasonably solid and unwieldy at first – it is, after all, more substantial than a basic swim MP3 player – partly because it’s designed to stay firmly in place during underwater turns. It’s chunkier because it’s got more hardware inside.

Man wearing Zygo Solo headset

The robust, chunky design of the Zygo Solo helps it stay in place during underwater turns (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

What’s really different about the Zygo Solo compared to MP3 swim players is that you have to have the FM transmitter and your smartphone poolside. That FM transmitter works to a range of 50 meters – so the size of an Olympic swimming pool – which is generous enough (it can also transmit to an unlimited number of headsets). However, if you’re used to leaving your phone in a locker and entering a neighborhood pool deck with just a towel, having to take a smartphone and an FM transmitter is a bit of a change.

The 50m limit applies only to swimming pools, with a half-mile range promised in the great outdoors. So you could get away with wearing a Zygo Solo while open water swimming, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and even sailing.

Zygo Solo sound

  • Bone conduction works well
  • Sounds best with earplugs
  • Only the FM transmitter has playback buttons

Make no mistake about what Zygo is trying to do here; streaming live audio underwater is not easy. In fact, the tech it took two years to perfect. The Zygo Solo’s sound is good. Out of the pool it sounds a little tinny, but in the water it suddenly gets a lot of bass.

Let’s not overdo it; this is not audiophile quality, and overall the impression is (not surprisingly) of FM radio-like sound, with a little crackle and hiss now and again. However, at all times it sounds much better than any waterproof MP3 player. That is, if you remember to use the earplugs.

Close-up of Zygo Solo earpiece

The Zygo Solo uses bone conduction to send vibrations to your auditory nerve (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

Like the Aftershokz Xtrainerz the Zygo Solo are bone conduction headphones, using a technology that employs an open-ear design and transmits audio through vibrations in the cheekbones directly into the inner ear.

You don’t need to use the included earplugs, but if you don’t you’ll find that every time your ears are not immersed the quality of sound drastically changes. So for a more consistent experience it’s best to use the earplugs.

It’s possible to tweak the volume using + and - buttons on the headset’s right temple, and the FM transmitter has some too. It just about goes loud enough, but only the FM transmitter has skip track and play/pause controls, which is a shame. It means you have to make sure you have lots of songs/podcasts/content queued up, or keep the FM transmitter accessible by the side of the pool.

Man's hand holding Zygo Solo transmitter

Play, pause and skip controls are all on the FM transmitter, not on the headset itself (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

We found the headset to be reasonably comfortable when worn for long periods, largely because the bone conduction design leaves your ears alone, though it did begin to feel slightly tight after about half an hour. The advice is to put the headset on, followed by a swim hat, goggles and then earplugs.

As a nice bonus the transmitter doubles as a walkie talkie, so a coach can speak to a swimmer directly as they swim in the pool. What the headset doesn’t have is a microphone, so you can’t answer back … or make hands-free calls from the pool.

Zygo Solo companion app

  • Huge choice of pre-recorded workouts 
  • Excellent instructors and lots of music
  • Live classes and activity tracking promised

The Zygo app for iOS  and Android has had a lot of investment in it and is arguably the best reason to invest in Zygo Solo. It’s not free, but there’s a huge choice of classes and activities inside. As a few random examples we found a 20-minute beginner-level tutorial in learning backstroke, an intermediate 30-minute HIIT workout and a ‘fun’-grade 25 minute DJ drill set to music.

Each one has excellent instructors and a lot of music, the latter the result of various licensing deals struck between Zygo and the music industry.

We counted over 50 drills, which seems good value, which can be browsed on a timeline but also by specific genres, such as ‘strengthen and lengthen’, ‘5 days of fitness’ and ‘your first sprint triathlon’. It’s best to download them on WiFi within the app before hitting the pool.

Zygo Solo app screenshots

The Zygo Solo mobile app includes instructor-led workouts, with licensed music (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

However, the app does need a queue so that lessons and drills can follow-on from each other. Since some are only a few minutes long you can easily find yourself completing a drill and then swimming in silence.

In future Zygo tells us it’s planning to go full-Peloton and add live classes and leaderboards, with new software incoming that will use the built-in accelerometer to track your activity in the pool.

The app works independently of the device, so in theory you could just subscribe to the app and use all the workouts … though the Zygo Solo is so far the only way to stream content underwater.

Zygo Solo battery and charging case

  • Headset lasts for three hours
  • Charging case uses micro USB not USB-C
  • Charging case doesn’t hold a charge

Inside the Zygo Solo headset is a battery that lasts for three hours, and the transmitter lasts for around six hours. Sadly the hard-sided charging case itself doesn’t hold a charge, but if you snap both gadgets into place in its molded interior, both nestle up against precisely-placed connectors and begin charging automatically if the case is hooked up to power via a micro-USB cable.

Zygo Solo headset and transmitter in charging case

The headset and transmitter are charged by placing them inside the case, which is powered by a micro-USB cable (Image credit: Jamie Carter)

It’s a shame the case doesn’t contain a battery of some kind, and micro-USB also feels slightly outdated given the popularity of USB-C.

Buy it if

Don't buy it if

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