“Wow, it actually floats.” This is something I said. Out loud. Without question it’s the first time I’ve ever uttered that sentence in the course of a product review.
The Eco Terra boombox from Grace Digital is one of those products that’s amusing — and cool — just because it works at all. It’s a waterproof iPod dock, so you can listen to your tunes above and below the water.
Aquatic testing: commence!
The Eco Terra is smallish by boombox standards, though pretty average by iPod dock standards. Underneath the phone/iPod cradle is the battery compartment for the four C cells (when was the last time you bought those?). The clear plastic front door latches securely. On the back, there are two connections sealed behind screw tops. One is the 1/8th jack for external source input, the other is for A/C power. The analog input also carries control data from the exterior buttons, in the same way that headphones with a built-in remote work. I'm guessing they don’t want you using A/C power during pool use. Just a guess.
I admit I was curious to see whether the Eco Terra would go all Titanic if I unscrewed these. This aspect went untested. I apologize.
I had so many questions. If I streamed Pandora via WiFi, would it continue streaming if I submerged the boombox? The Eco Terra is submersible, but how submersible. Deep in the abyss (i.e. the deep end of my pool), would it continue to make music?
The fact that it floats is all over Grace’s marketing, but the idea of a floating iPod dock was so novel, I couldn’t imagine it actually doing it. So seeing it, floating there with my iPod touch as an unwilling passenger, I couldn’t help be amused.
If you’re assuming I was making all sorts of nautical references and quoting every water movie I could think of at this point, you’d be correct.
With vivid memories of every product that ever failed during my testing, the first dunk below the surface certainly felt like a leap of faith (dive of faith?). After all, I didn't care if I shorted out the Eco Terra, but that's my iPod in there.
But the latches held secure, and the only moisture that got inside was from my fingers when I opened it up to switch to Pandora from an MP3.
Pandora seemed to continue streaming while submerged. Further testing revealed it wouldn’t start another song. My guess is it buffered the one song, lost signal, then couldn’t get another stream. Oh well. Stupid physics.
With the speakers face up, the Eco Terra is reasonably loud, as long as you’re not expecting much from a pair of 3-inch, battery-powered drivers. There’s not much bass, though I guess you get some boundary effect from the water, right? Like putting it next to a wall? Regardless, it’s not a lot. Treble isn’t bad, and lacks the harshness I’ve found with most inexpensive iPod docks.
Test material choice opens up all sorts of potential jokes. “Water Music” is an obvious one. Brent recommended “Octopus’s Garden.” What about God Lives Underwater, or Roger Waters? Muddy Waters would give the wrong implication, given the testing was in my pool.
With the speakers up, but your ears underwater, you can make out the music just fine. . . if you’re nearby. From across my pool, I could barely make it out. Flip the Eco Terra over, and you can really hear it. Even from across the pool, I could still make out the song. It wasn’t loud, mind you, but I could hear it.
Submerge the Eco Terra and sound level decreases to the inverse of pressure. Near the surface, it works fine. Force it down a foot or too (it’s exceedingly buoyant), and the little amp can’t compete with the water and the sound all but disappears. Still cool though, looking into the clear central bathyscape and seeing my iPod dry and terrified. The soundtrack to The Abyss seemed appropriate. Bass performance varied with proximity: you to it, it to the wall, it to the surface, etc. Use the Eco Terra as a headrest, and you’ll get a ton of bass, move a few feet away, and you’ll get next to none.
In reality, the sound quality doesn’t matter. That you can get floating sound, or waterproof your iPod, and even get sound underwater (to an extent), makes this a rare product in the iPod dock world.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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