A hands-on look at the Sonic Walk Wearable Audio System

Ray’s note: The Girl put this post together, based on her time spent at the Outdoor Demo. Hope you enjoy!

During the first few minutes of the outdoor demo on Tuesday I came upon a booth that immediately caught my attention. There was music and really cool looking backpack straps. At first I thought these were just another take on a Camelbak type hydration system, but then I realized the music was coming directly out of the shoulder straps.

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I was really excited to see this as it was not only hands free, but more importantly – ears free – portable music device that can be used by runners, walkers, and cyclists alike. I am sure you’ve encountered a situation at some point in your life where by a runner, walker, cyclist, skateboarder, or perhaps even a downhill skier that has messed things up for you (and probably everyone else coming behind you).  Likely this was in terms of disrupting or completely blocking the traffic flow of a given path or roadway. What has seemed to be the common denominator in many of the situations that I have bared witness to is that “said person” has noise canceling ear buds crammed into their ears with the music cranked way up up.  And of course, usually completely oblivious to what they are doing.

Instead of headphones, the Sonic walk is a small non-invasive piece of equipment that can eliminate those situations and still provide music entertainment for you.

There are several different Sonic Walk styles that you can choose from, both in color and in designed purpose. The one that I snagged to demo for my day of mountain biking was the “Lightening”. This one is specifically geared towards runners and cyclists as it is a light  neoprene spandex material that can be washed. It also includes a LED light up strip on the back support strap.

Unlike some athletic music players that try and get all Bluetooth wireless fancy (lookin’ at you Tunebug), this one works as long as your music device has a standard head phone jack.  You can see below how the cord comes out of the strap to plug into your device (I have my phone pulled slightly out so you can see it).

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Below you can see the LED light on the back.  This has different settings including both staying lit, as well as flashing

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Another thing that I really liked about the Sonic Walk “Lightening” was the easy ability to simply turn the music up or down without having to touch your actual device. Located just next to my right shoulder were the plus and minus buttons that I could actually feel and operate one handed without having to slow down. The only thing that could have made it better was a “skip” button to get to the next song, but honestly that comes down to the fact that I haven’t updated my playlist in over a year.  Which I suppose is more my problem than theirs!

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The unit contains a non-removable rechargeable battery, which you can charge via a standard mini-USB port (same cable as most digital cameras and consumer electronic devices).  From a battery standpoint they say it will last about 10 hours – though I’d like to test that and see how it really stacks up over time.

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After spending the entire day with this little system on my back I really enjoyed it.  I actually forgot that I was even wearing it (other than I had music following me around) until Ray reminded me that we had to return it before we left. From a noticeability standpoint it really didn’t cause any annoyances in terms of rubbing, extra weight, or restricted movement.

We went mountain biking for the day and even when we went flying down the steepest drops and craziest terrain, I could still hear the music above the wind in my ears (as well as still hear my screaming at Ray for making me do a particular ride).

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(Ray likes to take product pictures of me when I am most mad at him)

 

I’m looking to get ahold of a unit for longer term testing – and to see how it works in different situations like aero position (cycling) or on long runs.  The unit retails for $99 and is currently available through a variety of channels. This particular model (the Lightening SW-SB301) weights 250g.

As always, if you’ve got any questions (or if you just found this useful), feel free to drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

For the latest Interbike coverage, remember I’ll be tweeting nonstop, so you can catch all the latest action there.  And here on the blog you can use this tag to see all the Interbike 2011 posts. Thanks for reading!

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6 Comments

  1. This device reminds me of the Bone Phone from a number of years ago – link to inthe00s.com

    Reply
  2. Hannes

    Me wife looks much more angry when I make her mad…

    Reply
  3. Interesting! I wonder how it would work on a long run with constant stepping motion

    Reply
  4. That could get interesting if runners adopt this device and a lot of them run with it during a marathon, it could be a marathon opera (or cacophony)

    Reply
  5. Isn’t the idea of personal stereo that it’s personal?

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I got one at Interbike and my girlfriend loves it !!!
    Even with heavy bass songs the battery stays good for 100 mile rides. It playes loud enough for 3 people in front and behind you in an groupride. It is handy in use even when you ride.

    Reply

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