Audio equipment in the outdoors may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the growing category of thrill seekers who like to combine their favourite activities with their favourite tunes, finding the right solution is critical.
With more than 20 years experience in the marine audio niche, the New Zealand-based Fusion Entertainment has today announced the arrival of its first, purpose-built portable watersports stereo, the StereoActive. Designed to attach to any paddleboard, kayak, canoe or dinghy, the StereoActive is waterproof rated to IPX7 and is designed to withstand a beating.
“We didn’t set out to design another Bluetooth speaker,” said Chris Baird, managing director of Fusion Entertainment. “We wanted to create the first portable stereo system designed specifically for the marine industry.”
We released our Tried and Tested review on a number of bluetooth speakers a few months ago, and the divide between those devices and the StereoActive is clear to see. While this particular unit may not be light enough to be considered for multiday bushwalks (weighing in at 1.3 kilos and measuring nearly 24 centimetres at its widest point), when attached to a watercraft it becomes perfectly acceptable. The stereo capabilities mean this device will play AM and FM radio, as well as the ability to stream music from a mobile device using Bluetooth.
Before going any further, let’s be clear: audio in the outdoors – especially in wilderness places – isn’t always appreciated. While these products are becoming more readily available, we recommend those using them to act conscientiously and avoid disturbing others and wildlife. To get a better understanding of how some people feel about these kinds of devices, you need look no further than some of the comments on our Facebook post for the Bluetooth speaker reviews.
For use in appropriate situations, and for the fact it has a directional speaker system (there’s a noticeable drop in the sound level and quality when standing on the other side of the unit), users of the StereoActive will find its features particularly novel.
For powering the unit, we’ve been told it can charge through its wall unit within three hours, providing up to 20 hours of playback. While we’re yet to independently test this feature, if it’s true then the StereoActive’s battery is up there with the best of the Bluetooth speakers we reviewed before.
The UV-resistance polycarbonate and TPE overmolded rubber skin present a hardy exterior, but it’s the design of the housing itself that will have paddling audiophiles excited. A flatted area on the top of the unit provides the perfect place for an action camera, while the speaker grill is modified to provide directional sound to the user. Even better; the scalloped button shape allows the unit to be controlled by the tip of a paddle – a great example of user-centric product design.
“We approach every new design from the perspective of the customer,” said Graham Brain, lead industrial designer for Fusion Entertainment. “Even after more than 20 years of experience in marine design, StereoActive was my passion project from day one. With modern design software and manufacturing processes, we are now able to produce a powerful, high-quality stereo system that goes where no one else’s would dare to go.”
The design team have included a number of ways for StereoActive to attach to watercraft, with the main one dubbed the ‘Puck-It’ mount system – a base plate that adheres and screws onto the front of your boat or board, with a locking system provided by the ‘puck’ on the base of the audio unit. However, there are also alternatives for mounting on rails or via a strap (for those using inflatable craft).
One of the design challenges the Fusion Entertainment team set out to overcome in this device is presented by the use of Bluetooth around water. The signal can’t pass through a few centimetres of water (let alone the human body), so an accessory was created to allow the user’s mobile device to be stored with the stereo itself. An IPX7, floating storage unit was created.
Dubbed the ActiveSafe, those paddlers less concerned with listening to music, the news or the cricket while out on the water may still find this unit extremely useful. It matches the same silhouette as the stereo and is big enough to store an iPhone 6 Plus, your keys, cards and loose change. It offers the same mounting solution as the stereo, which can then be mounted on top of the safe if used in tandem.
Combined, these new products from Fusion offer an audio solution ideal for a weekend on the water, regardless of what kind of paddling you prefer. Due to arrive in stores by the end of October, the StereoActive carries a price tag of $399, with an additional $129 for the ActiveSafe.