In 2004 Alan Dixon wrote about the High Gear Trail Audio. That MP3 player let you bring the audio world of the recording studio with you on your backcountry treks. But it was a very far cry from perfect. For those who want to add a touch of World music to their outdoor world, or bring some ambient music into the ambiance of their landscape, want to rock and roll their way through serious river rapids, or listen to their favorite (Backpacking Light we trust) podcasts an alternative now exists.
Freestyle Audio has created the Fusion Digital Music Player. This is a compact shock-resistant and waterproof MP3 player that is designed to take the punishment an outdoor enthusiast might dish out. The unit weighs 35 grams. You can buy the MP3 player in 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB versions. That translates to up to 350 songs. The player is waterproof up to depths of 10 feet. If you feel the desire to shoot the rapids while listening to your favorite tracks you need not worry about water wrecking the earbuds because they are waterproof too. The player is also shock resistant so dropping it on a rock will not bother it. The battery, though not field replaceable, is rechargeable with a supplied USB cable. Just attach the player to your computer to charge it. Freestyle Audio claims up to 40 hours of listening time per charge.
Operation is simple enough. Two buttons on one side control the volume. The other two buttons let you skip forward and backward through your songs one song at a time. To cause the unit to stop playing remove the earbuds (or your own headphones if you prefer to use them). This does limit your control somewhat. But the goal here is clearly simplicity. This extends to how you load music on to the MP3 player. Just drag and drop MP3 files from your computer on to the player icon when it is attached to your computer. The songs you will be listening to later on are played in the same order as you dropped them on to the device.
The Fusion Digital Music Player is priced at $139.95 (256MB), $169.95 (512MB), and $199.95 (1GB).