JBL waterproofI have a mate who I’ll call Marty. He doesn’t want me to reveal his real name not because he craves anonymity, but because his real name is, get this, Fosset. Being named Fosset is a continual embarrassment to him, so his mates call him Marty while people who don’t like him, and the entire public service, call him Fosset. It was something about a rich grandfather. Where was I?

Anyway he sent me an enraged email a while ago after a test I did on a JBL Bluetooth speaker. It was IPX7 certified, which meant it could be immersed in water to a depth of one metre for 30 minutes without damage. So as part of the test, and because it would be fun, I immersed the JBL in the laundry tub for 30 minutes (held down with a brick) and then fired it up again. It worked perfectly although initially the sound was a bit gurgley.

Marty was enraged because I had failed to mention that IPX7 applies to fresh water only. “Try it in salt water,” he challenged. “Then you’ll find all about waterproofing and, a bit down the track, all about rust too.”

I thought he was being a bit harsh, I had pointed out that IPX7 is handy if your picnic experiences a sudden shower, or if you go to bed after a party far too tired to clean up, and wake up next morning to find the sprinklers have come on. He accepted none of this. I mean, he was really upset. It took a few days but the penny dropped. Marty lives on an island surrounded by salt water. And Marty is a hi fi buff.

Now Marty’s island is small. There’s no bridge, no airport, there isn’t even room for a helipad. The only access is by boats, and then very small boats. Marty has a tinny with a 25-horse Yamaha on the back, and when conditions are just right and the hull is clean he can get 20 knots flat as a maggot, which makes the crossing from mainland to island just three minutes.

But when he is moving hi fi equipment the journey takes much longer. Now imagine, say, a Focal Grand Utopia in a tinny. The tinny would sink and so would the Focal Grand Utopia and, it being a Focal Grand Utopia, Captain Marty would obviously have to go down with his little ship. This is part of the reason he does not own a pair of Focal Grand Utopias, the other part being they cost more than his house. The point is that his hi fi equipment is limited to what will fit in the tinny without causing a risk to navigation.

JBL Charge 3I suspect it is this that has made him so blazingly touchy about the whole IPX7 issue. It’s not just making the crossing with the latest expensive purchase that’s difficult, it’s also getting it safely into the tinny at one end and getting it out at the other and onto his makeshift jetty. This is a jetty of not exactly solid construction.

Now the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is going after Samsung for advertising ‘water-resistant’ phones, and as soon as this became public knowledge he emailed me with a link to the story, the unspoken subtext of which was “I told you so.”

What has upset the ACCC is that the ads show the phones being used in and around swimming pools and the beach. It alleges they are false, misleading and deceptive because the phones are not suitable for use in all types of water, which Samsung acknowledges on its website by advising against using the phones at the beach or a pool. In other words, salt water and maybe even chlorinated water.

“I once bought a pair of waterproof speakers mainly because they were waterproof,” his email concluded. “One of them fell off the end of the jetty when it was rocked by a bow wave, and it floated around for about two minutes before I got it out again, but what the hell, it was waterproof. It turned out to be totally destroyed. So I made a warranty claim and the distributor knocked it back because he said the waterproofing did not apply to salt water. And now I have half of a stereo pair in the kitchen and an extra craypot marker.”

A sad story depending on your view of idiot hi fi enthusiasts who choose to live on small islands, but at least the Samsung issue has given him a moment in the sun. Mind you, Samsung intends to defend the ACCC’s proceedings against it so there is likely more to this story than first meets the eye. I’m halfway hoping Samsung wins this one if only to see Marty melt down into a pool of warm water. It would be salty. Very salty.

Firs published in Australian Hi Fi magazine October 2019.


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