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David Halfpenny


Safe music while you ride with O-tus mini-speakers

  • Published: 19 December 2012

You need all of your senses, including common, when you’re riding a bike in traffic. Riding with earphones dramatically reduces the life saving effectiveness of one of your primary senses. While I can’t quote studies showing the negative effects earphones have on one’s ability to ride, I can say that you won’t catch me using them, nor will you catch me wearing sunglasses while riding at night. And yet, there are times when you would really like to have some non-traffic sounds on a long lonely ride. This is where O-tus mini-speakers might be a good solution.

O-tus mini-speakers are just that: mini speakers. They attach to your helmet near your ears and, while they look a lot like earphones, they definitely do NOT go into your ear canal; they’re surround sound speakers and they project sound powerfully. It’s the speaker’s ability to project sound that makes these speakers work – you need it to project because the speakers are away from  your ears, and because they’re away from your ears, you can hear the traffic around you. A sensible solution indeed.

Of course, you also need something to play that music. If you have a light weight mp3 player, you can attach it to the back of your helmet and then connect it to your O-tus mini-speakers. If you have a smart phone, you can attach a Bluetooth receiver to your helmet and then “beam” music to your O-tus mini-speakers via that, provided your phone has Bluetooth, which most do. You can then leave your smart phone in your jersey pocket or mounted on your handlebars and still get music. So, in theory, O-tus have taken care of a problem for people who want that problem taken care of. The devil, of course, is always in the details.

I first became suspicious of this product when O-tus suggested I use a particular brand of mp3 player to test the mini-speakers. It was a brand I knew about, but one that I didn’t have (and no, it wasn’t a player from the orchard). I did a search for the mini-speakers online and discovered on the O-tus web site a video that showed you how to increase the volume of the songs on your iPod/iPhone so that you can listen to these devices properly on the mini-speakers. There was obviously a known issue with the mini-speakers, so now I definitely had to try using them with these devices. I don’t own any Apple products, but I do have a an ever increasing collection of cheap, but really good, mp3 players. I  borrowed an iPod nano and an iPhone to test the speakers out, but I mainly tested them using the mp3 players I had in my possession.

The previous paragraph makes it sound like there is something wrong with the mini-speakers. To save you some time wondering about this, there ultimately isn’t, but they do have a weakness and that is that they’re not “out-of-the-box” easily usable. You have to spend a little bit of time setting them up properly to make them work correctly. That’s the price you pay to get safe music, I suppose. If you want good music quality, use noise cancelling in-ear buds. If you want safe music, you’re going to have to work to get it sounding good. Essentially you can choose any two of the following: good, safe, easy.