Streamin’ in the Shower

As one place we could count on for quiet contemplation, the bathroom has largely been electronics-free. But serenity has its challenges. Natural reverb was destined to make the bathroom the go-to spot for singing. Ever since the SoundBlaster add-in card legitimized “bathroom” ambience as a musical effect, the porcelain palace has become everyone’s in-home performance space.

Lately, a cappella singing is giving way to instrumental accompaniment. Now next to the Selsun Blue is likely a shower-friendly Bluetooth speaker. The short-range wireless standard has become the soggy singer’s chief enabler. Just launch your favorite playlist or themed radio station from a dry mobile device and belt out: Hey, Mister Arnstein, here I am!

According to Ben Arnold, an industry analyst for the NPD Group, it’s raining waterproof and water-resistant Bluetooth speakers. In the months between July 2015 and June 2016, sales of such speakers more than doubled. The leading brands in the segment, based on dollar share, in order were: Ultimate Ears, JBL, Altec, Braven, and Monster.

Determined not to let this parade pass me by, I auditioned shower-compatible speakers from Home NetWerks and Polk.

I installed the Home NetWerks Bluetooth Showerhead & Stereo Speaker ($70), which includes an actual showerhead. Replacing the old head was surprisingly easy, and the new head was definitely an upgrade, with five styles of spray and more ways to point the flow. I inserted the C-shaped speaker, which resembles a coffee percolator, above and behind the showerhead.

I installed the Home NetWerks Bluetooth Showerhead & Stereo Speaker ($70), which includes an actual showerhead… I also hooked up the Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo ($60 per speaker) -- showerhead not included.

I also hooked up the Polk BOOM Swimmer Duo ($60 per speaker)—showerhead not included. Each comes with a rubber tail and suction cup so that no bathroom corner is out of bounds for mounting.

It took a few tries to pair the Duo speakers, but they finally made a splash with balanced stereo when I launched Bruce Springsteen’s melancholy “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” from the iTunes music collection on my iPad. (The shower washed away the tears.) Then I stepped out to switch over to an Android phone and stream the Today’s Biggest Hits station from Google Play Music. Leave it to Justin Bieber’s “Cold Water” to pour out of the speakers, despite the shower temperature being just right.

I took a call in the shower from my editor. (Have you no decency, sir?) An alert tone muted the music, prompting me to short-press the “+” button and talk. A long-press of the “–” button disconnected the call, bringing back The Bieb.

While the Bluetooth Showerhead doesn’t take calls, the user interface between the two products is day and night. The NetWerks speaker puts a female voice in the shower with crucial updates such as “Waiting for connection,” while the Swimmer oozes primordial thuds for feedback. More important, the buttons on the NetWerks are clearly marked, while the design sadists of the Swimmer put black symbols on a black background, orange on orange, or blue on blue, guaranteeing my eyesight will fail even before my hearing goes.

What the Swimmer has going for it is deeper bass and—if you choose to buy two—stereo separation that the pedestrian-sounding, one-piece percolator can’t match. Choose the percolator if you’re more likely to listen to news; the Swimmer Duo for music.

The NetWerks speaker is as at home on a countertop as in the shower. The Swimmer can hang from handlebars. Flanking my iPad, the Duo got down with the dazzling Netflix series, The Get Down.

The Bluetooth Showerhead & Stereo Speaker is not designed to be submerged; the Swimmer is. Still, both products should be rated N for narcissism. Let me wrap up by crooning: Nobody, no, nobody is gonna rain on my parade! Sorry, Barbra.