When we first saw the Fusion StereoActive at a pre launch event back in September 2016, we were immediately struck with the quality of sound, the sturdiness of the waterproof stereo and the level of detail that had gone into the design process. Of course checking it out for an hour at a sponsored event doesn’t really translate to everyday use, so we were extremely keen to put the Fusion StereoActive through it’s paces in a lengthy review over the course of a few weeks. Well, now the time has come to report back on what we have found during our time getting hands on with the Fusion StereoActive and ActiveSafe.
Fusion sent us our StereoActive and matching blue ActiveSafe in mid December and during unboxing it really did feel like Christmas had come early. Both items were extremely well packaged in nicely designed, bright boxes, with clear idents and plenty of information on the outside. Both the stereo and safe come with their own mounting Puck and the StereoActive with a range of interchangeable plug pin options, enabling easy charging wherever your travels may take you. The beauty of the ActiveSafe is that it is independent from the stereo and can be used on its own, anytime you need to protect valuables on the water and don’t need your sounds.
The stereo arrived part charged, so we immediately fired it to life and was greeted by the smooth female voice of the StereoActive (whom we have named Sheila) offering us a welcome. This voice also activates when you scroll between AM, FM and Bluetooth as well during shut down, battery checks and updates. Without consulting the instructions I was instantly able to pair my phone to the StereoActive and within seconds was blasting my tunes. To connect via Bluetooth you simply hold down the Bluetooth button until Sheila announces “Discoverable” and search on your device for StereoActive. The process couldn’t be any simpler.
Of course, you aren’t restricted to using Bluetooth to play all of your music, there is also the option to connect media players via a USB lead or by connecting a Micro USB behind the waterproof end cap on the right side of the stereo. The AM and FM radio stations are automatically tuned with a quick press of the search buttons and then by holding down the button with the double star, you are able to preset your favourite radio station.
The sound from the StereoActive is rich, clear and for such a small unit, impressively bassy (to the point, the unit actually moves across smooth surfaces when in use). During the design process, Fusion decided, if they couldn’t produce a sound equivalent to that of other high end, market leading Bluetooth speakers, then the project wasn’t worth pursuing, for what it’s worth, I think Fusion have nailed it. For those who are technically minded and like to know the exact specifications, the StereoActive is fitted with 2 x 2.5” speakers with a passive radiator powered by a Class D Amplifier offering 40 Watts of directional sound. My mum happened to be visiting when I first used the StereoActive and her exact words were “I don’t know much about these kind of things, but even I can hear how good that sounds” – Fine praise indeed!
For the majority of the time we have had the StereoActive for review, the conditions for Stand Up Paddling have been pretty poor so for the most part the stereo has been in use in the home. It has accompanied us at breakfast each morning, supplied the sounds at a couple of Christmas get togethers, entertained a New Years Eve gathering, and become a firm part of everyday life, easily being transported around the home. The sound offered is clear and precise and well balanced, no matter if it is just a couple of us sitting quietly or a gathering of 10 people all laughing and joking, the StereoActive puts out the perfect sound and was complimented by all who have heard it.
So what about out on the water? The first job was to mount the Fusion Puck to the paddleboard. I have three boards in total, two with full deck grip and one with a standard deck. Fusion do offer a strap attachment to allow the safe and stereo to be fitted to inflatable boards and boards with deck grip, but unfortunately we don’t currently have one, so I mounted the puck to my distance SUP. The Pucks are supplied with a 3M adhesive ring, and anyone who has used these products before; know they grip like a limpet to a rock. I keyed up the board with fine sandpaper and cleaned with an alcohol wipe before firmly sticking the Puck in place.
This Puck can then be used to either mount the ActiveSafe or the StereoActive or both, one on top of each other. Ones thing for sure, is that the Puck will not easily come off the board, it is on there with a vice like grip. For alternate situations, there is also the option to attach the puck with 4 screws. Once in place the safe and stereo fit quickly and easily to the puck by sitting in position and sliding the locking mechanism to the right. When not in use, the Puck is supplied with a rubber cap, which protects the Puck teeth and also keeps the mount looking tidy.
The StereoActive has also been designed with a flat, smooth section on the back of the unit, which is to enable the fitting of an action camera to the stereo. Adhesion to this section is good and the raised position creates a good angle for the camera to sit, although I found that a GoPro mount overhangs the section by a millimetre or two and feel it would have been nicer if the mounting section were slightly wider.
With my van key and phone stashed in the safety of the ActiveSafe and then firmly mounted with the stereo, I set off for a paddle at a local beach and turned the StereoActive up to max. The sound was incredible, and carried for quite a distance and was echoing back off the cliffs. In fact it was a bit too much at full volume on my own and I eased the volume back a couple of clicks.
Control of the StereoActive whilst paddling, is extremely easy, you just reach forward with your paddle and gently push on the selected scalloped button with your paddle blade. It was however tricky to access a couple of the middle buttons with my camera mounted on the stereo and I actually resorted to turning the paddle round and using the handle for these buttons, and after reassessing on dry land, by clipping the camera mount in from the reverse, it would give more distance between the buttons and camera. Even a fair distance out at sea, I was still able to receive good clear reception on AM and FM.
Although conditions were calm, albeit overcast and the sea murky, I decided the review wouldn’t be complete without giving the StereoActive a dunking. I took the plunge and chucked myself into the sea turning the board over so the stereo was upside down and underwater. I could still hear the music through the board and I am pleased to say, not only did the StereoActive survive completely unscathed, so did my key and phone in the safe. The only issue I did have in the cold UK waters came, when I returned to the van and tried to get my key from the safe. My fingers were by now quite cold and I found opening the safe impossible. I managed to bend both my thumbnails over and resorted to using sticks, stones and eventually the bolt from my camera to finally prize the safe open. It won’t be a problem in warmer months, but for the time being, until the clips loosen up a bit I will probably leave the safe at home on colder days.
All in all the StereoActive has been a pleasure to review and has been in use every single day since arriving. The battery easily lasts for the advertised 20 hours and the unit is a breeze to use. I can’t wait for the days to draw out and the weather to improve so we can get out and use the StereoActive more as it is intended, outdoors and on water. I can see it accompanying family picnics, kids garden water fights, barbecues, paddleboard adventures and fishing trips and when not in use in an outdoor environment it will be sat on the side in the kitchen pumping beautiful sounds throughout the house.
Full technical specs and further information on the StereoActive and ActiveSafe can be seen at the official Fusion website by following THIS LINK . You will also be able to see both the stereo and safe being used in much nicer conditions than we got to test them in, in the Fusion video beneath this article. The StereoActive and ActiveSafe have now gone on general sale in the UK, retailing at around £290 for the StereoActive and £79 for the ActiveSafe. Before you say they are quite expensive, think about what you are getting – a waterproof stereo system (not just a Bluetooth speaker) that equals the sound quality of other high-end stereo systems currently on the market and has been designed to withstand the rigours of outdoor life.
Please feel free to throw any questions our way and we will do our best to answer them and let us know if you would like to add the StereoActive as part of your Paddleboard kit in the future and what tunes would you like to paddle to?