Active noise canceling (ANC) headphones are nothing new. They include microphones that sample the surrounding noise around them and then reproduce that sound after changing the phase 180 degrees and mixing it with the original. Two out-of-phase sounds cancel each other out, reducing the level that reaches your ears. This works best on stable low-frequency sounds, such as constant engine noise in an airplane.
The Audeara A-01 headphones are just like that and offer a very interesting additional benefit: special equalization that adapts to your specific hearing profile. That's a brilliant idea, and it works pretty well, at least with the ANC on.
Audeara A-01 is a circumaural (over-the-ear) headphone that has an active noise suppression function. In addition, the internal microphone used for ANC also allows you to speak on a phone connected through headphones.
Each closed earmuff includes a 40mm Mylar driver, and the specified frequency response ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz (no tolerance given). 3.5mm audio input features 32 ohm impedance.
The main input, however, is Bluetooth, in this case, version 4.2. Supports SBC, aptX and cVc codecs and A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP profiles. Audeara is working on adding the aptX LL and HD (low latency and high definition respectively) codecs, which will be released in a firmware update.
These are all standard rates for ANC Bluetooth headsets. But the A-01 also offers a unique feature. Available for free on Android and iOS devices, the Audeara companion app measures your hearing profile and uses it to program headphones with an equalization curve adjusted to that profile. Theoretically, this allows you to listen to more music without having to activate it. You can even save multiple profiles for your family and friends. How cool is that?
The A-01 is powered by a 1000 mAh rechargeable battery. Fortunately, the main power and ANC can be turned on and off independently, allowing you to maximize battery life. With ANC only, and use input 3.5mm – the battery is determined to last up to 65 hours. If you also turn on Bluetooth and Audeara EQ when you turn on the main power, the battery will last up to 35 hours. Turning the ANC off while the main power is on increases battery life by up to 45 hours.
The included charger cable is plugged into the microUSB port on the bottom of the right earphone. It takes about six hours to fully charge the battery from a fully depleted condition.
Another cool feature is the optional Audeara BT-01 Bluetooth Transceiver ($ 99 or $ 40 if purchased with A-01). This small device accepts audio from the TosLink optical cable or 3.5mm analog cable and transmits the signal to A-01 via Bluetooth. It also comes with an adapter with two RCA plugs on one end and a 3.5mm jack on the other end for devices with RCA output. This is ideal for people who want to listen to an old or stereo television wirelessly with headphones.
Also, BT-01 can work in the opposite direction: BT-01 can receive audio via Bluetooth and send it to non-Bluetooth devices via digital-optical or analog cable from its output. So awesome!
The headphones feel very sturdy and substantial, although the extender pulled out of the headband feels a little rough on your movements. Other than that, this is pretty small for my head, which is actually big. I had to wear a maximum headband extension, and the ear muffs felt very close to my head. On the plus side, this produces good seals, which are important for sound quality, noise isolation, and good results from hearing test applications.
User interface and hearing test
Integrated controls include the main power switch on the bottom of the left ear cup and the ANC on / off switch on the bottom of the right ear cup, each with a small LED to indicate their status. The only other controls are three small buttons on the back of the left earcup. Multi-function center button: play / pause music and answer / close phone calls with one touch, jump forward with double heartbeat, jump backward with three heartbeats, enter long-term Bluetooth pairing mode Flutter buttons increase and decrease volume .
After pairing the A-01 with my iPhone XS, I downloaded the Audeara app and did a hearing test. There are three tests to choose from: standard (eight frequencies), high details (16 frequency), and maximum precision (32 frequencies). High standard and high frequency test frequencies from 100Hz to 16kHz, while Ultimate Precision ranges from 100Hz to 20kHz. The process begins with a short tutorial on how to do the test, which is simple but informative.
After the test begins, the app plays a repeated beep in each ear on a different frequency, and you adjust the beep volume on each frequency so you can barely hear it. This requires a quiet environment so that strange sounds do not interfere with the test.
The test screen looks like a graphic EQ. You can drag the slider for each frequency up and down, but the volume does not change until you remove your finger from the slider. You can also touch the button labeled "Can Hear" if you can hear a beep, which decreases the selected frequency volume. If you can't hear the beep, touch the “Can't Hear” button, which increases the volume. When you can barely hear a beep at a certain frequency, Touchez the "barely audible" button, which changes to the next frequency. You can also choose a frequency to adjust by touching the slider.
I'm concerned that adjusting the volume of the phone will affect the test, but it doesn't. The volume control is disabled during testing, so the level you hear is completely consistent.
I discovered some habits in this process. For one thing, changing the volume when you touch the Can Hear and Can Hear buttons is not instantaneous; I need time to catch up, which was confusing at first. Also, holding down the buttons does not cause the slider to move as expected.
When I play tests, I bring some sliders to the bottom and top of their range. When I try to push the slider below the minimum value it just stays there. But when I try to push the slider the top the maximum value, the slider disappears and the application jumps to the next frequency. “X” appears above the lost frequency, and a heartbeat returns the slider to its maximum value. That seemed like very strange behavior; I hope it only stops at the top and doesn't respond to efforts to increase it further, as it does at the bottom of the slider's range.
When I asked Audeara about this, they replied: "X represents 'not being able to hear' at certain frequencies in the test range of the headphones. This changes the way that certain frequency responses are incorporated into the main sound profile and algorithm. "
Once the test for both ears is complete, the application offers the opportunity to go back and adjust the results. This works fine, except that the app unexpectedly plays a very loud tone every now and then, which is surprising. Once you are satisfied let me name and save the profile. I can do and save tests with as many different names as I want, and they are all associated with me as a user. Other people can do the same and associate the results with them separately.
Once the test is completed and saved, it cannot be modified any more. If you want to adjust the results, you must redo the entire test. According to Audeara, this allows him to track his hearing over time.
When the test is complete, the app will show you the auditory profile of your left and right ears; This graph is called an audiogram. You can Touchez "More Information," which first reminds you that this is not a medical diagnosis, then takes you to the World Health Organization's website on hearing loss.
I did the standard test twice and the high detail test once, with the same results each time. The results follow an outline that is roughly the same as my professional hearing audiogram taken just a few months ago, but there are a few differences. For example, Audeara's results show that my right ear is slightly worse than my left ear below 1 kHz, but the professional audiogram shows otherwise.
Returning to the audience profile page, the next step is to Touchez the button labeled "Audeara Experience". This loads the EQ of the selected profile to the headphones. Then you determine the strength of the program to apply, from 0 to 100 percent in a 25 percent increase; 0 the percentage is described as no effect. After the music starts playing, you can go back to the Audeara app and change the strength of the program, allowing me to quickly compare various strengths.
Using the High Detail profile formed by my hearing test, I started listening to myself with “Night by Night” from the Steely Dan classic Logic Pretzel. When I listen, I test the power of different effects. At 0 percent, the sound was very boring with almost nothing loud. Moving up to 25 percent increases the sound somewhat, while 50 percent sounds much better, with a fairly balanced height. At 75 and 100 percent, the sound was too bright and fragile, with excessive pitch that yelled uncomfortably in my ears.
Back at 50 percent, the frequency range is fairly balanced. The voice sounds good, but the bass is quite fat and loose.
The following is "Good Lava" from the featured album Esperanza Spaulding D + Emily Evolution. The vocals, guitar, and cymbals sound good, but again, the bass is quite loose and muddy. The same applies to Joanna Cazden's “Women’s Choices” from her album. Life through history, which I designed. As before, the bass puffed up a bit, but in this case, the voice was somewhat blurred with siblings who were over-emphasized.
For some great songs, I play "Thunder and Blazes" performed by Eastman Wind Ensemble with Frederick Fennell on the album. Screamersas well as Frank Zappa's “The Dog Breath Variations” performed by Cincinnati Wind Symphony under Eugene Migliaro Corporon on their album Song and dance. In both cases, the tuba is fat (not in a fun way!) And a little arrogant, while the top sounds a bit veiled.
For the actual torture test, I listened to "The Happy Soul" arranged for the tube quartet by my father, Robert Wilkinson, and was performed by the Dutch Tuba Quartet on his album. Escape the land of Oom-Pah. As expected now, the tuba sounds quite loose and fat.
Moving on to a small ensemble, I played "Lester Leaps In" from an album that had never been released by trombonist Steve Wilson and played guitar legend Mundell Lowe. The guitar, piano, and cymbals are good, even though the acoustic bass is muddy and the trombone is slightly veiled. I also heard "The Fairie Round" from Renaissance dance festival by Southern California Early Music Consort. I played bass sackbut (Renaissance trombone) on the album, and it sounded quite bloated and loose, although cornett, shawms, and tambourine sounded much better.
Just to smile, I created a really flat equalizer: I left all the sliders in the default position, leading to a completely flat audiogram. Interestingly, different power settings change the sound; 0 percent is still boring and lifeless, while 100 percent is heavily emphasized at the highest. The 50 percent setting sounds better, though it's still a bit fat on the bass. In my opinion, a flat equalizer should sound the same in any power setting, but it certainly doesn't, and I don't know why.
I listen to every track with active noise cancellation from time to time. As I've experimented with various other ANC headphones, the A-01 actually sounds better with active ANC. The bass is louder and the overall sound is cleaner with fewer bells. However, without playing music, I can hear sounds that disappear when I turn off the ANC. That shouldn't be a problem in a noisy environment.
Speaking of noisy surroundings, I took the A-01 to the highway and also the place just off the highway to test noise cancellation. ANC works very well, effectively reducing the low frequency level.
Comparison with PSB M4U 8
After hearing how boring 0 percent sound was, I wonder if my hearing is really that bad. So, I took out the ANC Bluetooth Headset PSC M4U 8, which became my reference product in this category after reviewing it for TechHive. I breathed a sigh of relief when I compared M4U 8 to A-01 at 0 percent – PSB sounds much better!
In particular, the PSB bass is much stricter on all tracks, and the overall sound is more natural, even when Audeara is set to 50 percent. In comparison, the A-01 sound has slightly artificial quality.
As I pointed out in my review on M4U 8 I prefer the sound with ANC off, while I prefer the sound of A-01 with ANC on. However, I winked at PSB in this condition, even though the difference was much smaller compared to the ANC that died in both headsets. When it comes to noise cancellation, I think the two models are more or less the same to reduce low frequency noise levels.
I found M4U 8 more comfortable to wear, especially for a long time. As I mentioned before, the A-01 is pretty tight in my head, which is not a problem with PSB.
The idea behind the Audeara A-01 is a very good one: measuring the user's hearing profile and adjusting the headphone's equalizer to make up for the shortcomings. In the current iteration, however, it falls a bit short. Specifically, the audiogram I obtained did not match the audiogram I professionally handled in various areas, even though it followed roughly the same curve.
Still, the sound quality is certainly better with the results applied to the headphones, but that's partly because of how boring the sound is without EQ. I wondered if Audeara expressed that the original response from the headphones was very poor in the highest position. I don't know, but in any case I would rather have a more neutral response if EQ is not applied.
Adjusting the power to 100 percent produces the highest hum in the saw, while 50 percent with the ANC on provides the best sound. Of course, that consumes the fastest battery, but Audeara evaluates battery life of up to 35 hours with all electronic devices turned on, which is much more than is necessary to survive intercontinental flights.
For comparison, PSB M4U 8 sounds better, with a firmer bass and a more natural balance. Also, it is more comfortable to use for long listening sessions. On the other hand, M4U 8 brings a list price of $ 399, which is $ 100 more than A-01. And Audeara sounds really good at 50 percent strength with an active ANC.
I commend Audeara for producing smart products, which I hope will make more people interested in learning about his hearing profile. A-01 has great potential to help hearing impaired people fully enjoy music, and that is far from reaching that potential. If the company can improve the app to produce a more accurate audiogram and lower the bass tone a bit, it will be a dump.