Soundhawk is a wearable for your ear that fine-tunes all the world’s noises
By Jon Phillips, Editor-in-Chief of PCWorld and TechHive, TechHive
The world is noisy. It’s a simple concept to understand, and now a simple wearable is bent on filtering out unwanted noise, and elevating only the sounds you want to hear. Soundhawk doesn’t boast a long list of features, and it’s relatively expensive, even at its “limited time” retail price of $279. But if your frustration with ambient noise is a serious lifestyle problem, then Soundhawk, available for pre-order Tuesday, may be just what you need.
At its most fundamental level, Soundhawk is a Bluetooth earpiece that delivers highly customizable acoustic modeling. You stick the “scoop” (that’s the earpiece) in your ear, and then connect it to the Soundhawk smartphone app. From here, you can choose an acoustic profile that’s best-suited to your environment.
If you’re in a noisy restaraunt, choose the Dining profile. It’s customized for just that particular din. If you’re driving a car, choose the Driving profile, which is tuned for road noise. There are also profiles for Indoors and Outdoors, and you can customize what you hear even further by dragging your finger around a tuning interface on the mobile app. This elevates some frequencies while reducing others until you target the sounds that suit you best.
The scoop includes a microphone to pick up voices and other important sounds—hence its utility in loud restaurants. And the scoop can perform the same duties as any other Bluetooth earpiece, allowing you to talk on your phone hands-free, while also issuing voice commands to your phone’s digital assistant.
For situations that are particularly noisy, you can whip out the Soundhawk’s bundled wireless mic accessory, which provides an extra source to pick up your friends’ voices. The Soundhawk people also recommend using the wireless mic for watching late-night TV without disturbing anyone: You can place the mic right next to your TV’s speaker, turn down the TV’s volume, and then listen to an amplified audio stream via the scoop earpiece. Both the scoop and wireless mic are charged via a special charging case, which also protects the precious cargo.
During a product demo, I got a chance to briefly test the system, and, yes, Soundhawk does modify the acoustic characteristics of what you hear. Using the system with the wireless mic, I was able to hear the voices of “dinner partners” in a simulated (and absurdly loud) restaurant environment. And with just the scoop alone, I did notice different acoustics as I swept my finger across the app’s tuning interface.
So, yes, Soundhawk demonstrated recognizable audio differences. But during my five-minute demo, I couldn’t really tell whether the scoop alone made it easier to hear preferred sounds, or “improved” my hearing in any way. It made some noises more pleasant, but I can’t say I had any type of audio epiphany. I also noticed a slight flange effect when using the system, but Soundhawk says this was a quirk of the demo unit (the final product won’t ship until late summer).
Soundhawk is the third ear wearable I’ve covered this month. I reviewed LG’s Heart Rate Earphones in early June, and FreeWavz, another set of bio-tracking earphones, launched its Kickstarter on Monday. And now we have Soundhawk, a wearable that takes your ear in a completely different direction. I appreciate the basic concept, but I really didn’t spend enough time with the product to know whether I need it.
Granted, I do hate noisy restaurants. I’m just not sure if I hate them enough for the pre-order price of $279—or $300 when Soundhawk goes full retail later this year.
Jon has been covering all manner of consumer hardware since 1995. He brought the Bitchin'fast!3D2000 to market in 1999, and has ran MaximumPC, Mac|Life, Mobile, Greenbot and Macworld, among other consumer tech magazines and websites.