By Nate Adcock on Tue, 04/18/2017
Years ago, you could buy headphones that allowed you to adjust volume levels or balance for each ear. Though there are still some options out there, adjustable headphones are not common. In case you were wondering what the big deal is, most people do not have the exact same hearing ability in each ear (studies show most of us in the louder digital age suffer some form of hearing loss). Though we may perceive that we have perfectly balanced hearing, the truth is usually much different. Enter Aumeo ($199). Not only does it Bluetoothify your music, but also processes it according to a specific profile tailored to your unique left and right hearing ability. The result is actually pretty impressive.
Aumeo is a pillbox-sized block of what feels like aluminum casing covering presumably some electronic bit—a board, processor, Bluetooth radio, input/out audio jacks—and some clever programming to fine-tune and process the audio mix received from your iPhone. After the processing, Aumeo sends the specially tuned signal out to the left and right channels of your headphones. Aumeo can also be an effective wireless bridge for analog audio devices like an old stereo system, but there are a ton of those gadgets on the market and at much cheaper prices. Aumeo is really best suited to be used with iPhone (or any 3.5 mm wired audio source) and practically any set of wired headphones (earbuds included). The setup is a little wonky and I had a few challenges, but I was loving the quality produced by this pint-sized gadget!
To get Aumeo working with the iPhone requires you to download the free Aumeo app, pair the device using Bluetooth, and then create a profile. I had to reset my phone and reset Aumeo a couple of times before I could get the app to recognize it was connected and commence with the profile creation. Once it works, it walks you through a simple hearing test in which you adjust the volume knob on the Aumeo down to a barely detectable level for the various frequencies and for each ear. Save the profile and setup is complete. Multiple profiles can be created for separate users.
To play audio using Aumeo, plug in your favorite earphones, and press play on your fav app. I also tested it with some other speakers I have lying around, including a Sonos speaker. The sound difference is not evident through speakers; but when used with headphones, the Aumeo processing produced a much more subtle and clear range of tones. The music sounded more textured= and rich. Push down on the handy volume thumbwheel and easily toggle off the fancy processing and amplification. You hear what you would from almost any set of headphones sans signal processing. You can also easily adjust the volume using the wheel, and a toggle button allows control of wireless versus wired input. While not the sophisticated tuning that Aumeo provides, the iPhone does have a setting that will allow you to adjust left and right volume if that's all you wanted to do (under Settings > General > Accessibility > Hearing).
As far as Bluetooth range was concerned, I definitely feel Aumeo is a bit underpowered. I could not carry the device more than around 15 feet before dropouts and problems were evident. Other Bluetooth devices I have similarly tested in the same areas of my house can almost double this range. Not sure if this is due to the effort to more greatly miniaturize the device and power usage, or if the unit I received was defective. Either way, if you are considering this to allow you longer distance separation between phone and headphones, maybe look elsewhere. Also, Aumeo only processes sound out to your earphones. It does not feature hands free or any voice features. Again, a pair of Bluetooth headphones with a microphone might be a better choice for someone looking for those capabilities.
- Amazing sound processing
- Bluetooth wireless
- Range seemed weak even for Bluetooth
- Setup took several attempts
Aumeo audio has created a quality, audiophile-centric gadget in Aumeo. The device has recently gotten rave reviews at CES and other prominent technology news sites have also showcased it, and deservedly so. The unit I received was a press evaluation unit, so may have been defective, thus causing the Bluetooth difficulties. Still, I was impressed by the sound, and recommend it for the avid music lover, or really anyone trying to have a more finely-tailored mobile audio experience