I consider myself an amateur audiophile; I appreciate the benefits of quality sound, as both a gamer and fan of all types of music, and love searching for ways to improve my listening experience. But even with phenomenal headphones, our ears are the last filters between the sounds and how our brain perceives them, which is complicated further given that each person’s ears hear sound differently.
Aumeo Audio’s debut technology, the Aumeo, calibrates sound coming through any set of speakers or headphones specifically to the nuances in your ears, and, much to my surprse, ended up being one of my favorite devices I used during CES.
Paul Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of Aumeo Audio, created the technology and piloted it during Tech Unleashed 2014, an innovation and invention competition judged by multi-billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson of Virgin and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“What we basically do is this: we do hearing assessment and find out what you can hear well, what you are missing, and we give you back the tones you are missing,” Lee shared with me. “Our initial target audience is audiophiles: those guys have their headphones, music players…it sounds great to you, but most people haven’t thought to check their hearing.”
Aumeo, a little smaller than an Altoids tin, acts as a pass-through for any sound coming through a conventional 3.5mm headphone jack or a Bluetooth connection. Once the calibration is complete, the Aumeo reconfigures all the sound that comes through it to highlight the frequencies you may have missed out on before. What really shocked me about the device, though, was how much I had to turn the volume down after using the calibration process.
For the demo I used my own headphones, a pair of A-Audio earbuds I’ve used for the past few months. I sat with Stephanie Huang, Sales and Marketing Manager for Aumeo Audio, in their booth on the crowded and noisy show floor. After plugging my headphones in she opened up the Aumeo app on an iPhone 6 Plus and it played 8 different tones for each ear; I then used the app to turn down the volume of each sound until I could barely hear it, taking me roughly a minute to complete. After the calibration process the box flashed a few lights, signaling it was thinking, then finished assembling my profile. Stephanie then played music with the Aumeo Audio box off; when turned on, music not only became instantly clearer, but felt much, much louder. To listen comfortably I had to turn down the iPhone’s volume by over 50%.
“Unlike sight, unlike exercises, there’s no [easy] way to quantify how you’re hearing,” Paul Lee told me after the demo. “You assume you’re hearing everything that I do, and you assume your left and right sides hear the same way.” The combination of the app and calibration box helps people use whatever headphones they like with the technology, but Lee acknowledges that some people may want a simpler, integrated design so they don’t have to carry around an additional device.
“In the future, when this becomes the next prospective GoPro and everyone recognizes it when they see it maybe we’ll make a cheaper version, make it into headphones or less technically advanced.”
At a launch cost of $199.99, this current iteration isn’t the type of device for a casual music listener; the Aumeo comes in a matte-finished aluminum case in black, silver or rose gold, and it both looks and feels the part of high-end audio. For me, though, I love the idea of swapping it between my studio-style headphones for work and then over to my headset while playing my PS4, or even clipping to my armband while using open-air headphones or earbuds while exercising.
CES is all about finding technology to change and improve the ways we live, and Aumeo Audio does that by enhancing the listening experience while protecting our ears at the same time. If any of this ‘sounds’ interesting (pun intended) you can pre-order the Aumeo now through Indiegogo at a discounted rate through the Aumeo Audio website.