Reviews: Audio

Here One wireless earphones work as hearing aid too

If not for the battery and connectivity issues, the Here One wireless earphones would provide a practical, and seamless, experience.
If not for the battery and connectivity issues, the Here One wireless earphones would provide a practical, and seamless, experience.PHOTO: DOPPLER LABS

The Here One true wireless earphones, released here early last month, are banking on being more than just earphones to compete in a slowly growing audio space.

Besides letting you listen to music wirelessly, the Here One earbuds also double as quasi-hearing aids of sorts.

The earbuds come with external microphones that artificially amplify surrounding noise - the clicking of keyboards in an office, co-workers talking two tables away, or voices and speech in a crowd.

These features, however, may not be enough to justify the Here One's $459 price tag.

Its design philosophy is to be always-on, as you can effortlessly toggle between music or hearing-aid mode with a quick tap on the earbud. It is, however, hindered by dismal battery life and connectivity issues, and these mar what otherwise would be a practical, and seamless, experience.

Developed by American audio firm Doppler Labs, the Here One also provides a small level of noise-cancellation in a pinch.

Swopping between picking up and cancelling outside noise can be further tweaked through an app available for Android and iOS.

The earbuds come with external microphones that artificially amplify surrounding noise - the clicking of keyboards in an office, co-workers talking two tables away, or voices and speech in a crowd.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $459

    EARBUD DIMENSIONS: 18.9mm x 20.8mm x 20mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz - 18kHz

    WEIGHT: 6g per earbud

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

It comes with 11 different noise filters, which cut or enhance ambient noise according to your needs. Front- and back-voice enhancement boosts where you can pick up outside sound from their respective directions, for example.

I found the filter for the BART (SF Bay Area) - the equivalent of the MRT in San Francisco - the most useful for shutting out outside noise while on our local public transport.

The Here One's sound signature is typical of small, wireless earbuds - decent detail, but a bit on the soft side. I had to crank up the volume to near-maximum to get to acceptable listening levels.

Like most consumer-grade earphones, its soundstage is a bit muffled and veiled, but with enough clarity to make streaming music sound pretty good. Bass tones are strong but understandably not extra-punchy, given the size of the earbuds, while mids and trebles are pleasant but not exceptional.

Each earbud is light and comfortable, weighing only 6g, but still manages to stay lodged in the ears easily enough.

Pairing the earbuds to a smartphone for the first time is a relatively straightforward process, although I was less than pleased with the fact that I had to download an app to even begin the pairing process.

I would have preferred the flexibility of a direct Bluetooth connection, but since the Here One is banking on the extra features made possible only through the app, I understand the limitation.

Connectivity is not perfect, with several other users reporting issues as well. I suffered frequent disconnections, especially when the battery started depleting, even at around 30 per cent charge.

Battery life is a huge issue as well, clocking in at a dismal 2hr per charge. I was often surprised to see how little juice was left after my hour-long commute to the office.

Even though the charging case holds up to three 2hr charges, it's still a bother to swop them out so quickly. Forget about using them on long-haul flights, as the battery life simply won't hold up.

• Verdict: The Here One contains very novel features which perform remarkably well, adding new functionalities that go beyond those of traditional earphones. However, its high price and nagging issues, such as short battery life and connectivity problems, make it short of a must-buy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'Here One wireless earphones work as hearing aid too'. Print Edition | Subscribe