- Solid build quality
- Comfortable fit
- Tailored sound
- Reserved design may put some off
Audeara AR-01 Bluetooth headphones review: Headphones that tailor their sound based on your hearing? We looked into the supposed benefits to see if they are worth buying.
Given that headphones are basically little speakers that rest on your ears, the level of innovation has been quite impressive. From noise cancelling and improvements in wireless sound quality to increased affordability, it is a great time to buy a set.
Another company that hopes to raise the bar is Audeara. Originally a Kickstarter campaign setup by company founders Dr James Fielding and Dr Chris Jeffrey, its AR-01 headphones smashed their sales target many times over.
The basic idea is that Audeara has put the audiogram technologies used for hearing tests into the headphones, allowing you to tailor the sound based on your level of hearing loss, which we all have to a certain degree.
This should, in theory, mean a unique and superior sound for every individual, but is that the case? We spent a few months getting to know a prototype pair of Audeara AR-01 headphones, which feature active noise cancelling and Bluetooth, to find out.
But before we get into the nitty gritty, you should know the Audeara AR-01 headphones cost US$400 and deliveries are set to begin in September. Pre-orders are open now.
Audeara AR-01 review: Setting them up
You can pair the Audeara headphones to your smartphone or tablet using a wired 3.5mm connection or put the device in pairing mode and use Bluetooth and off you go. All you have to do is ensure they are fully charged and off you go.
But it is worth downloading the free Audeara app, which is used to run a test to find out how good (or bad) your hearing is. The results are then used to adjust the music, not simply increase the volume.
The test requires you to adjust a volume slider until you can only just hear each note of varying pitch, starting nice and low before becoming high enough to only be heard by cats. It is a long, boring process, but you only have to do it once.
The results of the hearing test are displayed within the Audeara app as a graph. There is little you can do with the information, but those who have significant impairment will be given a warning that suggests going to a specialist for further investigation.
Audeara AR-01 review: The specs
Inside each earphone is a 40mm Mylar speaker with an audio impedance of 32ohm. An interior lithium-ion battery offers up to 30 hours of noise cancelling when wired, 15 hours of Bluetooth listening and 12 hours of a combination of the two.
We found the AR-01 headphones lasted around as long as advertised and held their charge for very long periods of time between usage. Recharging takes three hours via a microUSB connection of the Type-B variety, which is more convenient than Type-C.
Audeara AR-01 review: The design
The use of matt black plastic gives the Audeara AR-01 headphones an unassuming and inexpensive look, but peer more closely and you can start to see why they cost a little more than usual.
The headband materials are durable and extremely soft, making them sit very comfortably on your head. Meanwhile the ear cups are even softer, providing a secure fit that never grows tiring, although in the summer they can get a bit warm.
The buttons used to adjust the volume and turn on active noise cancelling are somewhat cheap, however, but never gave up on us during testing.
For those who prefer their headphones to be a statement, you should go elsewhere. Beyond the Illuminati-esque logo on the left and right cup, these look more studio than stylish.
On the flip side, that does make them less of a target for thieves and a lack of any shiny surfaces means they can resist damage rather well before they start to look shabby.
As for the overall weight, the AR-01 headphones weigh more than they look like they should, which enhances the overall impression of quality. But the overall exterior design has a slightly rough edge and therefore never quite matches up to the price tag.
Audeara AR-01 review: The sound quality
We used the Audeara AR-01 headphones for a while without using the app to tailor the sound quality and found them to be a little unimpressive at first. The top-end was a bit reserved, making them less lively than something from Audio Technica and Sennheiser.
But as time went on, our ears began to get used to the slightly muted edge to the treble and we began to appreciate the clarity. Compared with something from Beats Audio, the Audeara AR-01s are considerably more capable.
We then underwent the hearing test and the treble seemed to open up a tad, but still to a level below what we wanted. We did, however, find the headphones offer a depth to the sound that proves rewarding.
Bass is present but never overpowers, while the mids are pushed out with a nice punch. The overall sound quality is good, it must be said, but it is hard to fall in love with the noise they pump out like you can with headphones at this price point.
Initiating the active noise cancelling feature (you have a switch on the right ear) does muffle certain noises rather well, though offerings from Bose are more effective. On the flip-side, there is less of that underwater effect you get from too much noise cancelling.
A by-product of active noise cancelling is that it considerably increases the treble, but you lose some of the lows. A combination of the two sound characteristics would potentially work best, but neither will offend.
We had hoped to be blown away by the Audeara AR-01 headphones, but the sound quality is only above average. However, the fact they work wirelessly (you can use the 3.5mm jack if you prefer) and offer active noise cancelling makes them versatile.
Audeara AR-01 headphones review: The verdict
The US$400 price is rather steep for a pair of headphones born out of a Kickstarter from an unknown company. But there is something to be said for music that adjusts to your level of hearing impairment and the sound quality they offer is enjoyable.
You could look elsewhere for a superior sound in the form of Sony's talented MDR-1000X headphones, Bose's tried and tested QuietComfort 35 or Sennheiser's Momentum 2.0 Wireless, admittedly.
But those who are happy paying above the odds for the Audeara AR-01s will find themselves in ownership of a predominantly well-thought out product that uses a clever idea to good effect, especially if the final production cans iron out a few of the more pronounced creases.