I was born with both the love for music and a mild hearing deficiency. (Which I suspect has become ‘moderate’ as I’ve gotten older and attended hundreds of concerts.) This makes it challenging because I appreciate the finer details in music but the law of diminishing returns, with regards to audio equipment, is even steeper with me.
I recognize some qualities in live music that others may miss (reverberation, the mix) but I miss the details in high tones that someone with normal or better hearing would appreciate. It would be a waste of money for me to go out and buy a top of the line home stereo setup to squeeze out a negligible improvement that only someone with excellent hearing could notice.
I’ve played around with various solutions to help me hear the things I’m missing and some work quite well while others are less than ideal or downright awful.
For your computer, you can add an operating system level EQ, which generally works quite well, however you can’t take it with you. (Audio Hijack, Airfoil, Boom, eqMac, iTunes built-in EQ) These require you to either know enough about equalization to customize the EQ bands yourself or use a built-in EQ setting, which won’t be customized for your own hearing ability.
On an iPhone you can use the built-in EQ but this is not customizable either. You’re limited to options like ‘Rock’, ‘Bass Reducer’, ‘Treble Booster’, ‘Pop’.
While glasses can be worn everywhere and correct your vision for all situations, Even headphones aren’t hearing aids and are designed for recorded music mostly but work with movies at home, tv, and videos as long as you can broadcast the source device with bluetooth. They don’t replace hearing aids, obviously.
The latest model of Even headphones is named ‘H4’. (Not to be confused with Beoplay H4 from Band & Olufsen)
What’s new with the latest model?
- Over-ear design
- Beryllium coated 40mm drivers (new type compared to the previous model which supposedly brings more definition and clarity to the table, especially in the higher frequencies)
- Black or Wood ear cups
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 20 hours of battery life
- USB-C connector
- Built-in mic
The headphones and app run a hearing test that tests 8 frequencies on each side, from 125 Hz to 14 kHz. An audiogram performed by a licensed audiologist also test for 8 frequencies. (125 Hz, 250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 3000Hz, 4000 Hz, and 8000 Hz.). Even calls this an EarPrint.
The test is very intuitive and easy to perform. You can create as many EarPrints as you want. Presumably for different household members who may use the headphones.
It’s not clear how many different levels they test for within each frequency. The EarPrint graph shows ranges from ‘soft’, to ‘normal’, to ‘loud’. It looks like they might play 9 different volume levels, based on looking at my test results, but it feels like they move through each one fairly quickly. The entire test only takes a few minutes.
It won’t let you modify an existing EarPrint setting and won’t let you fine tune each frequency. I would prefer to be able to dive into each frequency individually and configure it to my liking. I realize they likely want to simplify it and remove the chance for user error. However, I might be able to hear a tone at a particular volume if I had more time to respond and to realize what I’m actually listening for. The only way to change a setting is to repeat the whole test over again.
I’d love to know more about what they are doing to alter the sound for my hearing ability. It would be nice to be able to replicate their EQ in other situations where I have access to an equalizer but perhaps not these headphones. Looking at my custom EarPrint, I can guess but don’t know to what extent they’ve modified each band.
After the hearing test, I had to pair the headphones with my phone. I successfully paired the headphones the first time but no apps would see them. I had to power them off, on again, and re-pair them a second time for any applications to recognize them. I did experience some additional bluetooth goofiness during the next week as I played with the headphones where my phone wouldn’t connect to them. Sometimes this was due to the headphones already being connected to a different device but not all the time. It was always fixed by re-pairing the headphones. I don’t blame the headphones for this necessarily but I’d like to pair them with multiple devices (phone, Apple TV, Roku, bluetooth transmitter) and being able to reliably and quickly connect the headphones to the desired device would save a lot of annoyance.
Occasionally I experienced issues where the music would start but stop after a split second. I would select a different track and it would do the same thing. I don’t know if this was due to interference from other devices but I would expect them to work reliably once connected.
My first album to test was Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’. I was initially very impressed with the difference. When I turned off the EarPrint to test it without the adjustment, the audio sounded comparitively muffled and almost sounded like they could be intentionally downgrading the quality in order to give the impression their EarPrint technology is better. I had the same thought when I tried their free online demo. I know this is ridiculous but it occurred to me.
I grabbed my Sennheiser HD 650 cans and compared the difference between both headphones. Aside from expected characteristic differences in the headphones (open back, etc) the unmodified sound of the Even H4’s were not that different from the Sennheisers. I performed the same test with Audio Technica ATH-M50s and the results were similar. Color me impressed, but also disappointed in my own handicap.
I then sampled some other songs.
The splash at the end of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb sounds like it’s in the same room versus in the room next to you.
The underlying guitar in the second verse of The Catherine Wheel’s Fripp is more pronounced and chimy.
Overall, snares have more snap, high hats are crisper, guitars are brighter.
Some of these may be obvious but are worth mentioning:
If the batteries are dead or if you want to listen to a source that doesn’t have bluetooth, you can use a cable but the EarPrint is disabled. There is no way to listen to any source using a cable AND have the EarPrint function. Even is planning on releasing a studio monitor version that allows this but not until 2020.
No touch enabled controls on the side of the headphones like some competitor models.
No hinges to collapse them down smaller.
Can’t control which source the headphones are connected to from the headphones or app.
Overall I’m quite pleased with them. They are comfortable and the sound improvement, for me at least, is like night and day.
You can buy them direct from Even or at Amazon for
$150. (Now on sale for $49, this is an incredible deal!)