Of all of the things the wonderful human sense of hearing can do, one of my favorites is to listen to my friends talking. Unfortunately, some of my friends’ favorite places to do that talking in are noisy as hell. Some unspoken agreement among the hipster elite of my city has resulted in a blanket ban on carpets and soft surfaces in all the best brunching spots. This renders them acoustically akin to clap-back echo chambers, and makes them mentally exhausting places to enjoy long conversations in.
Perhaps that’s because they want you out the door, so they can sling some twenty-dollar avocado toast and eggs at a fresh set of customers; fair enough, they’ve got businesses to run. But it’s still an intoxicating idea to think that technology may one day deliver a little sonic peace in noisy environments through the use of advanced sound processing algorithms.
Back in 2018, we reviewed Nuheara’s IQBuds, designed to cut down background noise and enhance the speech of the people closest to you. They had some promising moments, and worked well in some situations, but they needed a fair bit of fiddling before they supplied any conversational lubricant, and the voices they amplified had a weird, soupy, digital kind of sound to them.
So we’re interested to hear how the new Olive Pro “2-in-1 hearing aids and Bluetooth earbuds” perform. They look a bit like slightly blinged-up Apple AirPods, and function much the same as well in general use, pairing wirelessly to your phone and offering 18 hours’ worth of charge.
As with other personalized hearing devices, they take you through a short hearing test designed to assess the areas of sensitivity and weakness in your hearing curve, and you can use that to set up a personal EQ curve that should help with everything you listen to through them.
Unlike the IQBuds, they’re FDA-registered as medical devices, giving Olive Union the ability to call them hearing aids, and through multiple mics in each bud, they also claim to be able to filter out background noise and give you “crystal clear speech … without distortion.”
The proof will be in the pudding there, we’ve requested a review unit and will hopefully get a chance to see how the Olive Pro set compares to the IQBuds. But real-time audio processing is no easy task given the sheer range of different background noise profiles they’ll need to subtract, as well as the fact that in many environments the background noise itself is human speech – just not the humans you want to listen to.
The Olive Pro 2-in-1 hearing aids and Bluetooth Earbuds are live on Indiegogo now at an early bird price of US$199. Shipping will start in February 2021, and by then prices will have reverted to around the same US$299 Nuheara was asking for the IQBuds Boost. Standard crowdfunding cautions apply; it’s worth reading the comments on Olive’s previous crowdfunding campaign, but taking them with a grain of salt, as generally folk don’t leave comments on long-finished crowdfunding projects unless they’ve had problems.
Source: Olive Pro