Sound That's Custom-Tuned for You

Review: You’ve Never Listened to Headphones Like These Before


June 29, 2018 Tech By Photo by Chase Pellerin
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The Audeara A-01 are over-ear noise-canceling headphones that launched via Kickstarter last year and were pretty darn successful. The tagline: the “world’s first full-fidelity headphone with a built-in hearing test.” That’s right, the Audeara A-01 headphones come with a companion app that tests your hearing, in both left and right ears, and then tunes your music according. There are three levels of hearing tests you can choose from — standard (three-min test), high detail (five-min test), ultimate precision (10-min test) — depending on how much customization you want. Each test evaluates the frequencies that your ears can hear, with the longer tests simply testing your hearing with more frequencies so that A-01 headphones can get even more accurate sound. The Audeara A-01 headphones are available now for everybody.

The good: After taking the hearing tests and the audio is adjusted, the difference it makes to the audio quality is stark. It creates a sound profile that’s specific to you, and you can then tweak the amount that the audio is adjusted, but in general the “Audeara effect” makes the songs that you’re listening clear. It lowers the volume and makes the lows, mids and especially highs more crisp and accurate so that you’re hearing the music more like musicians intended. Multiple people can create different sound profiles through the app, and each profile will undoubtedly sound a little different.

The Audeara A-01s are also wireless noise-canceling headphones. You listen to them the same as you would normal Bluetooth ANC headphones, and if you don’t want the Audeara effect, you can turn that off, too. Its active noise-canceling is actually impressive, if not quite as effective what you’d find in the Bose QC35II and Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones. The A-01s are comfortable and because the audio is tuned specifically for you, you probably won’t experience the ear fatigue that’s associated with loud, harsh audio.

Who they’re for: People who want headphones that are perfectly tuned for them so that they hear songs in all their detailed glory.

Watch out for: When you first set up the headphones, you need to pair them through the Audeara app instead of just going to Settings on your phone. This process feels a little clunky, especially because the connection got dropped twice when I was first trying to pair the A-01 to my phone. If you want Audeara effect in the A-01, you have to open the app and initiate your sound profile every time you turn the headphones on; it doesn’t lock in for you. The headphones should fit most people, but my colleague who has a notoriously large head had some trouble.

Alternatives: The Audeara A-01s are unique in a sea of over-ear noise-canceling headphones. Many headphones have companion apps that allow you to fine-tune the EQ settings, but none give you a hearing test and adjust the audio accordingly.

Review: There’s no doubt that the Audeara A-01s are incredibly interesting headphones, and the fact that they require a little work to get the best out of them — you literally have to take a hearing test, listening to little beeps — makes it all the better when you actually get to listen to them. It’s also difficult to explain how they sound since they’re going to sound a little different depending on the sound profile of the person listening to them.

For me, the Audeara A-01s really boosted the clarity of the treble. The vocals in songs like “Heaven/Hell” by Chvrches and “Nightcall” by London Grammar were really lucid and distinct, almost separated from the rest of the instrumentals. As somebody who doesn’t care for a ton of bass (or really loud music), having the “Audeara effect” turned to 75 or 100 percent felt like listening to tracks in a completely new way. Really neat. However, if that’s not for you, there’s always the option to not have the “Audeara effect” turned on (this kind of defeats the purpose of the headphones, though).

One aspect that left me a little wanting a little more, though, involved the hearing test. As I’ve mentioned, it’s a really an involved process that makes you sit in a quiet place, focus and listen to beeps in each of your ears. I found it quite fun. But afterward, you don’t really know what the results were. Yes, you see a graph of the frequencies that you’ve heard in each of your ears, but there’s nothing that explains “Hey, you left ear is better at hearing this than your right” or “Nice, you have really great hearing for your age.” So I was there was a little more of explainer in that regards.

Verdict: The Audeara A-01 headphones are engineered to allow you to hear all the frequencies that you normally miss when listening to music since your hearing isn’t perfect. I’m admittedly not an audiophile, but what these headphones could do for me was pretty impressive. There are richness and details in tracks that you didn’t know exist, and many songs sounded very different while wearing the Audeara A-01s. That said, they’re not the most feature-packed headphones and the ANC isn’t as great as other headphones in its price range. Plus, the app can be frustrating. I’m guessing that most people want headphones that they can just turn on and song perfectly, and these headphones require more work than that. For audiophiles or people with declining levels of hearing, however, I imagine that the Audeara A-01 headphones would be quite fun.

What others are saying:

• “The difference between the default settings and the customized profile can be staggering. It is, however, also extremely personal, making it harder to judge its performance. For some users, lows will be enhanced to compensate for some hearing loss on lower frequencies. For others, it will be the treble is boosted instead. It can drastically change the sound of a familiar tune, making you hear details previously unheard but also soften or even muddle tones on the opposite end. This could give audiophiles a bit of a shock but those with hearing deficiencies will undoubtedly find it mind-blowing” — JC Torres, SlashGear

• “With extensive customization options and sound frequencies tailored to each ear, the Audeara A-01s are technically-impressive headphones for committed audiophiles. They’re best suited, however, to appreciating music rather than getting lost in it.” — Henry St Leger , TechRadar

• “It’s immediately clear that the A-01s emphasize clarity and crispness over loudness. Audeara wants you to hear ranges of sound you’ve never heard before, and the tech involved does its best to avoid distortion or anything that would cause it.” — Leif Johnson, MacWorld

Key specs

Drivers: 40mm Mylar
Frequency response: 20Hz – 22kHz
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: 66 hours (ANC only), 45.5 hours (Bluetooth only), 25.5 hours (ANC and Bluetooth)
App: iOS (here), Android (here)

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