The Audeara A-01 headphones are built around a very unique (and impressive) idea.
Not satisfied with simply being a “good” pair of headphones, they want to stand out from the crowd by personalising what you hear especially for you. That means testing your hearing in both ears across a number of frequencies, and using the results to balance audio perfectly for your ears.
It’s a novel approach – and one I was very excited to try. Setting up a pair of Audeara headphones means logging into an app (free to download on iOS and Android), connecting to them via Bluetooth, and sitting through a hearing test. There are three tests to choose from: a quick one that takes a couple of minutes, designed to give you basic customisation, a medium one taking 5-10 minutes, and a lengthier, more in-depth test that requires you to set aside the best part of half an hour to complete it.
I went for the middle test. It played a series of ‘beeps’ at 16 different frequencies. Like those hearing tests you were probably made to have at school, you simply tell the app whether or not you can hear the sound clearly. Choosing “yes” will play you a sound at the same frequency, but at a lower volume. If you choose “no”, it’ll raise the volume until it finds the level at which you can hear. Selecting “barely audible” will set that as the threshold for that frequency.
Going through that test twice – once for both ears – is pretty laborious, but once you’re done you’ll get a pretty interesting graph that shows your hearing profile. It’s a shame the results can’t provide you a more detailed assessment of how your hearing compares to the average, but as the app likes to remind you, the Audeara test isn’t meant to be a medical diagnosis – even if it does feel a bit like it.
Once the test is completed, your profile will be applied to your headphones. The data is stored in the headphones themselves, so you don’t need to use the app each time you want to use the headphones. Perfect when you want to use them to connect to your console or PC with.
Once your custom hearing profile has been applied to the headphones, you can adjust the settings as to how extensively you’d like the audio to be customised for you. You can switch between 0% – meaning audio is just standard, and not balanced in accordance with your hearing results – up to 100%, where the full effect of your hearing test is applied. The app recommends you start at 50%, as the results can be “overwhelming”. Sadly, I wasn’t overwhelmed. The Audeara A-01 sounded nice with my customisation applied at 50%, and not much different up at 100%. But at zero, it sounded low quality. Initially testing with an album I frequently listen to, it was way below the quality of how the audio should sound, even on a standard pair of tins. Basically, then, until you’ve created your personal profile, the headphones aren’t ready to be used. It’s like any level of balance just isn’t applied until it’s been customised to your hearing profile.
I’ve tried lots of different pairs of headphones, of varying price points. The Audeara A-01 headphones are certainly at the higher end of the spectrum, costing £300. As expected at that price, the build quality of the headphones is premium. They’re really comfortable to wear, and feel solid. There’s no cheap, plasticky feeling to them, and the controls built into the side of one of the ear cups are high quality and easy to use. The cups fold around so the headphones can be packed away flat, but doing so doesn’t feel flimsy – the hinges are sturdy, and there’s a good sense that these things are built to last.
Connecting to a device via Bluetooth worked flawlessly for me every time, but there’s also a standard 3.5 mm jack if you’d prefer to go old school. However you connect to your device, you’re going to get great quality audio – providing you’ve set up your profile, of course.
Exactly how much difference is made by sitting through the hearing test and having audio balanced perfectly to suit is hard to gauge. Set up, the Audeara A-01 sound beautiful. Audio is crisp, clear and full. Using them with my Xbox One X to play a game, the balance of music and sound effects was perfect; I was fully immersed in my environment thanks to a full range of audio. But then, I’ve used other headsets that don’t require me to take a hearing test beforehand that sound pretty great too. It’s hard to gauge how much difference it truly makes to the average user, and how much of it is just a bit of a fancy gimmick.
If you’re a serious audiophile, or serious about enjoying the highest quality audio while playing a game or watching a movie, then the Audeara A-01 headset should be a real contender for your money. But this is not the sort of pair of headphones you can just get out of the box and plug in straight away. The setting up is fiddly, and makes it difficult if you plan to share them with someone else (although you can have multiple profiles set up). But there is a very good pair of quality headphones here. If you have the money to spend and are interested in consuming audio that’s tailored just for you, the Audeara A-01 offer something that no other pair of headphones does right now.