We're still not sure what the point of ONvocal's 'hearable' device is

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Daniel Cooper
January 4, 2015 8:15 PM
We're still not sure what the point of ONvocal's 'hearable' device is

Way back in 2012, a study was conducted revealing that audiophiles were so tuned into their music that they stopped paying attention to the world around them, with fatal results. That's why there's been a trend for "safe" headphones that promise better audio quality while letting the ambient noise bleed in. ONvocal is hoping to take this trend one step further with the Mix360, a device that is one part Bluetooth headset and one part, er, something else entirely.

Gallery: OnVocal - Hands on | 19 Photos


The idea behind the device is that you take the audio from your smartphone, be it music or a call, which is then mixed with both the ambient noise around you, as well as your own voice. Why, might you ask, would you buy headphones with the intention of shutting out the world around you, only to let it back in again? Certainly, the safety aspect is one thing, but it's not the only problem the company is aiming to solve.

In addition, the device aims to end the era of the Bluetooth-toting headset loudmouth, since being able to hear the feedback of your own voice causes you to quiet down. The point beyond which, you see, is the ability to use a smartphone app to mix the sounds being piped into your ear, so if you want to amp up the voice or ambience, you can with a finger swipe.

After strapping the device to my head, I have to admit, the execution is pretty great. The people behind the company have a background in audio, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to see the quality was top-notch. The mobile app is pretty slick, and it's a breeze to tweak the balance of each of the three inputs to your whims. Unfortunately, as great a piece of hardware as it is, I'm not sold on the ONvocal being a solution to a problem that actually exists. I mean, it's nice that the omnidirectional boom microphone can be used to eavesdrop on conversations happening a short distance away, but it's not as if you could say that the hardware could be used to pick up on an attacker sneaking up behind you.

Then there's the price. If you pre-order through the month of January, it'll cost you $299, but Johnny-come-lately types will be spending $349. That's a lot of cash to spend on a product that you could obviate just, ya know, by turning the volume down on your in-ears when you're out at night or in high-traffic areas.

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