Australian startup Audeara claims they have made the “world’s first full fidelity headphones designed by doctors and engineers to deliver your perfect sound”.
It’s an intriguing concept and the headphones raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter. But do they deliver on their promise of perfect sound and how do they compare to similarly priced headphones?
We found out during several listening sessions.
Design and features
At $499, these headphones are priced in direct competition with the Bose QC35’s and the Sennheiser Momentum series.
Feature-wise, they compare favourably, with wireless Bluetooth operation, active noise cancellation and a good set of accessories which include a carry case and airline adapter.
The design is, subjectively, plain and a little ‘boxy’. The ear cups aren’t large enough to be called over-the-ear headphones, yet they are slightly too big for an on-ear model.
Nevertheless, the ear pads are nice and soft – although they start to dig in over time due to their design.
Setup is simple, although it does take a good 10-15 minutes to calibrate them comprehensively.
First, you download the app, pair the headphones and then undergo a hearing test where a series of beeps are played at varying frequencies. You adjust the volume until each beep is barely auditable. This process is repeated for both ears.
Once complete, the app will calibrate the headphone to your ears. You can also choose the degree to which sound is personalised (in 25% increments).
Sound always has an element of subjectivity. Too much bass for one person may be not enough for another and vice versa. That makes the prospect of personalising your audio intriguing.
I tried the headphones with the sound personalised at multiple levels, with various tracks and noise cancellation both on and off. I also repeated the hearing test.
Each time the results were the same – underwhelming. Weird is the best word for it. It’s as if all the midrange vocals were sucked of life. I tried serval tracks across acoustic, house and R’n’B and the sound was tinny, with bass that was underwhelming.
This is apparently because Audeara has designed the headphones to compensate for your weaknesses by adjusting the frequencies you don’t have any trouble with.
As Rob Easdown from the Sydney Morning Herald explains, “Rather than increasing the volume of frequencies where your hearing is weak, the Audearas bring down the volume of frequencies where your hearing is OK to meet your weaknesses, making the response line as flat as possible.”
In other words, the sound is meant to be as ‘accurate’ as possible, even at the cost of excitement.
The Audearas didn’t work at all for me. The whole time I was wearing them I wished I was listening to my Bose QC35’s instead.
However, the same may not be true for you, and the good news is that Audeara will let you return the headphones within 60 days if they aren’t right for you. If you’re interested, you can buy a pair on the Audeara website.