First Off: I Like It
I have not yet figured out whether I will be able to use it for the purpose I had intended for it (which I will explain later). But for all the things it is and is not, I do indeed like the Soundlazer VR, and if I do manage to overcome the technical challenges, I believe it will serve that purpose very well.
You will find me being critical below. But I’m not being negative for the sake of being negative (as the inventor has accused). Rather, I’m doing my best to be objective about established definitions for certain terms, and the accepted interpretations of measurements. Words and terms do have meanings. I own several shovels, but only one of them is a spade, and I shall call a spade a spade. Dig?
That was a pretty awesome pun. There will likely be more. Buckle up, Buttercup.
What Is “High Fidelity”?
I accept the above answer in part because over my lifetime I have had my hearing professionally tested several times, and due to good genes, some luck, and some due caution, I have always tested to have better hearing than a typical male my age. The most recent time I was tested, I could still hear tones above 20KHz, in my 40s. That is exceedingly rare. And I can still hear tones down in the 20Hz ballpark. So in my forties, I still had the hearing of a typical grade-school boy.
That, in and of itself does not make me an expert in High Fidelity. That merely makes me capable of perceiving somewhat readily whether some frequencies are or are not attenuated or accentuated.
My Trade School training in Audio Engineering, and subsequent experience in Sound Engineering for Recording, Live Performance, and many years of work and hobby involvement in Electronics, Music, and Amateur Radio – that is what makes me somewhat of an expert.
Measurement can and does confirm what I hear, and vice versa.
So there we go. The term “High Fidelity” is quite well defined. It means something specific, demonstrable, and measurable.
Please note that this is not about a personal preference. This is not arbitrary. A person may choose to turn the Treble up or down, or turn the Bass up or down, as a matter of personal preference. That is fine; it is their prerogative to do so. I do not take issue with that. However, if there is a noticeable emphasis or de-emphasis of frequencies in the range of human hearing, that is – by definition – not High Fidelity.
Soundlazer VR Is Not Flat, Neutral, Uncolored
The above is a screenshot – do not attempt to click the [>PLAY] button. It won’t play. You’ll have to go to the Kickstarter Campaign to view the video.
But, um, no. Those results do not “clearly show the high quality sound (waves [sic]) that are reproduced by the Soundlazer VR.” Rather they clearly show a frequency response which is not very flat at all. Mind you, when audio equipment is tested for Frequency Response, experts generally use White Noise. A super-simplified description of White Noise is that it is the same Intensity (perceived by human hearing as volume) across the Audible Spectrum. The input is “flat” and “uncolored”, and if the output is also flat and uncolored, you can demonstrate, measure, and prove the equipment being tested has a flat response.
But R.H. used Pink Noise as the input. Here’s the spectrum of Pink Noise…
Picture that. Let that soak in. And now here is the screenshot of the measured output of the Soundlazer VR after reproducing the above-pictured signal…
If the unit takes higher frequencies, which were lower intensity, and amplifies them up to be equivalent intensity to the frequencies immediately to the left of them, then you can easily infer that if the input were White Noise (as would be proper), the output spectrum would be a very steep ramp up to the right. Not flat at all.
Note he says “…clearly see the audio spectrum starting out at around 150Hz…” which at the outset disqualifies this from being described as High Fidelity. I understand why that design choice was made, and I agree with that design choice, given the purpose of the device. What I take issue with is the terminology. The Soundlazer VR is intentionally and purposefully designed to not be High Fidelity. Bass frequencies were excluded on purpose. And in so doing, a choice was made about Fidelity – this is a Low Fidelity device.
Note he says “If we wanted to add a bit of equalization, we could get a very nice, flat overall response.” Um, no, not unless you input White Noise, and then saw a flat response reflected on the monitor. And yeah, you should have added equalization, and I intend to do that (more on that later).
“It’s a matter of preference…” yes, you may choose to listen to audio with whatever sort of Frequency Response you like, but that is personally arbitrary. “…but we think the Soundlazer VR sounds great out of the box…” That is an opinion. Opinions by definition are not subject to proof, and are beyond measurement. “…and this test proves it!” No, it does not.
What this test proves, and furthermore my ears corroborate, is that the Soundlazer VR significantly emphasizes high frequencies. And the higher the frequency, the higher the emphasis, up until it rolls off around 20KHz.
What Else Is Not High Fidelity?
Hearing Aids, in a way, are not High Fidelity, and purposefully so. Their Frequency Response is not flat because the wearer’s hearing is no longer flat. Most often, someone who needs Hearing Aids suffers from mid-to-high-frequency Hearing Loss. And a device which can attenuate low frequencies and emphasize high frequencies (of course with a tailored Frequency Response Curve based upon an Audiologist’s test results) helps to compensate for this problem.
Those TV Ears things (which I used to own, not because of Hearing Loss, but because of noisy kids and neighbors) are not High Fidelity either. Same dealio. The whole point of those was to boost the frequencies necessary to aid in the intelligibility of dialog.
This, my dear readers, is what the Soundlazer VR is good at. It is more comfortable than TV Ears. It is more comfortable than Hearing Aids. It is more comfortable than headphones. It has the potential to very aptly solve the problem of listening to (and enhancing the speech intelligibility of) a TV or Radio program, or a podcast, without bothering people in other areas of the house or office.
What Is The Organic Nature of the Sound?
R.H. is absolutely correct that “Low frequencies are not directional.” That was an intentional compromise for avoiding the nuisance to others. A conscious, deliberate decision was made to make the Soundlazer VR as a Low Fidelity device, purposefully and significantly emphasizing high frequencies in a manner conversely proportional to the intensity of a Pink Noise signal, not unlike a Hearing Aid – not unlike TV Ears – not unlike any other device designed to help you understand speech and suppress “muddy” low frequencies. And I wholeheartedly agree with that decision.
But I wholeheartedly disagree with any of the Marketing BS which says “High Fidelity”. That is pure poppycock.
And what in the ever-loving F does “the organic nature of the sound” mean? This thing so unfaithfully and unabashedly modifies the natural Frequency Response that using the term “Organic” is laughably ridiculous.
Yup. Two-thirds of that is exactly what the Soundlazer VR is excellent for. But it is hammered-$#!+ for listening to music, if you, well, don’t hate the Bass Player’s valiant efforts. Me? I’m an Audiophile. Always have been. I like High Fidelity. I like a pure reproduction. I demand a flat Frequency Response when listening to music. That’s not what this thing is for. Even if R.H. says that’s what he uses it for – and that is his prerogative, but do please be keenly aware that this is his arbitrary personal preference. And this is fine.
Audiophile Grade Wood
As explained earlier, that is definitely not “Full range”. That is intentionally not full range. The reasons are understandable, and arguably correct, but that bullet point is self-contradictory. I would suggest it is therefore misleading, and possibly intentionally dishonest.
But I ask you, what the F is “Quality audiophile grade wood”?
The build quality, fit-and-finish, sleek and beautiful appearance of the Soundlazer VR is not at question here. It’s effing gorgeous. (My opinion, arbitrary, unprovable.) But it seems like someone in the Marketing (i.e. BS) Department is working really hard to shoehorn the word “audiophile” into this thing, and this is the only way that the Legal (i.e. a$$#0le) Department would let them get away with it. Not to be redundant, but I’m calling BS.
At the very top of the campaign’s Marketing page, there are two pictures. The top one is the thumbnail for the video, and the second one shows the unit actual size. Given the other Marketing Alternative Facts already uncovered, this first impression feels as if it could be intentionally misleading. If this picture was on a box in a store, they’d have to put a disclaimer on it “*not actual size”.
In Summary, I Like It
…for what it is. It’s the most comfortable Hearing Aid you’ll never have to wear, useful while you sit in one spot.
What it’s not is “High Fidelity” or “Audiophile” or “Flat Response” or “Full Range”. That is all Marketing BS of the sort which would make Ron Popeil blush. (I notice there’s no Wikipedia page for R.H., the creator of Soundlazer, and I think an inventor as notable as R.H. really should be on there. Someone, please make that page.)
As for the technical challenges with how I had intended to use it, I don’t have a TV which sends audio via Bluetooth. And since watching TV downstairs is what has the greatest potential to annoy my wife upstairs, this would be an excellent solution to that problem. And although I have a Mac (which can send audio via Bluetooth), I won’t set it up in my home office because it is also my VR playspace – can’t have stuff hangin’. So I’m not sure I will end up using the Soundlazer VR much. We’ll see.
I will probably crack it open, and see if I can signal probe around to find the spot between the Bluetooth receiver and the Audio Amplifier… so that I can fashion a Stereo Line In for it. In so doing, I could also use some pre-EQ to flatten out the response.