Combining key hearing enhancement features into a Bluetooth stereo headset is no easy task, but Alango Technologies Ltd has done just that with BeHear NOW.
When it comes to hearing the world around you, conversation, phone calls and TV are probably top of the list. The idea behind BeHear NOW is to assist with all of that. But with an increasingly competitive low fuss, pop-in-the-ear hearables market, how does the BeHear NOW neckband headset compare?
When unboxing a new product first impressions count. BeHear NOW is quick to impress with its sturdy carry case containing a neatly arranged headset, USB charging cable, various sized ear buds and quick start guide. The case easily fits into hand luggage or even a large coat pocket. That’s good because BeHear NOW is a take anywhere device. Its built-in microphones aim to help you hear nearby conversation more easily, while Bluetooth means you can pair it to your smartphone for phone calls, or stream your favourite music tracks.
At home you can use it to listen to the TV with the optional ‘HearLink TV streamer – more on that later.
Dig deeper and BeHear NOW reveals a lot more under the bonnet. A key aim is not just to achieve a better listening experience, but a personal one tailored to your hearing profile.
The W&H BeHear app (which is downloadable for free from both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store) has a basic hearing check. This allows optimisation of the headset to your hearing capabilities. The app performs a pure-tone hearing test across a range of frequencies. It is rather similar to a hearing test that an audiologist might perform. Each ear is tested, and it takes about five minutes to complete the test. You then get to see your audiogram. This is not a substitute for a proper hearing test by an audiologist, so if you have concerns about your hearing you should get it checked it out.
In sound amplifier mode, BeHear NOW works rather like a hearing aid. The app has settings for indoors, outdoors, in a crowd and live music, so you can select the optimum listening experience for each environment. In addition, there are four noise reduction settings, plus a six by six grid where you can play around further with the sound settings – each cell in the grid has a different sound setting (thirty-six settings in total).
Hearing conversation in noisy places can be a challenge, especially with hearing loss. BeHear NOW helps to make speech more prominent over background noise. It works best if the person speaking is no more than 2 or 3m away. The noise reduction has four settings: low, normal, high and maximum. The high and maximum settings work well to screen out unwanted background noise. There is some latency, but this is noticeable only if you can hear the sound directly and through the earpiece, so you need to make sure you have a good fit with the correct sized earbud.
With all the processing, speech takes on a mildly unnatural and metallic quality. Also, an occasional audible artefact can be heard, as if the headset is about to go into acoustic feedback. The built-in microphones are, however, well isolated, so there is little handling or rubbing noise when moving around. Overall, it was a good experience.
We all know the frustration of fast talkers over the phone and rushed voice messages. The EasyListen feature eases down to a calm patter, without affecting the pitch. There are three speed settings – slow, slower and slowest. The result? Phone conversations are easier to understand, and it does this without any noticeable reduction in sound quality. We haven’t seen this type of feature on other personal listeners, and it’s a real coup for Wear & Hear.
Hear what’s around you
The ListenThrough feature takes away the isolation one can feel when listening to music through earbuds. It mixes the ambient sound picked up through the built-in microphones and mixes it with music streaming. We tried this feature at a train station, and it worked well. You could clearly hear station announcements and the music. Without having to go to the app, you can adjust the volume level of the ambient sound (you can adjust the volume level on your device to increase or lower the volume level of the music), as well as toggle ListenThrough on and off.
The neckband design is comfortable to wear and lightweight. Arranged on protruding arms are small push-button headset controls. The right side deals with personal hearing adjustments and the left with call handling. Easy for nimble fingers, but anyone with restricted hand or arm dexterity may find the neckband hard to put on and the controls fiddly to use.
The app is intuitive with a well thought out interface, touch screen controls and navigation.
The neckband, control arms and earbuds are well-made. The headset has built-in vibration alert for incoming calls and certain status notifications. There are also audible prompts, for example that let you know when you’ve reached maximum or minimum volume adjustment. However, the bleeps sometimes seem loud compared to what you’re listening to. Each earbud is magnetised so they clip nicely together around your neck, when not in your ears, or for storage.
On the box
After using the BeHear NOW headset when out and about, you might want to put your feet up to enjoy that crime thriller boxed set you got for Christmas, or the latest goings-on of your favourite soap. Then you remember watching TV isn’t the joy it once was. Dialogue is not as sharp as it used to be, background music and sound effects are excessively loud, or maybe characters seem to mumble more these days!
Wear & Hear aims to provide a solution with HearLink, a small Bluetooth device that streams audio from your TV to the BeHear NOW headset. The device has a 3.5mm analogue audio jack input and comes with cable adapters for phono RCA and 3.5mm jack connections on the TV.
You don’t need the app for TV streaming, and you can adjust the volume level on the headset controls.
Sound quality is excellent. There is some latency, but you’d only notice this if you can hear the direct sound from the TV loudspeaker in addition to the TV sound through the headset.
With your device paired to the headset, receiving and making calls will mute audio from the TV. Also you can use the ListenThrough to hear nearby conversation in your living room while still hearing the TV sound.
BeHear NOW ticks the boxes for performance and it certainly packs in the features. If you have a mild to moderate hearing loss, BeHear NOW could be the answer if you don’t yet want to go down the prescribed hearing aid route.
Another thing we like is that Wear & Hear publish full acoustic performance figures in their product datasheet for acoustic output, full-on acoustic gain, frequency range and distortion (measured according to ANSI S3.22-2009, an American standard for the specification of hearing aid characteristics). Detail you’d expect to see for any worthy hearing instrument.
If you’d like to find out more about BeHearNOW, and where to buy it, then visit the Wear & Hear website.
More like this