For the past 4 months or so, I’ve been carrying the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset with me everywhere. I use it to listen to podcasts when I cook, to record song ideas when I’m writing, and to escape the busy world around me when I’m commuting–either by making short videos or by listening to music. However, the kind folks from Hooke Audio recently approached Major HiFi with their new product, the Hooke Verse. The Hooke Verse is a set of Bluetooth earphones with built in binaural microphones- a first of its kind and a technological feat. I’m so excited by this technology, and given my experience with the Sennheiser Ambeo, I’ll compare and contrast the two today with this Hooke Audio Hooke Verse-Binaural Microphone Earphones Review
A Technological Feat – Hooke Audio Hooke Verse-Binaural Microphone Earphones Review
In the Box
-Memory foam eartips (small, medium, and large)
-Semi-hard, zipping, carrying case
-3D Audio recording cable (for GoPro, DSLR, etc)
-USB charging cable
The Hooke Verse earpieces are closely attached to a set of batteries, and connected with a short, manageable cable. The batteries are bulky, although they were rarely in my way while listening. In fact, they actually helped keep the earphones hooked around my ear.
The driver housings fit well and were comfortable in my ears, although would sometimes want to angle outward. Therefore the earphones didn’t provide as much noise isolation as the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset. The Verse’s cable, which hung behind my head, was short, light, and easy to forget–a strong positive compared to the long cable and bulky DAC of the Ambeo.
Hooke Audio built their own codec to let phones receive Bluetooth information in addition to transmitting it–a first of its kind if the Bluetooth world! The analog microphone picks up sound, then it is digitized into bits. Those bits are sent via a Bluetooth stream at 24 bit/48kHz. I’m super impressed Hooke Audio is able to get such a high resolution in such a small package.
Anthony from Hooke Audio had this to say about what happens next, “It is very precise how many bits are sent and at what rate so as to ensure optimum performance and risk Bluetooth packet loss. When the app receives the bits it can then unpack them into whatever format it desires. Currently we package the audio only as .mp3 and video as .m4a to keep file export time down and file size down. Though the resulting file is an mp3 for audio only and m4a for video, it is not the standard .mp3 in which you are normally accustomed to as it has been sent via Bluetooth bits transferred from an analog 24bit 48kHz microphone. So you’ll notice the quality of the audio sounds much better than a standard .mp3 Regardless, we plan to roll out .wav packaging and .aac packaging in further updates.”
Effect on Phone Life
While taking videos drained my battery a bit, I got the overwhelming sense that the Hooke Verse wasn’t the culprit in the dying battery. On the other hand, the Sennheiser Ambeo takes a big toll on phone battery life when recording. I suppose it is due to their Apogee DAC which steals power from the phone. The Hooke Verse, on the other hand has its own built in battery and therefore, doesn’t steal juice from my phone.
Pairing the Hooke Audio Hooke Verse was easy and paired just like any other set of earphones. For playing back music, it worked perfectly. However, for recording I ran into a few issues which Anthony from Hooke was happy to walk me through. My first few recordings sounded a bit distorted and had a delayed sound to picture. After forgetting my other Bluetooth devices in my Bluetooth settings, putting my phone in airplane mode, and resetting the earphones, the recording connectivity performed much better and the sound was perfectly clear. After a little bit of investigation, I realized that when my phone was not in airplane mode, a big delay in the recording would happen. So when recording, be sure to put your phone in airplane mode!
While listening, the Bluetooth range, with perfect line of site, was 30 feet. While recording it was about 20 feet, but the headset started acting very wonky once I reached that threshold. For recording purposes, I recommend keeping the headset within 5 feet of the recording device.
Sound for Recording
I actually preferred the captured recording sound of the Hooke Verse to the Sennheiser Ambeo headset. The Sennheiser Ambeo headset had a big boost at 2 kHz which made the sound signature harsh. It was useful for accenting vocals, but was not as good for capturing other types of sounds. On the other hand, the Hooke Verse felt a bit flatter and therefore more natural and realistic.
Sound for Listening
The low frequencies are a lot of fun, with a subby bass boost at 60 Hz. Kick drums sound big and punchy, and drums in general sound really great with rock, folk, indie, and country. Additionally, hip-hop, pop, and electronic has big impact because of the boost. It is not as good for ballads or music that doesn’t benefit from punchy and energetic low-end.
The low mids are thick with a big boost at 200 Hz. Sometimes this boost causes cloudiness. Additionally this area of the frequency spectrum doesn’t have particularly dynamic details. Therefore, classical music sounds dull (at least for listening) although I was quite impressed with a recorded classical concert on Hooke Audio’s YouTube channel.
There is a small, broad frequency cut from 600 Hz to 900 Hz. This cut, combined with a boost at 3.5 kHz leaves a lot of space for vocals. They sit in a very comfortable space in the mix: not too loud, not too quiet.
The high frequencies of the Hooke Verse are modest, although pretty flat overall. There is a bit of a boost at 10 kHz which contributes to the sense of height while listening back.
The Hooke Verse has a decent sense of height because of its boost at 10 kHz, but it would be better if it had stronger low frequency and high frequency extension. Its width is accurate and its depth is pretty good, although performs the best with songs that particularly emphasize the sense of depth in the mix.
The Hooke Audio Hooke Verse is the first of its kind: a set of Bluetooth binaural microphones and earphones. And because it’s the first, there are a few quirks. But overall, it is a great tool for vloggers, musicians, and creators in general, that won’t drain your phone’s battery.
The Hooke Verse is available at Hooke Audio.
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