Hands on: Here Active Listening System

These smart earplugs will change the way you hear the world

Last month at CES in Las Vegas, we were caught off guard by a unique new pair of wireless earbuds that aren’t earbuds at all. The Here Active Listening System from Doppler Labs allows you to alter the way you hear the world around you — in real time. We’ve called them “smart earplugs,” but you might also think of them as augmented reality for your ears.

Our own sample of the Here system just arrived in the mail, and while we’ve seen our share of Kickstarter catastrophes, these have only impressed. We haven’t had the chance yet to take them along in many real-world scenarios, but even just sitting at your desk, Here offer an extremely impressive sonic experience.

These buds are nothing short of revolutionary.

You control the earbuds through the free Here Active Listening app. It walks you through a quick auto-pairing (one of the most painless pairing experiences we’ve encountered) and then you’re ready to roll. After putting the ear buds in, there’s a slight adjustment to their piped-in sound. But once you’ve taken up the reins of the intuitive app, things really get interesting.

Users can engage active noise cancelling at up to -22 dB, enhance hearing at + 6 dB, use filters to target and extract specific noises, and even add sound effects and real-world sonic environments. Each mode offers its own impressive suite of digital signal processing that allows you to essentially mix the sounds around.

What’s more, the system offers a five-band EQ which allows you to raise or lower the bass, mid-range, and treble of the sound around you — especially useful for rock shows, dance clubs, or other loud events where the (likely underpaid) local sound tech has you at their mercy.

The system reacts to the sound around you by sourcing audio waves from tiny microphones inside the buds themselves, as well as the mic inside your own smartphone, allowing the system to read and react to your environment, with imperceptible delay (less than 30 milliseconds).

Like other fully autonomous wireless buds we’ve reviewed, the Here Active’s case acts as both a home for the buds, and a charging unit. The buds last for an estimated four to six hours of runtime on a full charge, and the battery inside the case also stores two more full charges when you’re on the go.

Unfortunately, Doppler is currently only filling Kickstarter orders, as well as orders for a few lucky attendees at Coachella 2015 right now now, meaning you’ll have to wait patiently while the new product makes its way to market. Doppler says the goal is to “develop Here into a mass consumer product over the coming months.” The price, if and when the system does make it to retail, is expected to be somewhere around $200.

And it appears this is just the first wave of what the Here Active Listening System can do. In a press release today, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Doppler Labs Fritz Lanman had this to say. “Here is not a headphone. It’s a computer for the ears – and the first app we built is designed for enhancing live music experiences…This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Here can eventually do.”

We hope the Here Active Listening System will make it to stores sooner than later, as these buds are nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to hearing preservation, augmentation, and enhancement. And it appears this is just the beginning for the buds. You can check out more about the Here Active Listening System at the company’s website.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.