Sitting on the kitchen table when I returned from CES were a pair of nondescript black earbuds. You know, the free type that reinforce the notion that you get what you pay for. “What are these?” I asked. “I used them for a conference call today,” said Raina. They were the perfect test earbuds for the new Boomstick headphone accessory.
I’ll admit it. My work with Gear Diary has spoiled me. I’ve heard $1500 headphones from HARMAN that use the latest technology and were tuned by none other than Quincy Jones. I’ve reviewed Blue’s first foray into the headphone market. Those headphones have a built-in amplifier and produce amazing sound. I’ve tried and reviewed almost every pair of audiophile headphones products by V-MODA and tested the various offerings from Plantronics. All sound amazing. And I returned from CES with the latest and greatest over-the-ear headphones from JBL and a pair of high-end audiophile earbuds from Maroo Pro. These earbuds have three drivers and were created with musicians in mind. So finding a pair of cheap, $5 earbuds on the table almost made me break out in hives.
Yes, that’s more than a bit of hyperbole but the fact is, once you listen to decent or good headphones it is really difficult to listen to cheap ones. And the ones Raina used for her call were the epitome of cheap. I asked her how they sounded and Raina simply replied, “They weren’t the best I’ve had.”
That made them the perfect pair of earbuds for testing the Boomstick. The Boomstick from BoomCloud360 is an upcoming product that promises to make even crappy earbuds sound decent. As they explain,
It’s time to invent new ways of listening. To take back the quality of sound that got lost in the race for easy and portable. Because when you really listen, you feel it. You are moved by it.
Compatible with any set of headphones or earphones, the Boomstick adds vivid definition and creates a truly immersive listening experience. It brings sound back to life like never before, with processing that optimizes any audio content to deliver a richer world of detail and envelopment for music, video, and more.
The Boomstick is a small, portable adapter that sits between your earbuds or headphones and the audio source. That, of course, means the device only works with wired headsets but that’s okay. It enhances the signal coming from the audio source and, in the process, gives cheap headphones a fighting chance of sounding good. It does so by providing:
- Psychoacoustic bass enhancement that increases the perception of low-end frequency response, thereby creating a fuller and richer listening experience.
- High-frequency contouring that provides definition and clarity in the music, bringing out amazing detail and instrumentation you have never heard before.
- Sound field expansion that creates an incredible sense of immersion.
- A BOOST mode that dials up the enhancement for even more impact.
To use the Boomstick you simply make sure it is charged through the microUSB port, plug headphones into it and the device into the audio source, and then turn it on.
If you want even more enhancement you hold the circular button on the device until the entire button lights up. That turns on the BOOST mode. And since the device has its own lithium-ion battery, you don’t waste precious battery life on the audio source device. The Boomstick itself provides up to 14 hours of enhanced listening per charge.
Currently available for pre-order in black or white, I was given one of the early samples during CES. I plugged the Boomstick into my iPhone and the crappy earbuds into the Boomstick. I first played some music with the device turned off. The sound was… not impressive. I’m being kind. I turned the device on and the sound immediately improved. I then hit the BOOM mode and the sound got even better. In other words, the Boomstick really does make crappy earbuds sound better. I then tried the device with a good pair of headphones. Here too the enhancement was obvious. And while the good headphones didn’t really NEED the enhancement I appreciated what the east tech brought the table.
In other words, the Boomstick does make a difference and it does deliver on its promise!
That noted, there are a couple of reasons I’m not completely sold on the idea. First, the Boomstick adds background noise when there is no music playing. It is akin to what you might expect with many pairs of noise-canceling headphones and is annoying. When music is playing, however, that sound is not perceptible.
Second, I’m not sure I want yet another device that requires charging. Third, I’m not sure most people will really want to hassle with having a third item that sits between the first- the audio source- and the second- the headphones. On those fronts, I think about the various portable DAC’s I have. They do wonders to the music I listen to but the inconvenience of charging and then using them results in them spending a good amount of their time collecting dust. They do the job but I simply don’t use them. I worry the Boomstick would suffer a similar fate.
Finally, at $99 the Boomstick isn’t all that expensive but if someone asked me about it I think I would be more inclined to suggest they add that $100 into the price they are willing to spend on headphones. After all, once you go about the $100 price point there are some rather decent headphones and earbuds you can buy. And if you can go to $150 or $200 there are some GREAT options out there.
The Boomstick does do what it promises and could even take a pair of crappy nondescript earbuds and make them usable. So on that front, they are a win. If it is the type of thing you might be interested in you can pre-order it here for $99!
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Boomstick
What I Like: Simple to use; Comes with carrying pouch; Gets 14 hours of battery per charge; Does indeed impact audio quality
What Needs Improvement: Audible noise when music is not playing; Impacts sound but might be worth spending the $99 on better headphones; Yet another gadget to charge and carry