The explosion in devices in what I call the Augmented Audio world has fascinated me. Customisation of audio and delivery of hearing assistance has caught the imagination of many players in the consumer electronics world. A device called Noopl which fits squarely into that concept crossed my desk a couple of weeks ago. The Noopl device is fascinating, it is an iPhone peripheral that is loaded with state of the art directional microphones designed to help you hear clearly in noisy situations. When used with the accompanying app, it streams captured audio to either Airpods Pro or a connected set of Made For iPhone hearing aids. If you use the Airpods Pro, turning your head steers the microphones in the Noopl device, I mean how fricking cool is that? Anyway, I took it for a spin, as I am want to, so let's talk about Noopl and my experiences.
What is Noopl?
The device clips onto the bottom of an iPhone and uses a three-mic array and beam steering and the Chatable AI to help the user focus on speech more clearly. As I said, it uses the head tracking technology built into the Airpods Pro, which is designed to detect which direction the user is facing, to help change the focus of the Noopl mics. That helps to better reduce background noise and enhance the understanding of speech.
Who Can Benefit from Noopl?
The Noopl device fits completely into the concept of a situational solution. You might not use it all day, but if there is a situation where you find it difficult to hear in noise, well then it should deliver for you. Of course, to get the benefit, you need an iPhone 7 or above and Airpods Pro or Made For iPhone hearing aids.
The beauty of the device for me is that it can help people who don't have hearing aids. There are many people out there with problems hearing in noise with little or no hearing loss. Easy to use situational solutions are ideal for these people, it means low-cost investment to improve their lives.
The package the device arrives in is typical of any high-end consumer electronics. Inside the box is the Noopl device, multiple couplers to couple the device securely to an iPhone, an attractive carrying case and an easy to follow Setup Guide.
The device is very lightweight and plugs directly into the bottom of the iPhone through the lightning port. Choose your coupler carefully, when it fits correctly, it offers superb function. If it doesn't, the performance of the device will suffer.
Downloading and setting up the iOS app is straightforward and the app itself is easy and intuitive to use. It offers an adjustable volume, adjustable noise reduction and steerable microphones. It means that you can set the right volume, clean the signal with the noise reduction and focus the microphones where you want them.
No Airpods Pro!
Unfortunately, I don't own a set of Airpods Pro, mainly because I don't use an iPhone as my daily phone, just for testing purposes. However, I have talked to someone who uses Noopl with AirPods Pro. He attests to the function and efficacy of the set-up and he was fascinated by how the head steering information from the AirPods Pro® is passed through the iPhone to the Noopl. This allows the device to steer the microphones in the direction the user is looking.
The app is also designed to automatically recognize the position of the phone, by that I mean whether the user is holding the phone or has their phone on a table. It optimises the directional performance based on the position.
The device can also be manually controlled to alter the focus of the microphone towards whichever speaker or sound source you want to hear. This came in handy with my test set-up. So, what did I use for the test and how did I get on?
Quattro 9s, My Old Comfy Pair of Hearing Aids
So, my test set-up was an iPhone 11 connected to a set of Resound Rechargeable RIC Quattro 9s. When using the Noopl with Made For iPhone hearing aids, they recommend that you turn off the microphones of the hearing aids to get the full benefit of the Noopl. With the Quattro 9s and the Smart app from ReSound, this is an easy proposition.
I used the device several times in different sound situations during the two weeks and I have to say it worked well. One issue for me was that I needed to add a bass boost to the audio because I wear open fit tips. Otherwise, everything sounded quite tinny. It is of note that I do wear open fit because it means that I get a lot of sound naturally, including the background noise. It also means that if there was latency in the signal, I would perceive echo artefacts.
There wasn't any at all. The Noopl device still delivered well for me streaming a very clear speech signal even in competing levels of noise. I used it with closed domes once or twice to get a better perspective on that and I was impressed by the sound quality and clarity delivered.
It's a Yes From Me Bob
The Noopl is a pretty nifty device that is reasonably priced. It delivers what it says it does in a simple, easy to use manner. I think it would be an ideal situational solution for people who have issues but don't yet feel ready for hearing aids. I also suspect that it may be a hugely valid solution for people who wear Made For iPhone hearing aids but still have some problems hearing clearly in noise.
I am going to mail the Noopl device to Apple Fanboy Steve Claridge and get him to give us a run-down of his experiences. Steve has severe to profound loss, he does get on well in noise usually, but it still will be fascinating to get his take.
Anyway, good device, not hugely expensive, does what it says it does. I would be happy to recommend you give it a whirl if you have issues hearing clearly in noisy situations. Like us on Facebook by clicking the button below to keep up with our latest utterances. Alternatively, if you don't like Facebook, sign up for the newsletter below. It is important to remember, a hearing aid isn't properly fitted unless they do Real Ear Measurement.