I recently got my hands on a set of Audeo Marvel R-T 90s from Phonak. Even better, I got a hold of a Roger Pen and the new Roger Select. Why should you care? Because I don't often gush on this site, but they are an astonishing combination. Truly, jaw-droppingly, beautiful. The combination of the Roger devices and the Marvel hearing aids deliver outstanding, almost unbelievable results in complex sound situations. They also reduce the effort that you put into hearing better. An effort that you don't actually realise you are making. Let's talk about Roger, direct connection, and exceptional clarity in difficult sound situations.
Marvel Audeo 90 R-T
Before we talk about the Roger stuff, let's take a look at the Marvel R-T. As you may know, I have worn a pair of the Marvel Rs in the past and was quite happy with them. The R-T is slightly bigger than the R. It is about 7mm longer and perhaps 5mm wider, more or less. Even with the extra bulk, it is still a pretty discreet hearing aid. It sat well on my ear, and I didn't notice any weight difference.
I think the extra size allows the integration of a telecoil, and a bigger battery pack. I applaud both, to be honest; I believe the telecoil is still one of the most important features available for people who are hard of hearing. I also think that you can never have enough battery life, especially if you stream as much as I do.
I would imagine connecting a Roger device to your Marvel hearing aids also adds to the drain on that battery. Although, Phonak say that the new Marvel direct system uses far less power than the old receiver system. The key here is that the Marvel R-T battery handled everything I threw at it including hours of phone streaming and Roger streaming.
The Marvel R-Ts came with the large combination charger. The charger has a nicely designed pocket for a drying tablet, which means that it allows you to charge your aids while drying them with a drying tablet. I think it is a fantastic idea. However, I have a complaint; I can hear Phonak now, yes, you always do. I found the charger a bit unwieldy. When I clicked the button to open it, I was surprised the top did not pop open. It means that you have to push the button, then pull the lid open. The addition of a simple spring system would sort that out. It's a small thing, but for such a well-designed hearing aid and charger case, it was a jarring omission.
Anyway, let's move onto the Roger. In this article, I will talk about my experiences with the Roger Pen; I will cover the Roger Select in another article later.
So what is the Roger Pen?
The Roger Pen is a lightweight wireless microphone device that you use in combination with your hearing aids. You use the equipment with a corresponding Roger Receiver which connects to your aids. With the Marvel, that Receiver is just a software upgrade. It helps you hear and understand more speech in noisy situations. It also offers a host of streaming opportunities from audio devices. It allows you to stream audio from devices such as TV, radio, computers, phones, pretty much anything with an audio connection.
Phonak built the Roger devices on their outstanding FM system, rather than a Bluetooth or other wireless solution. This detail is essential; because of it, the sound quality of the streamed signal is impressive.
The Roger Pen has some brilliant technology built into it, including sophisticated directional microphone technology.
Not happy with adding some outstanding microphones, Phonak also included a pretty good active noise suppression system as well. Both of these technologies work hard to focus on the speech you want to hear, even in dense background noise. It also helps in reverberant sound environments (echoes) where there are lots of hard surfaces in the room.
How Good is The Roger Pen?
I have heard it said that the Roger Pen turbocharges your hearing aids, you shouldn't use namby-pamby, wishy-washy words like turbocharge. Turbocharge does not convey the wonderful goodness, It deserves so much more than that, but this is a family show. I shall be restrained and settle for awesome, fricking, awesome, and I would go one better and throw fan-fricking-tastic into the mix as well.
How Does The Roger Pen Work?
Let's look at audio streaming before we get to the excellent stuff. The pen comes with a charging dock, an assortment of cables for audio connections, a superb leather holster, and a lanyard for hanging it around the neck. These accessories allow you to use the device in an assortment of ways. You should set up the charging dock near to the audio source that you want to hear most. For instance, near your television, which allows you to easily connect the audio out from the TV to the charging dock.
That will enable you to stream your TV audio directly to your hearing aids when you place the Roger Pen in it. The different cable selections allow you to connect any audio source to the dock. One of the cables will enable you to link any audio device to the Roger Pen itself if need be. Handy if your car radio has a 3.5mm jack on the radio. Or, if you want to use a music player on the go. The streaming audio from the Roger Pen is outstanding, fantastic bass and exceptional treble. Music is outstanding; spoken audio is excellent.
When you are out and about the leather holster holds the Roger Pen snugly and protects it from damage. When you find yourself in a very complex sound situation, you take it out and turn it on. You can hold the Roger Pen in your hand and point it at the person you would like to hear. The microphones automatically work out what is happening and focus on that voice. You hear it clearly in your hearing aids. Someone else begins to speak, simply point it at them.
While that sounds perhaps a little contrived, it isn't. Initially, I thought I am going to look like a prat pointing a microphone at people. But you don't; firstly, it looks like an expensive pen, secondly, you are just moving your hand in a small way. You don't need to hold it out like you would with a microphone. You can hold it naturally close enough to your body, and it works.
If you are seated at a table, you can simply place the Roger Pen in the middle of the table. The microphones automatically understand the aspect change and change how they work to accommodate it. Again, you get a clear, cleaned up speech signal directly into your hearing aids.
If you want to hear one voice only, say a dinner companion, your wife or husband in the car, or perhaps a presenter or lecturer. You attach the Roger Pen to the lanyard, and they can slip it around their neck. Again, the smart technology inside figures what is going on automatically and focuses on that person. Again, and I have said this already, a clear, cleaned up speech signal.
In my experiences with the Roger Pen, I was continuously pleased with the device. I have experienced remote microphones before, and I have been very impressed with them. The Roger beats them all; it does so with its amazingly clear audio transmission and immense versatility. There is no other remote microphone that you can use in the manner that the Roger Pen can. The Resound Multi-Mic comes close. However, you can't hold it and point it in the same way.
Expensive, But Worth It?
This is an expensive bit of kit; the Roger Pen retails at anything between 600 and maybe 800 of your chosen currency. You will also need to fork out for a Roger Receiver set up. The Receiver set up could add another 700 of your selected currency depending on what receiver system you get. I used the Roger Pen iN and the Roger Select iN, both of which they have designed with the Marvel in mind. They both come with two Receivers worth of software loaded onto the device. It is a simple enough process to load the Receivers onto your Marvel hearing aids.
I don't yet know how much the Roger Pen or Select iN will retail for, but if you have Marvel hearing aids, and you want Roger, these are the devices for you. The Roger devices aren't cheap, especially if you are forking out for a new set of hearing aids as well. The question though, should be, is the value to benefit ratio there? I would have to say yes, I feel the benefit to value ratio is there for me. The devices are quite amazing, and they helped me hear better in quite complex situations without having to concentrate.
Aren't Hearing Aids Enough?
I can hear the argument from here, if I spend a large chunk of change on hearing aids, why should I need to spend more. That is a great question; hearing aids are better than they ever have been. However, we are still dealing with a damaged system. While hearing aids have got better overcoming that damage, in particular when the speaker is close to you, they still have problems when the speaker is a little further away. Especially so if there is a lot of background noise.
In fairness, the Marvel R-Ts worked well for me; they helped me hear well enough in the complex sound environments I found myself in. The difference with the Roger Pen was effort. I didn't have to put nearly as much concentration into hearing what was said. Until I started using the Roger Pen, I didn't realise just how much effort I was putting into hearing.
I think the Roger system is fantastic; I believe that it is an ideal upgrade for someone active. If you are still working, or if you have a hectic social life that sees you in lots of complex sound situations, then the Roger system is a good investment for you. It will make a difference in how you hear; it will also make a difference in how tired you are at the end of your day.
You can use the Roger Pen, and other Roger microphones with any hearing aid from any brand. However, the only hearing aids that offer direct connection without any intermediary device is the Marvel range. That direct link provides many benefits, including lower battery drain on your hearing aids. In finishing, would I have run out and bought the Roger system before I tried it? Probably not, now that I have tried it, I am a convert.
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