I have been wearing a set of Signia Pure 312 7 Xperience hearing aids for the last couple of weeks. I used the Nx hearing aids in 2017 and I liked them quite a bit. So I was really interested to see what the Xperience were like, especially considering their new strategy for directionality. Signia hearing aids have always been based on beamforming technology, so this new strategy is a bit of a departure for them. I will talk a little about that later though, first I will say that my initial impressions have been very good. They offer very decent sound quality combined with direct connection to an iPhone. They are pretty impressive in noisy situations and they offer that amazing Own Voice Processing. They are also quite different from Signia hearing aids of the past, they offer a very different sound experience while retaining the best bits from what went before. Let's take a look at my experience with Signia Xperience, pun completely intended.
A New Look
Signia have taken the opportunity delivered by their new chipset to re-design their Pure. While it is still obviously a Pure device, they have made it smaller. The button is easy to use and more importantly to feel when you run your finger along the spine of the aid. It is quite tactile and you can clearly feel it when you press it. The device is quite discreet with a narrow profile behind the ear and the receiver wire fit to my face very well which you can see below.
Overall, they are a pretty small, light and discreet 312 receiver in canal device and they sit really well on the ear. The battery door is easy to use and allows you to turn the aid off without opening the battery door fully. While the new Pure is not the smallest device available, it is pleasing to the eye and very discreet.
It is also built very well, the device is sturdy and well finished. The battery door gives a satisfying clunk when closed and opened and feels substantial. Signia build quality is always excellent and they have a good reputation for reliability. I also love the double wax protection that Signia offers with a wax guard in the receiver and the pepper pot wax trap in the tip.
Own Voice Processing
I have spoken a couple of times before about OVP, to give a quick rehash, what they have done is used some of their outstanding directionality features to identify the user's voice and remove it from the overall amplification strategy. They do this by separating the user's voice and processing it with a separate processor.
I have spoken before at my astonishment when this feature was activated, it makes such a huge difference. It means that more users can use closed fittings when wearing hearing aids which means possible better benefits, particularly in complex sound situations. While wearing the Nx with closed domes I was really surprised by the lack of occlusion. Unfortunately, with my middle ear pressure problems, I found wearing them uncomfortable.
When I was given the new Xperience, Signia sent along some of their new vented click sleeves. They offer a more closed fit but still have small vents to release pressure build-up. I tried the Xperience with them and found them pretty acceptable. I wore the click sleeves throughout the testing period without issue or complaint. I suppose theoretically, it gave the Xperience the optimal chance to work for me, and I think they did that pretty well.
Sounds Like Different
I like the Signia sound, I found the overall sound quality of the Nx hearing aids to be excellent. The Xperience offers that familiar Signia sound, providing crisp and full speech. They also offer that high-frequency zing I have come to expect from Signia hearing devices. Clarity of speech delivered is excellent and the own voice experience is fantastic. Where they really stand out though, is access to wider sounds in the environment. Let me explain.
Signia hearing aids have always been known for their beamforming strategy, whereby the microphones of the hearing aids offer a narrow focus on the speaker to deliver the best speech clarity to the detriment of other sounds in the environment. While this is an excellent strategy for speech understanding and one that Signia does well, it is not what you would call a natural experience.
The new approach from Signia is less about narrowing the focus of your listening to just people in front of you but to instead make smart decisions for you based on not just where the voices are but also based on your own movement in space. Before, when using Signia hearing aids my perception was that the background noise in any given noisy speech situation was a wall of background noise.
There was no nuance to it, no real identifiable speech, more speech babble. The thing I noticed with the Xperience is that background noise has nuance and clarity while not being overpowering. It doesn't get in the way of the conversation I want to hear but it gives me a more natural experience. I could hear people speaking in the wider environment, I knew they were speaking.
I didn't necessarily understand what was being said, but I shouldn't have. I found though as I moved towards other people or groups there conversations became more dominant, clearer. I also noticed that conversations were easier in some situations than I expected, for instance, if you are out walking in a windy or noisy environment, your hearing aids can sometimes conspire to work against you hearing your companion. It happened markedly less with the Xperience and I would assume that was because of the motion detectors.
I never got to play with Streaming audio because I killed my iPhone a while ago and refuse to get a new one, even for testing purposes. I would imagine though from my experience it is pretty good. I believe Signia expects to offer Made For Android next year, whether the Xperience will be compatible with that, I don't know.
As I expected, the hearing aids react seamlessly to differing situations during my day. There is no obvious change or switch as you move through your day, they just work. I did the usual and tried them out in as many everyday situations as I could think of. In quiet reading a book, one to one conversations, a noisy shopping centre, a busy urban situation, a noisy cafe, in the car and down the pub.
As I moved from situation to situation the differing features worked seamlessly without audible changes in the sound. One experience stuck out for me, I was standing on the pavement at a row of shops having a smoke and minding my own business. It was a bit windy but nothing major. An older woman and younger woman who I assumed was her daughter exited a shop about forty feet behind and began walking towards me.
In typical Irish fashion, they were bickering whilst also taking the piss out of each other. Their voices were quite clear to me and as they became closer the back and forth became more understandable and I was forced to giggle when the daughter announced to her mother that thanks be to Jesus that she got her brains from her Da, which set both of them off giggling.
The situation stands out because I don't think I would have experienced the situation in that way with the Nx hearing aids and I think it displays that more normal sense of sound that the Xperience delivers.
In The Car and Outdoors
The Xperience devices seemed to handle it pretty well, the wind sounded no louder than it should and it didn't intrude upon my ability to hold a conversation. Overall I have to score them highly for the car experience and the spatial configurator in the app made it an outstanding experience, more of that later. In the outdoors, the experience was similar, although I was in the wide open and it was windy, the wind was not overpowering. Nor did it cause me any issues with understanding conversation.
What About Noisy Situations?
So as I said I was in a fair few noisy situations during the testing period and the hearing aids performed admirably well. They delivered the ability to understand speech in all of the situations I found myself in while offering that more natural experience I have described earlier.
The noise in the background was kept there, in the background, however, it wasn't the typical wall of noise I am used to experiencing. Signia still offers the ability to narrow the focus of the directional microphones to a narrow beam in the app if you wish to. I have experienced this in the past and I found it outstanding. It means that the hearing aids are focused narrowly on what you are pointing them at. Giving you outstanding levels of hearing in even the most complex of situations.
They also offer the ability to focus in four different directions, forward, back, left and right. I like this feature, Widex has offered it in their apps for years. It is particularly useful in the car, where you can focus both devices towards your passenger or perhaps towards your driver. It gives you real power over your hearing aids and your day to day experience.
The App Could be Better
Signia need to work on the app, while it offers remote control abilities over and above simple volume and programme changes, and outstanding control over the directional microphones, they are falling behind in the customisation ability delivered by other brands. While some would argue that many people just want it simple, my argument has always been that we should offer them real power in the hope that they will end up using it. I have found more and more people willing to use their hearing aid apps to the full extent because it makes an everyday difference to them and their experience.
In finishing for this article, I like the Signia Xperience very much, they worked for me the way they should. Don't forget, these are the top of the range devices and I would expect them to deliver a fantastic experience. I think that these are an outstanding hearing aid offering and it has been fascinating to experience the evolution of the directional strategy that Signia has undergone.
I really liked the design and the build quality and extra wax protection features would lead me to believe that the devices will be pretty bombproof in the future if you take care of them. If you are in the market for new hearing aids, I think the Xperience range is worth your thought.
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