It’s a simple fact that hardly anyone has perfect hearing, yet the majority of headphones on the market are one-size-fits-all when it comes to the audio listening experience.
What if science could make music better? That was the fundamental question the founders of Audiodo asked themselves in 2016. Frequency, level and time. These are all things that influence how music sounds, but listeners don’t want to worry about the science. They want to listen to the music.
Audiodo is a startup company that recognizes this and has striven to make an easy-to-use solution that helps users hear more of their music by embedding software right into headphone devices. “You don’t need anything else. Just get the headphones out of the box, install our app, do a three-minute hearing test and go for it. Play music and enjoy. That’s it,” says Stefan Crijns, Head of Customer Delivery and Support for Audiodo at High Tech Campus Eindhoven.
Audiodo technology embedded in well-known brands But you won’t find “Audiodo” brand headphones on the shelf. “We don’t make the device. We develop and sell the software for it,” explains Crijns. Rather, their technology resides in the headphones of other brands. The solution – called Personal Sound by AudiodoTM – is now embedded in more than 15 headphone models, including well-known brands such as Skullcandy, Fresh 'n Rebel, PSB and Nocs.
Customized sound begins with hearing test In addition to the software embedded in the headphones, Audiodo has developed an app that communicates with the headset and controls the sound. Each user begins with a simple three-minute hearing test in the app. It tests a listener’s unique hearing ability and creates an individual user profile based on the following things: measured hearing loss, differences in the physical makeup of the ear canals, difficulties hearing specific tones and differences between the two ears. The audio is then automatically adjusted and optimized to compensate for these differences in hearing.
“You would think that everybody hears the same at every frequency and that every tone should sound the same volume. That’s not the case, because your ears are not like that,” Crijns explains. “Based on the individual person and the sound signature of a specific headset model, there will be a lot of deviation from what was meant to be heard.”
With the popularity of earbuds, the problem of how the music is heard only grows. Inner-ear and over-the-head devices change your music experience. “The ear canal resonance is totally different depending on the headset,” says Yang Gao, who works in Customer Delivery and Support for the company.
Now, if you talk with most people, they will probably proclaim they have good hearing, but Crijns says this just isn’t true. “Today, even young people of 20-plus have hearing loss,” he says. “And it goes rapidly down with age. It’s also different in each ear. Some existing products compensate for both ears together, but then one ear is completely overcompensated. And when the volume is too high, it will actually damage your ears.”
Audiodo enriches headphones sound for customized "listening experience" Audiodo is not just building its solution for people with hearing difficulty. They are also building it for music lovers, music-industry insiders and everyone in between. Users have described using Audiodo-enabled headphones as providing a richer sound. “They say, ‘I’ve listened to that song for 10 years. I’ve never heard that guitar before,’” according to Crijns. The company believes no matter who you are, you can have a better, more customized listening experience.
As simple as the solution looks from the outside, the model behind it is based on a set of complex algorithms and tons of data from scientific and real-world testing. It’s not as simple as adjusting someone’s missing tones up and down. “If you just add that bit back, it may sound terrible to the user because the brain also interprets the sound,” says Crijns. With some of the team coming directly from the hearing aid industry, it’s clear the company really understands that what gives one person the best listening experience is not the same as another person.
After only seven years in business, the young company already has a global reach. While headquartered in Malmö, Sweden, Audiodo also has offices in Japan, China, South Korea, the U.S. and now, the Netherlands. The company chose to base its technical customer support on High Tech Campus to take advantage of the area’s network and technical talent.
"This is something you couldn't do 10 years ago" After all, the company is well aware that technology development is key to its offering, although it doesn’t produce hardware itself. The company’s software resides not only in the app but also in the chipset right on the headphone. “This is something you could never do 10 years ago. Technology is crucial to the solution,” says Crijns. He explained that a decade ago, all the computing power was in the phone itself because the headphones were wired. Now the processing power is in the headphones themselves. They have more power and more features while having a complete Bluetooth chip and a seamless audio connection. This technology advancement is what allows Audiodo’s solution to work.
In the near term, Audiodo is building out its offices in Eindhoven with more sophisticated equipment to further its technical research. The company has its sights set on more than just headphones. In the future, the team would like to expand into other audio devices, such as home and car speakers, as well as televisions.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” says Crijns. “Music and audio are about emotion, but we didn’t want to make something which is just a gadget. It’s also very functional and protects your hearing.”