My initial reactions when opening up the SuperBeam Phones by Andrea, “What?… Huh?…” and then “Wow!”
The headphone space keeps getting more crowded, but Andrea is able to stand out. The company has a long history with military communications systems, so it is not a surprise that they came at headphones from a different direction.
Headsets with built-in microphones are an important part of the online gaming experience. If you ever put on the Xbox headphones and had the plastic digging into your ear, and felt like you want to just bite off the boom mic that is eternally floating an inch away from your face while you’re trying to scream “KILL KILL KILL!” (*deep breath) — Well, I think you will really appreciate what Andrea Electronics has to offer.
Back to my initial reaction. The SuperBeam Phones look different right out of the box. A lot of the flashy new headphones out now have giant ear pads. The ear pads are barely the size of my ears. My first thought was about how the sound was going to leak right out of them an annoy everyone around me (I’m conscientious like that). My second thought was that the sound from around me was going to leak in. I shouldn’t have worried about either one. Holding the headphones a few inches away from my ear I couldn’t hear much coming out, but putting them on my ears, I got the sound loud and clear and with minimal outside noise.
The second thing I noticed when I took out the headphones was that the end of the cord split into two stereo jacks. These plug into a USB adaptor for computer use. I hadn’t seen this from headphones before, but the USB connection includes a built-in sound card so high definition sound can bypass the device, and be read specifically for performance on this headset. This provided phenomenal sound. Also since your USB port might not always be in the most accessible position, Andrea is nice enough to include a cord extension in the box. Andrea also provided a mobile adapter (sold separately for $9.95) although if you aren’t using the microphone, you could just leave that plug dangling.
But the microphones are one of the biggest draws for these headphones, and there’s a reason that wasn’t part of my initial reaction. And that’s microphones in the plural, because out of those small lightweight ear pads are two little nubs that might as well be two boom microphones wrapping around your head. Except there’s nothing there, because these are “Boom Free.” There is also a mute and volume control built into the cord, making this the a fantastic headset for computer gamers, or anyone who frequently makes video conferencing or VoIP calls.
I also received a pair of the SuperBeam Buds, and while it is impressive enough to realize that the little nubs on the headphones are microphones, when you realize that what appear to be normal (slightly elongated) earbuds actually have dual “boom” microphones built directly into them, I was shocked.
These headphones and earbuds look to redefine “boom-free” and that’s why they’re “SuperBeams.” The SuperBeam system uses Andrea’s Adaptive Beam Forming technology to pick up the speaker’s voice, and cancel out background noise. The two microphones also can record in stereo 3D surround.
Switching over to music on my computer, I loved the sound quality; it was warm and inviting. It is important to note that these are optimized for use with the USB sound card. It just wasn’t the same listening to music on my phone. The highs and middles were just fine, but the bass was powered almost up to the point of distortion, and the audio I got in a phone call was really hard to understand (although at the other end, the microphones picked up my voice loud and clear). But on a Skype call on the computer, the headphones worked great, and the earbuds sounded even clearer.
You can also download Andrea’s AudioCommander Software and choose from noise cancellation options, as well as choose the Beam direction to get the optimal recording performance. When it was on the initial beam setting I could hear every word from the TV in the room on the other end of the line. But when I made the beam direction tighter, it was able to knock out a lot of that background sound. There is also a graphic equalizer so you can customize the audio. That kind of personalization is extremely important for gaming and recording.
So these headphones are specialized. If you are a computer gamer, I highly recommend the SuperBeam Phones. If you want high quality headphones that are always going to stay plugged into your office computer they’re also great, especially if you make a lot of Skype calls or Go2Meetings. They do fold up very nicely into a fairly flat and durable carrying case, so you can take them with you, but if you’re just listening to mp3 files on your phone, you’re missing the point. The SuperBeam Buds are an even more impressive piece of engineering, and If you find yourself on the road, gaming or skyping, they are high-quality and amazingly compact. For comfort over extended time periods I would probably go with the SuperBeam Phones.
Site [Andrea Electronics]