Aumeo is good for DJ gigs and generally noisy environments because it fills in the frequency gaps in your hearing. That means you don’t have to turn up your headphones as much to listen in on crucial sonic details. It’s a bit pricey for a non-essential DJ accessory, though, but it’s a nice-to-have overall.
First Impressions / Setting up
Aumeo ships in a small box that includes a micro-USB charging cable, carrying pouch, 1/8″ cable, and the Aumeo dongle itself. It’s a tiny little plastic device that fits in the palm of your hand, with little LED lights that tell you whether it’s on or off.
It’s got a power button onboard, a Bluetooth on/off switch, micro-USB port, a 1/8″ jack input (for wired use), a 1/8″ output, and a flat knob that doubles as a volume control for your headphones, and a control for the companion AumeoHub app (available on both iOS and Android).
To set it up, you need to pair Aumeo with your phone running the AumeoHub app via Bluetooth. Once connected, you then hook up your DJ headphones (or any headphone pair that you want to use) to the 1/8″ output jack of Aumeo.
With your headphones connected to the Aumeo box, you tap “Create Audio Profile” in the AumeoHub app, which will take you through the hearing measurement process. What happens is Aumeo plays back a series of frequencies to your left ear, and you adjust the flat knob on the Aumeo dongle until you can barely hear each of the sounds. You repeat the process for your right ear and, after a few minutes, your audio profile is created.
The profile is then stored in the app, ready to be loaded onto the Aumeo device via Bluetooth. You can make several profiles for each of your headphones, earbuds, in-ear monitors, and even your desktop speakers, and you can simply load whichever profile you want depending on what headphones or speakers you’re using.
The first thing I did was fire up Spotify on my iPhone, which is what I use for casual listening. I loaded a hip-hop track called DNA from the new Kendrick Lamar album, and did an A-B test: first without Aumeo, and then with.
I played it back without Aumeo affecting the sound – I’m pretty familiar with this song already since I’ve been dropping it in all my DJ sets, so nothing new here. I then turned the Aumeo effect on by pressing the flat volume knob, and there was a difference instantly: the low mids were more pronounced, and the sound in my left headphone cup sounded a tad brighter. It sounded like the music was “closer” to me, but not in a way that made it sound “squashed”. The music immediately felt more present.
Now, note that I didn’t say that it sounded “better” than without Aumeo enabled. They are two very different sounds – I prefer the Aumeo-enhanced sound slightly, simply because it’s more “in your face” (probably due to the frequency gaps being filled in). If I hooked up the Aumeo box to my Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ and I was DJing at a noisy club or festival environment, I would definitely pick the Aumeo-enhanced sound hands down. Ditto when I’m travelling and have to deal with airplane cabin noise and crying children.
I then listened to another style of music, this time loading Madeon and Porter Robinson’s excellent future bass / pop track Shelter. I got the same results – a more “immediate” sound with fuller low mids. Again, I prefer it for gig use because I don’t have to turn up the volume in my headphones to hear certain details. I did find that the lower mids sounded a bit too pronounced in the mix when I was listening in my quiet home studio space, where I generally listen to music at much lower levels, as such I would prefer to bypass Aumeo.
Another thing I noticed is that, with Aumeo enabled, the stereo sound field sounds a bit wider. Is that better? Not always – in the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar track, it was fine, and actually made the mix a bit more engaging simply because the song itself is focused so much in the centre of the stereo space, so with Aumeo on it “breathes” a little. With the Madeon and Porter Robinson track, the stereo width felt a bit exaggerated and unnatural, probably because the track is already panned pretty wide to begin with.
Finally just to shake things up a bit, I went on YouTube and loaded Autumn Leaves by Cannonball Adderley. It’s one of the greatest swing jazz classics, and it features a compelling mix of brass instruments (sax by Cannonball, trumpet by Miles Davis, naturally) as well as that ride cymbal “sizzle” that was prevalent in this style of jazz drumming.
In this scenario, I preferred the Aumeo version hands down – everything just sounded so near and, for lack of a better word, “urgent”. Autumn Leaves was recorded in the mid-20th century, and I just felt like listening to it through Aumeo gave it a more “modern” sound. Again, possibly because of those frequency gaps being filled in.
Aumeo has not become a mission critical piece of kit in my DJ toolbox, but I would definitely use it. I’m not suffering from massive hearing loss (yet), but if you’re already having trouble hearing treble frequencies, you may find even more practical, non-gig listening use out of the Aumeo than I do.
That said, it’s not going to turn a cheap US$20 pair of headphones into a top-of-the-line model (there’s a timeless saying in the audio engineering world: “You can’t polish a turd.”). However, it will allow you to very easily tailor any headphone into a pair that will have a sound that’s more to your liking.
You then get that headphone sound consistently across different playback systems where you hookup Aumeo since you’ve already loaded the setting, as opposed to fiddling with EQ settings separately on each of your devices. Further, since you’re able to adjust the sound for your left and right ear individually, you’re able to get a more “even” sound if one ear has suffered more hearing damage than the other.