Audio engineer John Kasha has developed a pocket audio booster that's designed to make audio bigger, clearer and more defined, no matter what gear you have in (or on) your ears. The m.e. (Master Enhancer) listening experience is said to be like sitting in the front row of a live concert, bringing out otherwise hidden instrumentation and vocals and boosting volume without adding extra noise.
Smaller than a matchbook (at 43 x 28 x 16 mm/1.7 x 1.1 x 0.6 in), the m.e. is plugged into a source music device at one end and out to earphones or headphones at the other. It's claimed to boost source audio volume without adding any background hum or distortion, while also opening up the stereo image and enhancing instrumentation.
"We have a mix signal design with our integrated chip and software," Kasha told us. "Our noise floor is exceptional, and the stereo spread is much wider and deeper than anything you will ever hear that is portable and small. Hard to hear instrumentation and vocals are further up in the mix. You will hear instruments that you never noticed before. Plugging the m.e. into a $1,000 pair of earbuds will make them sound much better, with more clarity and bass response, but all frequencies are enhanced, not just bass."
The m.e is wrapped in road-ready aluminum casing with a chrome finish and a removable key chain, and benefits from simple one button operation (which is used for power on/off, sleep timer, and setting low/high gain). Separate EQ and volume controls are said to be unnecessary "since it is tuned to what the ear wants to hear as far as the spectrum."
The makers say that users can expect up to 80 hours of battery life for every 15 minutes on charge over USB. Removing the earphone/headphone jack disconnects the Li-ion battery.
So what makes this pocket rocker stand out from the many teeny DAC/headphone amps already on the market? Kasha told us that "they are amplifiers and just make the signal louder. They do nothing for the stereo spread and clarity. And in most cases, they will introduce noise and alter the signal by a filter or adding additional bass that can make the sound muddy."
Though we've enjoyed top notch sound from devices like Cambridge Audio's DacMagic XS and the thumb drive-sized ZuperDAC from Zorloo, listening to the praise offered from industry professionals and musicians like Alvin Chea of Take 6, American Idol's Paul Jackson Jr. and former Ozzy thunder thumper Rudy Sarzo does have us quite intrigued. We're hoping to get a pre-production m.e. in the coming weeks so stay tuned for our ears-on impressions.
In the meantime, the m.e. team has launched a Kickstarter to bring the audio enhancer into production. Pledges start at US$49 and, if everything goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in December. Have a look at the pitch video below for more on the project.
Source: Kai Technology