Pushing my belly and flipping my hood to listen to tunes
Hoodies and headphones go together like Star Wars and sequels. A new company plans to capitalize on that music/clothing combo with the launch of the Hiody sweatshirt on Kickstarter. It embeds headphones in the hood of a premium sweatshirt and a control button just above the pockets. But just how well does the high-tech hoodie work? We got our hands on one to find out.
To be honest, when I was first pitched the concept my thought was, "Those speakers will never align with my ears." But, with the company's claim that the speakers would create "a captivating surround-sound effect" inside the hood, I thought it would be worth a try.
Unfortunately, my first impression was right. When I tried on the Hiody, plugged my phone into the 3.5-mm jack in the front pocket and flipped up the hood, the speakers hung a little too low and too far behind my ears. And, that captivating surround sound effect? I didn't notice it all. Instead, the speakers sounded tinny – like having two small transistor radios held on my shoulders. And while I could hear music and podcasts I if I turned my phone's volume up to max, I didn't notice any kind of surround-sound effect. What's more, on the second day of wearing the Hiody, the left speaker blew, and all I could get out of it was fritzed-out sound.
To be fair, the sweatshirt I received was a pre-production sample and the makers of Hiody have told me that they're currently working to improve speaker placement in the final model. If they can solve that problem, I can imagine sound satisfaction would go up a great bit because when I held the speakers right next to my ears, they did provide decent stereo sound.
One of the more novel features of the Hiody is that there is a control button just above the pocket; it's the "o" in the Hiody logo. You can use that button to pause or advance the music based on the number of pushes you deliver, and you can use it to stop your music entirely to take a call.
With my beta Hiody, the pause button only worked intermittently and the phone answer feature not at all. In the final model, there will be a microphone built into the hood so taking calls won't require you to take your phone out of your pocket, but mine lacked this feature. Lacking also was the Bluetooth functionality the makers say will be included in the final product.
My other initial concern about the Hiody was how I was going to wash it, so I asked a company representative about that. "The Hiody team said that in order to wash the sweatshirt you need to easily remove the technology, which takes about a minute," was the response I got back.
When I tried to remove the tech from my sample, it resulted in a lot of tugging which led to a snapped wire and speakers that are still sealed in the hood. I imagine this too will be fixed in the final production of the sweatshirt, but it might take a bit longer than a minute to remove the cable which runs from the pocket, through a pouch that holds the pause button, up into the hood and around to each speaker. It might take even longer to reassemble it all.
Aside from the glitches with the beta version of the Hiody, it was evident from the minute I opened the package that the materials with which it is made are super high quality. The sweatshirt is soft, well-constructed and has a fleece lining that'll make you never want to take it off. It's a medium-weight sweatshirt, so it'll keep you warm on brisk days and can go under a jacket when it gets truly cold.
If Wer-Tec, the makers of the Hiody, can solve the speaker placement and button-operating glitches, I could see it becoming a favorite part of my wardrobe. Sometimes it's nice to enjoy background music without having your ears plugged up with buds or sealed in large cups, and that's the primary promise of the Hiody.
If that appeals to you, early bird pledges start today at the rate of US$69. When those are gone, the price goes to $79, then $89, which is still a significant savings off the eventual retail price of $129. Early bird Hiody sweatshirts are expected to go out in June with subsequent shipments in September. Because the creators of Hiody are far enough along to send out even glitchy press samples of the product puts them well ahead of other crowdfunding projects, so your pledge will likely be in good hands here but, as with all crowdfunding campaigns, remember that you're sponsoring an idea, not ordering a product from a traditional retailer.
And if a musical hoodie isn't your thing, there's no shortage of creative iterations of the garment. Check out this armored version, this heated version, or this one with an inflatable hood made for taking naps.
More information on the Hiody is available in the following video.
Product page: Kickstarter