Aumeo Audio is a simple device with a simple premise.
Just like everyone sees the world a little differently, it surmises, so to do they hear it differently. Every person has a unique set of needs when it comes to audio, some hear lower frequencies well and others need to give the bass a boost. Aumeo believes people aren’t getting the most out of their music because the industry is built on delivering equipment that performs the same for everyone, and thus no one is maximizing their ears’ capabilities.
So it decided to do something about it. The company created a device that personalizes your audio. It’s a small, rounded square constructed of aluminum that’s both handsome and well-made. At first glance, it looks like a glammed up MP3 player from ten years ago; an iPod Shuffle Apple would have made if the iPhone hadn’t changed Cupertino’s focus.
When you set up Aumeo, which you can connect to your phone or computer or what have you via a 3.5mm headphone jack or Bluetooth, the companion app runs you through a quick listening test to gauge how your hearing differs from ear to ear and how well you hear various frequencies. During the test, I learned that I have far better hearing in my left ear, something I never knew, and I tend to hear lower frequencies better.
Once you finish the test, which takes all of two minutes, you’re ready to start listening and hear the magic of Aumeo at work. How well it improves the music you listen to is, obviously, a huge factor. If you take the entire device into consideration, it’s an inconvenience to use over just plugging your headphones into the jack on your phone (provided you’re not an iPhone 7 or Moto Z user). Even if you forgo using Bluetooth, though that’s the direction you’re pushed, you still have to remember to bring it with you and keep it charged. On top of that, it costs $199. That’s not an error. This small product, which is a middle-man you run audio through to ostensibly make it better, is $199. That’s roughly $50 more than the Audio Technica ATH-M50xs, a decent pair of wired headphones. It’s more than AirPods, more than the UE Boom 2, a fantastic Bluetooth speaker. It’s expensive, especially for what boils down to an audio accessory.
Given its price point, for me, the final product had to be great to justify spending the money. I needed to plug it in and hear an immediate, considerable difference. Unfortunately, Aumeo didn’t have enough impact to warrant the price tag. It definitely had some impact, particularly in boosting the overall sound, but the amount of detail uncovered and the improvement of the soundstage was minimal to my ears.
During my time with the device, I used it both wirelessly through Bluetooth and wired, finding little difference between the two. I employed two pairs of headphones, the 7-year-old V-Moda Crossfade LPs, and a newer pair of Blue Ella headphones, which have planar magnetic drivers, a built-in amplifier and are far more expensive at $700.
Aumeo did better with the older headphones, which isn’t surprising given the amount of detail the Ellas are capable of producing on their own. But even when I could clearly notice a difference with either cans, it wasn’t substantial enough to be considered mindblowing, which it needed to be for me to justify the investment. I won’t deny that it is doing something, it’s just not doing enough. It undoubtedly balances the audio, so you can hear all the frequencies work in unison rather than one overpowering others, and it does help bring lost details to the forefront, just not in the amount I hoped.
I found it worked best in quieter genres, ones where subtle details are often hidden by lesser audio equipment. The best experience I had was listening to this Blind Pilot song from the band’s latest album, And Then Like Lions. The guitar line that comes in around the chorus, and then remains as the trumpets take center stage, was nearly lost to my ears without Aumeo. When I listened to the song with the device plugged in, I was amazed at how much more vibrant the track was. It shimmered in a way I hadn’t experienced before, and was simply incredible.
But the moment I had with “Which Side I’m On” wasn’t one of many, it was the exception to what proved to be a mostly meager experience. Part of this had to do with file type, as well. The Blind Pilot song was in FLAC format, meaning uncompressed and thus packed with data that other audio files may lack. But most people, unless they are serious about the quality of their audio, won’t be employing uncompressed audio files. They’ll be listening via Spotify or Apple Music or maybe even Tidal, and only the last of those has an option for lossless streaming. The others have high quality monikers, but Aumeo wasn’t able to pull anything from music I streamed via Spotify (with extreme quality enabled) that I hadn’t heard before.
Generally, when I switched from using the device to solely using headphones the primary thing I missed was the added amplification. In terms of the overall sound, I didn’t miss what Aumeo had given me, and I certainly didn’t rush to the company’s website to drop $199.
If you’re an audiophile and are willing to spend any amount of money to enhance your listening experience, Aumeo might be worth a look. But even then, I would be more likely to push you toward using that $200 to improve your setup in some other way, whether it’s upgrading your headphones or investing in a headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter. The idea here is solid, everyone does hear differently and having a product that tailors audio to your ears is smart, it’s the return on investment that needs to get better. Whether it’s making the effect it has on your music more noticeable or lowering the price, the company needs to do something to make this a more intriguing purchase.