Get Hooke'd into Binaural Audio with Verse Wireless Headphones

Hooke Verse: Wireless Headphones That Record Sound In 3D Hands-on Review

Binaural recording: it's been hovering around the fringes of pro and semi-pro audio for quite some time. But now the zeitgeist is shifting. Formats such as ASMR, which makes regular use of binaural recording, are now enjoyed in wider and wider circles. And of course, with the popularity of immersive media, audio engineers are free to explore the stereo field in exciting ways.

It's not surprising to see new binaural-recording products hit the marketplace. As "wearable tech" is a buzzword buoyant enough to float a startup, it's equally unsurprising to see in-ear headphones that double as binaural recorders.

Hooke Audio Verse Wireless In-Ear Binaural 3D Audio Recording Headphones
Hooke Audio Verse Wireless In-Ear Binaural 3D Audio Recording Headphones

Yet the marketplace is not exactly crowded—at least, not in the pro-sumer world; your average individual doesn't want to shell out more than $1,000 to get their YouTube side-hustle off the ground. So, the offerings are slim. Rarer still is a pair of binaural-capturing, 3D-Audio earphones that records wirelessly over Bluetooth.

The Hooke Audio Verse In-Ear Headphones (offered in black or white) promise to do exactly that: they record binaural, 3D audio and stream audio to an app on your iOS or Android device. When you wish to use them wired, this option is also afforded to you, making the product useful for DSLR cameras and even GoPros.

The Hooke Audio website is full of descriptors highlighting the magic of binaural recording, with language promising "stunning immersive audio" that allows "the world to hear just like you do."

And over Bluetooth, no less!

To appease those who distrust the wireless medium, Hooke promises they've invented "the first pro-grade dual-channel recording codec," one that allows the Verse to record 44.1 kHz / 16-bit over Bluetooth with only 4.3 micro-seconds of latency (Now, if you don't consider 16-bit "pro-grade," please keep in mind that many radio stations ask for files in 16-bit exclusively; in the most technical, letter-of-the-law definition of pro, 16-bit still fill the bill).

So, the question remains: does the Verse deliver on its promise?

To find out, I decided to conduct the same test I applied to a recently released, notable competitor to Hooke Audio's product: I took the Verse on a ten-minute walk around Herald Square, recording all the while. I also had a few conversations with people as I moved around them.

Along this walk, I heard people walking to and fro, construction sites emitting horrible noises, couples having conversations, cars careening by, tourists not knowing where the heck they were going, wind starting and stopping, fellows dropping packages on their own feet, fellows dropping packages onto my feet, and more.

I write this confidently because I'm listening back to the recording right now, over a pair of circumaural headphones whose sound I trust. I must say the recording procured with the Verse is quite vivid, indeed. It boasts a full frequency response that captures the hustle and bustle—and sonic overload—of New York City in full swing.

The separation between the left and right is quite realistic, but perhaps more impressive is the front to back imaging. On the street, I could really delineate the movement of people whizzing past me, carrying on their conversations as they drifted out of earshot. A static sound, such as an endless bit of construction offering "improvements" no citizen of New York ever asked for, dissipated into the background in a most natural way; indeed, it would take a bit of prowess to mix this element into the background, had it not been recorded with the Verse.

When it comes to front-to-back imaging, The Hooke Verse might edge out the similarly priced competition in terms of sheer dimensionality—at least to my ears. It's worth noting that these headphones also amplify the innate background noise of an office or an air-conditioned home; they're wonderfully sensitive, in other words, and if you're going to use them in a YouTube video or other pro/semi-pro context, take heed to soundproof your surroundings as you would for any other microphone.

Now on to my only gripe: as an audio engineer, I like to ride my own levels. But when your only fader is the touchscreen on the relatively small surface of an iPhone, some sort of automatic gain-riding would be welcome. I found it quite hard to catch the peaks before it was too late, given the ergonomics involved with swiping as a fader control. I'm sure with more practice I could get used to it. Still, it would be nice to see an auto-leveler in subsequent models.

But all and all, one gripe seems hardly discounting, especially when you consider this tech is still relatively new—especially the Bluetooth end of things. What's more, these headphones are exceedingly wallet-friendly for what they offer.

So overall, the binaural recording provided here is worth checking out, especially if you want to eschew cables, or if you'd like to capture binaural audio in a relatively pain-free, no-fuss manner. Don't believe me? Hear them for yourself—the Hooke Verse is readily available at the B&H SuperStore and online.

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