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Author Topic: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system - NOW REVIEWED  (Read 7404 times)

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Offline Ozpeter

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Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system - NOW REVIEWED
« on: March 19, 2015, 08:43:47 PM »
Already discussed at http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=170011.msg2110532#msg2110532 but I think it's not irrelevant here in the context of recording with Android devices in particular.

https://www.hookeaudio.com/ is the site for the device.

As far as I'm aware there's no ready means of recording stereo into an Android phone, so aside from the other features of this device, the fact that it enables location recording on Android devices is worth noting.  Whether this will also include my Android watch remains to be seen!

I"d describe it as a semi-stealth system.  At a concert people might wonder why you are obviously wearing bluetooth headphones rather than listening to the band.  But in the street you wouldn't attract a second glance.

Of course there are several other devices incorporating mics in earbuds, but when using Roland in-ears I've found the cord tends to be a source of noise on recordings and it has a way of gradually dislodging the buds - and if you push them back in you get the sound of that on the recording.  So a wireless in-ear recording system has something to recommend it.

Personally I'm not that fussed that it's bluetooth.  Carefully implemented, it's surprising what quality BT can produce.  Not ideal of course compared with a wire but in the context of run and gun etc, not a dealbreaker.  There is a cable option for connecting to normal recorders, or you could use a bluetooth receiver (eg the Sony one that's about the size of the cap of a pen) and connect that to a slightly remote recorder.

I'll be asking the company a few questions such as

- battery life?
- wind noise?  The outdoor samples are remarkably free of it - was the user wearing dead cats on their ears?
- level control - does it send a fixed level or is it somehow variable, or is some sort of ALC employed (hopefully not)?

Needless to say, as your humble forum guinea pig, I've preordered.  Delivery is said to be "in the summer" which in Kickstarter-speak tends to mean in the Autumn or later, but we'll see...

« Last Edit: May 14, 2017, 05:04:12 AM by Ozpeter »

Offline dyneq

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2015, 09:54:57 PM »
Thanks for sharing this! My thoughts:

Very slick marketing, and the sample videos are well produced and sound great on my headphones (worth checking out on their own merits).

Having listened to in-ear (as in, inside the pinnae) recordings, I would have to agree with the common perception/opinion that they sound best played back on headphones (which makes sense). Do I think they suck on speakers? No, but it does sound different.

They have definitely done a lot of work to make (what appears to be) a nice product. I'm impressed that they also included a wired connectivity option. It would be interesting to record some pink or white noise in a quiet room and compare the signal to bluetooth.

Enjoy them and please do report back with a review and some samples if you think of it.

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2015, 09:51:56 AM »
I've heard from the Hooke people concerning my questions, and the answers were -

Quote
-Right now our Hooke Verses are getting 7-10 hours battery life. We’re pretty impressed!

-The Hooke Verse comes with a complimentary pair of custom designed wind screens

-You’ll have mic gain control on your phone via the app. And when going to a field recorder, laptop or camera, you will adjust gain via that device.

Offline F.O.Bean

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2015, 12:01:50 PM »
Pretty badass I must say 8)
Schoeps MK4's | MK41's ->
Schoeps | NBob 250/05 KCY's ->
Schoeps VMS 02IB | Naiant +60v/Low Noise PFA's ->
DarkTrain Right Angle Stubby | GakCable XLR's ->
Sound Devices MixPre-6 | Tascam DR-70D ->
128gb | 64gb SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC-I

http://www.archive.org/bookmarks/diskobean | http://www.archive.org/bookmarks/Bean420 | http://bt.etree.org/mytorrents.php

Offline earmonger

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2015, 01:11:01 AM »
I ordered a pair through the Kickstarter offer when they were first mentioned here.

But it looks like they are having trouble with the Android app development--according to a recent update, the June launch is now pushed toward July. Will certainly report when (if?) they arrive, but it's not going to be soon.

Online justink

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2015, 10:14:36 AM »
I pinged the man in charge of these and directed him to this thread. He's waiting for TS member approval.
Mics:
DPA 4028 (wide cards)
DPA 4023 (cards)
Earthworks TC25 (omnis) 

Pres and a/d's:
Oade ACM Grace Lunatec V3 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)
bm2p+ Edirol UA-5 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)

Recorders:
Sound Devices MixPre-10T
Oade CM Edirol R-44 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)
Sony PCM‑M10

Offline Gene Poole

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2015, 11:18:30 AM »
Android definitely supports class 1 USB audio and I think even class 2.  I don't know anything about bluetooth though.  I didn't think there was a BT spec that came close to audiophile expectations.

Offline Gene Poole

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 02:24:36 PM »
I'm very familiar with ExtremeSD.  I have their USB recording and playback apps.  I did a festival show last fall and recorded 4 bands at 24/96 on my android phone using their app.


Offline Gene Poole

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2015, 03:49:01 PM »
More correctly, not supported by the android OS, but fully supported by the kernel (which is linux, not android).  That's how ExtremeSD was able to implement it; with it's own kernel drivers.  The Android AOSP project, at least as early as 4.4 (first time I started kernel sound hacking on the Android) , has ALSA support in the source tree.  A simple change in the makefile and it will compile in and can be used in android apps via the Java JNI interface, or natively via the core OS and shell commands.  This is not very convenient for most Android users, but doable (as was the case with ExtremeSD).

I haven't done much sound hacking since, and I down't own any Audio 2.0 class devices (I don't think), but I'm getting the itch to try and see what I can do with one and the new 5.1 Android OS.  I know that what Android actually exposes in  the API is pretty crappy, but I'm sure that there's a lot under the hood that can be exposed.

Offline Moke

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2015, 06:15:49 PM »
Its kind of neat, if you want to convert to headphone playback. 
Having done a huge amount of true binaural, quasi-binaural, HRTF, baffled omnis, and OSS, I'll stick with baffled omni, quasi-binaural techniques, as they more easily make the crossover to speaker playback.

I'm speaking in the sense of an analog device. I know very little about these fanged bluetooth thingies.

followup question, if anyone knows,..
Are the mics removable? reposition-able within the ear canal?
« Last Edit: April 09, 2015, 06:46:58 PM by m0k3 »
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Online justink

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2015, 10:16:08 PM »
Its kind of neat, if you want to convert to headphone playback. 
Having done a huge amount of true binaural, quasi-binaural, HRTF, baffled omnis, and OSS, I'll stick with baffled omni, quasi-binaural techniques, as they more easily make the crossover to speaker playback.

I'm speaking in the sense of an analog device. I know very little about these fanged bluetooth thingies.

followup question, if anyone knows,..
Are the mics removable? reposition-able within the ear canal?

great questions.  i'm hoping his membership gets approved quick.  i'm pretty interested in this deal.
Mics:
DPA 4028 (wide cards)
DPA 4023 (cards)
Earthworks TC25 (omnis) 

Pres and a/d's:
Oade ACM Grace Lunatec V3 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)
bm2p+ Edirol UA-5 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)

Recorders:
Sound Devices MixPre-10T
Oade CM Edirol R-44 (FOR SALE - Make Offer)
Sony PCM‑M10

Offline earmonger

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2015, 05:59:27 PM »
Now delayed until December 2015.

From Kickstarter blog:

Through sheer determination and passion, we've managed to silence many doubters. However, despite the impressive hurdle-leaping our team has accomplished thus far, the laws of time cannot be bent. Our factory has delivered some somber news, and though I’ll spare you the nuts and bolts for now, I want to let the original backers know that we will be suffering manufacturing delays. The new proposed date for delivery is December 2015.

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2015, 07:06:21 AM »
Yeah, I had an email a few days ago stating "winter 2015" as the revised date.  Typical of such projects.  Whenever I back them I just say to myself "one day this will arrive - if I'm lucky"!

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2017, 08:39:58 PM »
According to their facebook site, the Hooke devices are almost ready to ship - at last...

Sadly these days I'm doing virtually no recording, but when I get mine I'll at least do some tests and report what I can, though it's unlikely to be with live music.

https://www.facebook.com/hookeaudio
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 08:42:49 PM by Ozpeter »

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Hooke binaural bluetooth recording system
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2017, 05:02:58 AM »
“Hooke Verse” Preliminary Review

Why preliminary?  Well, I’ve only had the device a couple of days and I’ve only tinkered around with it at home.  So these are my initial thoughts, subject to correction in due course.

The Hooke Verse consists of two earpieces which are wired to plastic cases which tuck behind your ears.  The two cases are connected by a flexible wire which goes round the back of your neck.  Although the device is very light,  in terms of fit and comfort I had some initial reservations, but after trying out all six pairs of ear inserts supplied with the device, I found a pair which gave a good seal at the ear, and it’s ok in use - not the most comfortable I’ve used, but not a problem.  It is worth noting at this point that the physical design gives minimal (none really) handling / cable noise on recordings, unlike for instance my Roland in-ear wired binaural mics.

A tiny - really tiny - mic is flush mounted in each earpiece housing.  In use, the mics are about as close to the ear canal’s entry as could reasonably be achieved.  From the front, it’s surprisingly “stealthy”, less so from the side.  If you wanted to use it inconspicuously at a concert, conventional wired in-ear mics would be less noticeable.  And a security guard might wonder why you were apparently listening to music from your phone during a rock concert.  Maybe it would depend on how bad the act was.

There’s a single multifunction control button on the device, which has an indicator light built in to show various things.  Unfortunately, when you put your finger on the button, you cover the light.  A separate light would be less sexy but more useful.

The Verse connects to your phone - certain flavours of Apple or Android - just like any other bluetooth headset.  I’m using it with an LG Android 5.x phone for which I paid $35AU - it has no sim card fitted, I just use it for remote controls and as an audio player. If I’m correctly understanding the way the Verse works, it simply transfers digitised audio from the mics to the phone via bluetooth, so the audio quality of the phone doesn’t make a difference to the quality of the audio recording.  The phone is basically a bit bucket - all the heavy lifting happens in the headset.

For audio playback, you can use the Verse in normal BT headphone fashion.  Subjectively, I’d say the playback quality is very good - no obvious deviations from a flat response.  On Android you can use the device to answer phone calls.  During recording it is recommended that you put the phone into airplane mode and then re-enable BT.

To use the Verse for recording, you must use the Hooke Audio app which can be installed from the Apple or Google store in the usual way.  This app provides two simple pages.  One is for recording audio, with or without phone video - a toggle button turns the video on or off.  Another button starts and stops recording.  There is no pause button.  There is no provision for setting any audio or video parameters -  audio is recorded as 48/16 wave format.  On my phone, its own camera app provides 1080p recording, but the Hooke app defaults to 720p with no (obvious) means of adjusting that.

Before actually starting recording, audio can be monitored via the headset, with monitoring level set by the phone’s volume buttons.  There are left and right level indicators (no indication of dB) which incorporate sliders for setting input gain.  These sliders work the wrong way round - you raise them if the source sound is loud and you lower them if it’s quiet.  This took a little getting used to, but really it’s no problem.  If the gain is set too high, “overs” are shown by the metering shooting to the top above the slider position, and the idea is that you raise the slider so the metering no longer goes above the slider.  It’s a brave man who turns normal level setting on its head, but actually it’s a scheme that works - full marks for lateral thinking.

Levels are conservatively set in the digital domain - in other words, if you record at the level that the meters suggest, you are likely to see an overall margin of about 6dB or so when you look at the file in a DAW.  So everything is slightly quiet, but that’s better than any chance of digital clipping.

When recording, there’s a counter showing minutes and seconds.  You get no info about space remaining.  There’s no provision for dropping markers.  There’s no margin db display.  I mention these things only because they are the kind of facility which members here are used to seeing on digital recorders.  The design intent of the app seems to be to keep everything as simple as possible for inexperienced users.  That does have the advantage that you don’t have to think twice about using the app - just set levels, press record, and that’s it.

When you press ‘stop’, you are taken to the playback page.  This could be an annoyance given the lack of a pause control - you might want to resume recording very soon after stopping, but you’re on the wrong page.  Recordings are listed with date but not time, and are titled “recording 1” “recording 2” etc - no provision for setting your own naming scheme, but you can rename files from the playback screen (or email them or delete them).  Just tap on the item of interest, and it plays back through the headset.  There’s a pause button in the playback interface and a progress bar you can use for skipping to later or earlier parts of the recording.  There’s no recorded level indicator on playback.  [Edit on June 19th - the app now gives date and time filenames to recordings automatically.]

At the moment, there’s one thing which might be a deal breaker for some users - on my Android phone at least, the app only works in the foreground.  If you go to another app, or to the home page, or if you turn off the phone’s screen, recording stops.  This means that you either have to keep the phone in your hand, being careful not to touch the screen for fear of pressing a button, or put it down and hope nobody swipes it, or you must put it in your pocket with considerable care without causing the app to stop.  If Hooke could make the app run in the background, the problem would be largely solved. [Edit June 19th - background recording is now implemented so this is no longer an issue] By the way, if you do put the phone down, you can walk away from it to a typical BT range distance, and the recording continues.  But currently - in my experience - if you exceed the range, the app doesn’t cope very gracefully and the recording is totally lost.  Edit June 19th - this seems to have been fixed - going out of range gives a silent space in the recording but it is not lost] This and some other issues are the subject of emails with the developer of the device who is very responsive despite probably being swamped with queries at this post-launch period.

So now the big question - what does it sound like?  Well, I’d say it sounds excellent in my limited tests so far.  I did a fairly crude test which involved playing an Eric Clapton test track (“River of Tears”) on my studio speakers at a healthy level, and sitting between the speakers rather closer than normal.  I recorded that using the Verse, then immediately played it back, and it gave the most accurate result I can recall from that rough test - it’s been a long time since I did it with other gear, including my Sennheiser MKH MS pair, but my memory is that even the Sennheisers gave a result which wasn’t that impressive.  The Verse device captured the same overall balance of LF and HF and mid as the original, but also gave a very good account of the stereo image, and this somehow helps with the usual problem of room colourations - the image helps the ear separate the original and the reflected sound perhaps..   Looking at the playback on a spectrum analyser, I could clearly see music content right through from 20Hz to 22kHz - the regular tapping of the tambourine cymbals in the recorded track clearly showing, though my ears struggle to actually hear that these days - and when playing back a recording made just walking round the house, the analyser also clearly showed a whistle from somewhere at about 17.5kHz in one room.

With other tests around the house and garden - yes, I even recorded the toilet flush - playback sounded very similar to source, with an accurate stereo image, including conveying to some degree front and back as well as left or right - on a few occasions I found myself turning round to check whether what I was listening to was live or recorded.   Certainly the sound would trounce the Sony M10 built in mics, or in fact any built in mics I’ve ever encountered, particularly in respect of stereo image.  It’s a balanced sound - not bottom heavy, not mid boomy, not thin.

Listening to demo recordings on the Hooke Audio site, I get perfectly good results listening on speakers - in my view, speaker compatibility is fine, although the best results would be obtained on headphones.

The only reservation I have in respect of the sound relates to noise when recording quiet sounds at full gain.  My ears are too old now to really make judgements about hiss, but my current impression is that although you should be able to make recordings of quiet ambiences and play them back at authentic (originally perceived) level without noise being a significant problem, you might not get a good result if you tried to (say) record a distant bird and replay it with the volume turned up unnaturally high in order to hear the bird more distinctly.  I’d rate it, subjectively and without really enough testing, as being a device which was acceptable on the noise front for most purposes but not stunningly quiet at full gain.  When dealing with normal live music performance levels, it wouldn’t be a problem.

If you want to record on your existing field recorder, or some models of GoPro, or your DSLR, the Verse comes with a cord which connects via the usual mini jack to the USB port on the Verse.  There’s a second connector for GoPro.  I’ve not tried the cable yet.

Battery life?  I’ve not been able to test that, but it looks like it will last for hours.  There’s a battery level indicator in the app and it’s still showing full after charging the device once.

In summary, this is a whole new way of recording and in most respects it works very well.  For the first time it’s possible to record high quality binaural stereo sound onto a phone (even a cheap one) without physical attachments and wires and other clutter.

 In so many cases, Kickstarter projects disappoint when they arrive in the post.  This one took its time to arrive, but part of the reason is that Hooke Audio were determined to get it right.  The basic hardware is fine, which is the key thing as it can’t be changed once in the user’s hands, but the app could do with some improvements and perhaps some enhancements, and we’ll have to see what comes.  I forget what I paid for it (more than two years ago on pre-order) but whatever it was, it’s worth it - to me - and I’ve almost forgotten about the wait…

I’ll answer questions if I can, and I think the developer may chip in too, which personally I’d welcome.  Nothing like getting answers straight from the horse’s mouth.  Bear in mind what I said at the start, this is a preliminary and pretty subjective review.


« Last Edit: June 19, 2017, 03:42:43 AM by Ozpeter »

 

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