By Lola Wong:
This week, I got to try out â€œHearâ€ from joesoft.com â€“ a Mac app that is meant to improve audio quality in movies and music throughout all of your Mac OS X applications.
First thing first â€“ itâ€™s only system requirement is Mac OS X 10.4 or higher! Huzzah! This makes makes me happy, of course, as Iâ€™m still running Tiger on my two main work horse computers. (I will have you know I did manage to install Leopard on an old Powerbook Titanium DVI G4 so Iâ€™ve partially dipped my toe into the pool of Leopard. Just give me some time to wade in…)
Second thing â€“ my mac is tiny and old, and the speakers on it really donâ€™t pump out audio that it needs to. I need to revert to headphones or speakers, and even then, itâ€™s only two speaker setup. I simply donâ€™t have the decent system that allows surround sound, and thatâ€™s at work and home.
So imagine my surprise after first launching Hear, that suddenly with a click of a button I could watch a movie in surround sound, or even stream my iTunes with amazingly enhanced audio. Iâ€™m able to kick it up a notch and play music or watch a movie with this enriched sound, without having the true gear to play it through.
Itâ€™s pretty clear that the developers at JoeSoft (a division of ProSoft Engineering) take their mac apps seriously. The interface, for instance, allows for a fierce amount of presets and a robust, but fairly navigable, panel for the audiophile to adjust a cornucopia of settings to their liking. During the time I started testing this app out, there has already been an update from version 1.0 to 1.0.1, multiplying the amount of presets available. As a registered user, you can even save your own personal tweaked presets.
In addition to many settings one can fine tune, you can also set the chain order of the effects applied to the audio â€“ Effects, 3D surround and Space. You can even go so far as to view your equalizer in a curve or slider view â€“ control for the hard core audiophile.
Also included something called the â€œBrainwave Synthesizerâ€ allowing you to adjust personal style of hearing â€“ basically an oscillation setting. I canâ€™t say the oscillation was very relaxing but perhaps it was the choice of music I was playing…
When you launch Hear, it actually acts as a system-wide panel that allows you to control or make adjustments to ALL the sound in OS X. The Mixer panel actually allow you to enable, disable, or adjust the volume of the audio from different applications that are active.
What is interesting is that you donâ€™t have to have Hear open after the initial launch in a session to have the sound from you mac still â€œenhancedâ€ â€“ yup, the first thing I noticed is that there in fact is a Hear daemon running in the background, so that once you set the preset, or make the adjustments on the board, you can close the panel but the audio still plays with the enhanced effects!
Hear uses digital signal processor programming and the hardware on your mac to enhance the sound thatâ€™s played through your computer. This means, that when you install Hear, or updates, there will be a need to restart the computer.
With Hear, I admit, the music I play on my mac is richer, the movie sound and dialog is much clearer, and I can only imagine that game audio would be incredible using this app.
But at $49.95, this is an application I would recommend for the hardcore audiophile who is interested in fine tuning or those who like to be able to have optimal sound for the environment they may find themselves in when playing something with audio from or on their mac. With Hear, if you didnâ€™t notice it before, you can definitely notice the boost it gives to audio from your mac. Itâ€™s similar to not having glasses and then putting on a proper set of spectacles â€“ everything is clearer, bigger and better!
Thereâ€™s a 30-day demo available for Hear at www.joesoft.com â€“ itâ€™s a great way to test it out and see how much youâ€™ll never want to go back to â€œdefaultâ€ sound.