The Who. The Rolling Stones. Pink Floyd. George Thorogood. Rush.
These (and dozens of others) are just some of the outrageously loud rock n’ roll bands I have seen in concert over the years … many of them multiple times. Not to mention the small club venues where I’ve seen so many bands I can’t even name them. As a result, I have 30 percent hearing loss in one ear, just like a lot of other Baby Boomers out there. I consistently watch TV shows with the closed captioning on.
Well, soundbar manufacturer ZVOX “hears” my pain. The Swampscott, Mass.-based company has unveiled its new AccuVoice TV Speaker, which was designed specifically for the older generation with hearing loss issues who have difficulty hearing dialog from TV programs or Blu-ray discs.
The 17-inch soundbar uses a computer process that mimics the functionality of a hearing aid. It applies a patented compression/equalization algorithm that lifts voices out of background sounds to create clearer dialogue reproduction.
“Audiologists know that much of our hearing is based on the “hard” consonant sounds … K, T, L, V and others. The “soft” vowel sounds are lost. The algorithm is able to diminish the non-consonant frequencies,” says ZVOX CEO Tom Hannaher. The algorithm turns on and off, detecting only the dialog, so it does not diminish the soundtrack of a movie or TV show.
“The reality is that early televisions from the 1950s produced better audio than today’s TVs.”
— Tom Hannaher, ZVOX
According to Hannaher, another factor that exacerbates the problem is the increasingly thinner and thinner design of flat panel TVs. He notes that most of today’s flat panels have a speaker that is less than 0.5-inches in size and usually downfacing.
“The reality is that early televisions from the 1950s produced better audio than today’s TVs,” he says. “And when OLED hits the market it will be even worse. But sadly, no clients of custom integrators ever reject a TV based on its audio quality.”
Hannaher says he presented the technology to a group of audiologists … the people who sell hearing aids … and they rhetorically asked, “What took your industry so long to come up with this?”
The new $249 soundbar, which is enclosed in an aluminum cabinet and uses three high-performance full-range speaker drivers, will be available through select retailers and online stores, including Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield. Audiologists will also sell the product in their hearing aid shops.