Zvox VoiceBuds Are (Not Quite) Hearing Aids | Tech News
We’re most familiar with Zvox for its home theater sound systems, like the excellent SoundBase 570. The company has been making inroads in other audio areas beyond powerful soundplates, though, and showed off its newest product, the Zvox VoiceBuds, at CE Week this week in New York.
Hearing aids have been treated strictly as medical devices for as long as they’ve been available, requiring strict FDA approval and acquisition through a medical provider rather than consumer channels. That’s changing thanks to a 2017 bill and 2016 FDA decision that makes over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids legal to market and distribute. Instead of working with an audiologist for fitting and prescription solely in a medical context, devices like the Zvox VoiceBuds will soon be available directly to consumers.
The VoiceBuds are, effectively, hearing aids. They use dual microphones to actively block out sounds that aren’t voices while enhancing speech. They use 10-band voice reduction, 12-band speech boosting, and multi-channel compression to reduce the effects of sudden loud noises transmitted through them. Bluetooth connectivity to a companion app for Android and iPhone lets users switch between four hearing modes based on environments like noisy rooms, cars, and outdoors, as well as adjust volume without physically touching the VoiceBuds.
The VoiceBuds combine in-canal eartips with a long, thin tube for unobtrusive placement, making them structurally much closer to hearing aids than earphones. Both open and closed eartips in multiple sizes are included, giving users the option of relying entirely on the VoiceBuds for sound with the noise isolation of closed eartips, or accepting ambient sound apart from the VoiceBuds with open eartips.
The Zvox VoiceBuds aren’t cheap. They’re sold individually, at $299.99 each, which means a $600 price tag for equipping both ears when they arrive later this year. This is fairly in line with other OTC hearing aids distributed through medical suppliers, however.
The VoiceBuds aren’t Zvox’s first products targeting users with hearing difficulties. The company launched the AccuVoice AV200 TV speaker a few years ago, the first of several TV sound systems that emphasize boosting voice clarity. These speakers are smaller than most soundbars, and use audio processing to boost dialog over background noise and music in TV shows and movies.
Zvox recently released the AV203, an updated version of the AV200 with six different levels of voice boost and a 24-watt amplifier for $269.99.