Even earprint Even earprint Even headphones offer a unique 'earprint' feature that maps the difference between your ears and improves your listening experience. (Photo: Even)

Earbuds that adapt to your unique 'earprint' have arrived

Whether you hear poorly in one ear or both, one tech startup aims to make sure whatever you're listening to sounds spectacular.

As anyone who has ever donned a prescription pair of glasses will tell you, our eyes sometimes do not function in harmony with one another. So it should come as no surprise to learn that our ears behave in much the same way.

In 2009, Italian researchers discovered that pitch, timbre and loudness are better discriminated by the left ear. Speech, meanwhile, is better isolated and interpreted by the right ear. Throw in the natural hearing loss associated with aging, and you have a wide spectrum of individuals who perceive the world through sound differently.

In an effort to do for our ears what glasses did for our eyes, an Israeli startup called MeQ has created the world's first headphones that adapt to a user's unique "earprint."

“Hearing is a fundamental part of our lives from the moment we’re born,” said co-founder and CEO Danny Aronson, a former music composer and graduate of Tel Aviv University. “It’s our first form of survival and how we make sense of the world around us. [We're] challenging the basic precepts of the audio industry – that we all hear the same and that our hearing is perfect. We think it’s time our ears get the attention and love they deserve.”

For two years, Aronson and a team that included audiologists, musicians and software engineers worked from their headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, to perfect a system for gauging the differences between our ears. Their solution, called Even, includes a stylish pair of earbuds coupled with a small in-line controller that features play/pause buttons and a mic. What sets these headphones apart from countless others is the inclusion of a button with the letter 'E' stamped on the front. Pressing this generates a 90-second hearing test that detects the subtle differences between your ears and fine-tunes your listening experience.

MeQ recommends using the "E" button every few months to keep pace with changes your own ears may be going through. Instead of turning the volume up on a standard pair of headphones to squeeze out every bit of instrumental detail, the Even experience will likely have you turning it down. So good is the contrast from your unique earprint that even old standards you've heard thousands of times will sound fresh.

"In every single case, I found I was able to hear things – a guitar chord change, a drumbeat, a horn, a vocal tic – more distinctly at about 70% of my usual volume," wrote American tech journalist Walt Mossberg in his review of Even.

earprint evenThe custom 'earprint' I generated from Even's website showing the subtle differences in hearing between my left and right ears. (Photo: Even)

If you'd rather give the technology a listen before dipping into your wallet for a pair, MeQ has a demo experience of its earprint system available on its website. True to the advertising, it only takes about two minutes. The site then presents you with an array of music genres – from jazz to country – to listen to with the Even tech on and off.

"They will change the way you listen to everything you love, from music to podcasts," adds Aronson. "Even earphones give you a personalized sound experience you didn't know was possible."


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Earbuds that adapt to your unique 'earprint' have arrived
Whether you hear poorly in one ear or both, one tech startup called MeQ aims to make sure whatever you're listening to sounds spectacular.