Home Tech Audien’s sub-$100 headphones are too basic

Audien’s sub-$100 headphones are too basic

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Small rounded closed case next to two beige incanal headphones

What Atom One does is it increases the volume of things, and by default it increases the volume of all things. Tuning is pretty blunt: a single button on the back of each aid lets you cycle through five volume levels. Since the devices do not communicate with each other, each must be controlled individually. The units also include three environmental modes that are respectively designed for conversation, noisy environments, and in-vehicle operation. To cycle through them, again, separately for each ear, press and hold the button on the back of each unit for a few seconds and wait for a lower frequency tone to alert you which mode has been activated.

If you’re prone to playing with headphones, you’ll probably accidentally press the control button further than you’d like, inadvertently changing the volume and requiring you to go back through all five levels again to get back to the volume you want. This is a bit annoying, but perhaps a little discomfort is to be expected at this price level.

In terms of performance, the amplification effect is, to put it plainly, quite forceful. Around the house, when turned up to maximum volume, it sounded like everyone was screaming, and even the slightest sound was deafening. Writing this review with the aids on was stressful, even at more moderate volumes, like little firecrackers bursting under my fingers. My voice became an echo from the heavens that drowned out everything else.

Over time, I found better luck in more intimate environments with lower volume settings and could see some value in hearing TV audio and one-on-one conversations with a modest amount of additional clarity, but in busy, noisy environments, the Atom One couldn’t keep up. In a bowling test, the aids were effectively useless no matter how I set them up.

ugly whistle

At all mode settings and at all volumes, there is ample background hiss that makes you feel like you’re sitting on an airplane. I found it harder to concentrate with them in my ears, even if I was in a quiet room. Combined with the booming reports of keystrokes, footsteps, and crumpled packaging, I found the Atom One to be significantly more stressful than I’d like. (Which is nothing at all.)

As for aesthetics, I wouldn’t call the Atom One ugly (the mostly in-ear design is at least less flashy than behind-the-ear models), but the beige color palette doesn’t look very modern. Perhaps this is something Walmart requested, but a more modern design similar to a black or white headset would probably be better for most users.

Photography: Audiencia Audien

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