Flexound HUMU Review
June 29, 2018 Luckbad 1
I had the chance to experience an extended test of the HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion. Yes, it is indeed an audio pillow. I thought the concept was strange as well.
That is, until I tried it.
Bear with me, as it’s not the easiest product to explain. I recommend watching a video or two before going on.
Yes, this is something right up my alley as a music lover, basshead, and avid gamer.
It’s a pillow that reproduces sound far better than you would ever anticipate and it physically reproduces bass.
Again, I’ll let Flexound (the makers of HUMU) explain it better than I would:
The Augmented Audio technology inside HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion™ combines high-quality sound reproduction and physical distributed vibration, that allows users to hear and feel sound simultaneously.
Unlike loudspeakers that vibrate sound into air, HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion™ contains a single, proprietary Flexound Augmented Audio module with patented Elastic Vibrating Elements to vibrate sound into an intelligent foam interior. It produces a soft, near-field listening experience which minimizes disturbance to others in the vicinity of the device, even when listening to bass-heavy frequencies.
HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion™ covers the whole frequency range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with a single element, while the vibrating sensations are felt most at lower frequencies up to 500 Hz. Middle and high frequencies create a spatially augmented HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion™ sound sphere, a personal binaural stereo soundscape.
In addition to these benefits, the unique combination of sound and vibration at middle frequencies also adds clarity to spoken dialogue as both skin and ears act as sensory channels in synchrony.
On to the features before my impressions:
- Chargeable (Lithium Polymer 3.7V, 5.5 Wh battery)
- Low energy consumption, 3 hours of charging and 8 hours of usage
- Connects easily with all audio devices (TVs, smart phones, tablets, music players, game consoles, home theater devices etc.)
- Sound and vibration frequency range from 20Hz to 20,000Hz, which is wider than most loudspeakers
- Weight: 1.5 kg
- Cover material: Soft microfibre (50% Polyurethane and 50% Nylon)
- Measurements: 480 mm (length) x 270 mm (width) x 145 mm (height)
- Boosted by exclusive patented Flexound® Xperience technology
- Vibrating sound board that creates stereo sound
- Connect via Bluetooth (4.2, A2DP audio protocol; connection distance of up to 10m) or 3.5mm jack
- Colors available: Light Grey and Graphite
- Warranty: 1 year
- Design: Product design by 2016 Ornamo Design Award winner, Pasi Pennanen
- Includes: HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion, Micro USB charging cable and user guide
- Physical dimensions: 480 mm x 270 mm x 145 mm
- Weight: 1.5 kg
- Battery: Lithium Polymer 3.7 V, 5.5 Wh; up to 8 hours with moderate volume level
- Bluetooth: 4.2, A2DP audio protocol; connection distance of 10m
- AUX: 3.5 mm socket for stereo line in
- Operation ambient temperature: 0˚C to 35˚C, non-condensing
- Certificates: CCC, CE and FCC
- Manufactured by Flexound Systems Ltd. Espoo, Finland
- Download the Manual
First impressions: Wait, what? This sounds much better than I expected. The bass reproduction is outstanding. The physical sensation is top notch.
Where did this thing come from?
The impression of hearing a stereo field is truly impressive given that the sound is coming out of a pillow behind your ears. Your mind tricks you into hearing the sound all around you.
And wow, do I love the vibration! This has perhaps the most seamless integration of vibration and the rest of the frequency range I’ve ever experienced.
Why? Well, because the way the sound is made in the first place is from a vibrating sound board. That sound board creates stereo sound and vibrates naturally at frequencies you would experience vibration, rather than artificially redirecting low frequencies to a shaker.
It’s innovative. Truly.
Let’s discuss how this can be used briefly. It has both bluetooth and a 3.5mm aux input. To charge it, you use a micro USB cable, and it lasts quite some time (the 8 hours claimed seems accurate).
The HUMU is the brainchild of Flexound, a company that previously created the Taikofon Feelsound Player. This started with an idea to create a tool to assist in therapy with disabled and autistic children and evolved over time to help create the consumer-grade HUMU. Check out the Taikofon website. There’s some pretty inspirational stuff over there.
Flexound’s story began as a request from the wife of Jukka Linjama, PhD in acoustics, a violinist and inventor to-be. With the desire to create a tool to assist his wife, an occupational therapist, in her work with disabled and autistic children, Jukka set out to invent what would become the Taikofon FeelSound Player, Flexound’s first product intended for therapeutic use.
I’ve deviated from my impressions, have I not?
Apologies! What is the HUMU good for? Anything with audio.
I’ve tried it in numerous situations and found it to handle them all very well. Simply sitting in a chair or lying dying listening to music is satisfying.
Watching a movie with it really ups the game.
My son had a foot injury and we had to apply medication each day for about a week. He’s 4. I let him lie back on the cushion listening to his favorite music, and it calmed him right down. Like its predecessor, the HUMU is outstanding for therapeutic uses.
What is my favorite way to use the HUMU? I’m glad you asked.
I love to use it as the two rear speakers of a surround system while gaming or watching a movie. I have two front speakers and a subwoofer, then hook the HUMU up as the rear pair and strap it on my desk chair.
This gives excellent surround sound with physical sensation to back it up. I especially like car sims with it because you feel the rumble of the road. In fact, using the HUMU in conjunction with my subwoofer and wheel/pedals has given me the most enjoyment I’ve ever felt while playing car sims.
Let me praise the sound of the HUMU once more. It simply sounds great. The audio quality is superior to most headphones. Honestly. With a nice DAC and amp, I still prefer the Sennheiser HD650, but most headphones under ~$500 will not sound as good as the HUMU.
While not headphones technically, they really only disturb those around you about as much as an open headphone. The sound doesn’t travel terribly far from the source, so it would be great for use in dorm rooms or while reading at night near your spouse.
On to a couple of negatives since I’ve been gushing for so long.
The first is that you can’t reverse the speaker orientation. I actually find it more useful and comfortable in many positions when it’s technically upside-down, reversing the stereo channels. I can swap the channels with a 3.5mm cable, but it would really be good to build that in as a switch so it’s easy to achieve via bluetooth as well.
The second negative is the price: $299 is going to be a hard price to swallow for most people until they hear it. Even then, it’s only worth that price if you’re going to use it with some frequency. I find that I primarily break it out when gaming, reading, or relaxing.
Is it overpriced? No, not at all. It’s worth every penny. But, it’s a new and different product, so it’s a hard sell until you’ve really experienced it for yourself.
To conclude, the HUMU is awesome. I love it. Its vibration capability is second to none and the sound quality is outstanding. It can be used in many different situations and is easily transported.