Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager, listen to your music on the go implied a lot of work.
You could have a Walkman with a cassette but few people bother with that in the gym. Only the music enthusiasts did that. Later came the MP3 and the iPod in the 2000s. But if you wanted to enjoy your music while riding things didn’t change much.
Marco, a friend of the school, drilled two big holes in his helmet to fit speakers. The result was a helmet as safe as an eggshell. In 20 years, we went from big annoying speakers attached to the handlebars to small headsets in your ears. But even Marco’s invention revealed some flaws. Sorry, Marco. I even tried some pads stuck in the helmet but they didn’t really work and they were uncomfortable too. Yes, you could listen to music but you couldn’t enjoy it. I gave up that option and concentrated on improving my singing. That didn’t work either but now there is a new company on the market that might have solved Marco’s problem.
How does it work
It’s called Headwave and it’s produced by a start-up company based in Berlin. It’s a small device attached to the back of your helmet so the comfort inside is not compromised. Since it uses Bluetooth, you are not strangled by any wire. Even the charging cable uses a magnet, a similar plug system that you can find on the old generation of MacBooks. A falling helmet from a table is not as dramatic as a laptop so you don’t really need it but it’s so nice to have it. The real revolution though is how it manages the sound. The Headwave uses your entire helmet as a sound box. The result is a bass that can shake your jaw. The principle is so simple and yet so elegant.
How does it feel
I’ve been testing this device for the last two weeks. The music isn’t something forced into your ears with some disturbing high pitch instead, it’s a complete experience. It’s almost like being in a room with a stereo and a good subwoofer. You can feel it in your bones and the music is coming from every direction. It’s different even compared to big headphones since you can feel the vibrations on your face and skull.
Let me use an example. If you cover your eyes with a sleep mask but the room is still bright it might be difficult to fall asleep. This happens because your skin is sensitive to light. Thus, darkness is not just the absence of light in your sight but it’s more of physical experience. And for music it’s the same story, that’s where the Headwave wins.
Technology should only be there when you need it
Another great property is its presence. When it’s turned off you don’t feel it because it doesn’t weigh or push against your ears or smell in any sort. Okay, the last one would have been weird but you got the point. But there are of course some drawbacks. Because of the vibrations, one can hear what you’re listening outside your helmet. So if you don’t want to get shot at the traffic light, be aware of your music taste. Stop listening to Justin Bieber immediately if you want to live.
The sound quality is directly proportional to the quality of your helmet. At 100 mph no helmet can get rid of wind noise. Some people might point out that because you don’t have anything stuffed in your ears you can still hear the noise outside. But I don’t see it as a drawback. When I ride my motorcycle there is one thing I’m sure about. I don’t want to alienate myself from what is happening around me. Being completely disconnected from the outside world might be okay while you’re sitting in the subway. But you don’t want to be disconnected riding a motorcycle.
It’s not easy to enjoy music without compromise motorcycle safety but Headwave walks the line brilliantly.
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