BASSAWARE: A NEW BASS AUGMENTATION DEVICE FOR HEADPHONES that delivers true visceral response...
Jul 8, 2014 at 12:47 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


Headphoneus Supremus
Dec 21, 2009

BASS AWARE comes ALIVE!  photos from  

Here on head-fiers (as we are affectionately known) are always interested in improving our sound quality through upgrades There is resurgence in headphone sales worldwide with many companies putting out new models and new manufacturers entering the field with unique designs.
In the discovery thread, new versions of head-phones that produce stronger or better bass with impact are particularly prized. There is a subspecies of headphonusmaximus called "bass-heads" who crave additional bass, both sub-bass and tonal-bass to enhance their listening experience.  Many of the new head-phones are bass-tuned adding a bass emphasis prized in electronic dance music (EDM), including psy-trance, drum and bass, chill out psychedelic music, blues, rock and even metal rock. Bass continues to rock on with listeners.
For years,the main difference I encountered from headphone compared to home speaker or live concert listening was in the bass response of the sound. Headphones were music light when it came to bass impact and physical involvement in the music.  Live concerts, especially rock, blues and notably EDM, literally shook me physically and gave me a visceral involvement that headphones couldn’t touch.
The epitome of this physical involvement happened to me at a Shpongle DJ concert in San Francisco a few years ago.  There was a "bass pool" in the middle of the dance floor where one could go bass surfing and literally get a massage from the music. It wasn’t louder there or more distorted, it was tuned carefully to emphasize the body experience of the music.  Unfortunately not all shows are as carefully produced. DJs trying to create a "bass pool" turn up the decibel level beyond that of a jet plane, distorting the tonal quality of the music, making it unlistenable. Although people dance like puppets, they probably damaged their hearing.  As much as I reveled in the Shpongle "bass pool" experience produced by Simon Posford, I walked out of the latter overamped bass distorted shows.
Balancing good bass with clear mids and treble is no mean achievement in a headphone, or an IEM.  Many "bassy" headphones sound out of balance, dull, and lack sparkle and melodic clarity.  Muddy is the word often used to describe them.  Some get it right, or almost right, like the Phillips Xi, the ATH CKN1000s and its siblings, the JVC 850s, etc. Some phones have lovely spectrums but just don’t involve the body, such as the Sony XBA3s, the S2s, etc.
I keep my budget to $300 for headphones so I won’t comment on customs, top tier 1K phones and such, but I imagine some of them are great at involving bass tones. DJ headphones, which emphasize bass in most cases are not usually hi-fi and have muddy bass and lack detail - even if they do convey the essence of EDM. Having great bass in a headphone, which does not bleed into the mid-range or treble and cause distortion, is a major achievement.
Enter Michael White founder of BassAware. I saw a picture of his new device on a Facebook feed and was intrigued.  I tracked it down to, which is a thorough website that explains the history of the device, its philosophy and possible uses.  I spoke to Michael about The Holster aka "The Drop," and he agreed to send me a review sample - he cautioned me that it wasn’t designed to be an audiophile device.  I replied that I would like the opportunity to investigate myself. A few months later, one of first production run units arrived, after 16 months of development. It took some time and effort to get it set-up correctly, as some of the key factors in using it are not in BassAware literature (to be explained below.) At the end of the day, I found myself gleefully dancing through my house, wearing the damn thing, feeling no pain, having a personal concert/ rave, and with a big smile on my face and delight in my body.
Every DJ should have a BassAware Holster to give them the bass experience they are sending out to the audience. Every head-fier should hear one to feel what true bass involvement is capable of in headphone listening. I am now a converted BassAware maniac fan.  In my Landcruiser the subwoofer is under the passenger seat and my passenger gets the bass benefit of the excellent sound system in that vehicle – but BASSAWARE IS BETTER.
On the BassAware website Michael provides a link to a new study showing why bass energy may be the key to enjoyable listening to rhythmic and danceable music for DJs and producers.
The essence of the articles is DJs and producers are often bass deprived by the nature of monitoring setups in clubs and studios, and wearable bass augmentation can make a major positive difference.  The ears apparently hear bass differently than other frequencies based on the structure of the biological hearing apparatus. The body feels bass and translates it into rhythm and movements! Very interesting research!!!
Here are the specs, quoted from the manufacturer’s web site:
"The BassAware Holster is a new type of wearable audio technology that uses vibration to create a massive bass experience.
Tech Specs:
nylon canvas harness with elastic webbing 
abs buckle and hardware
two zipper pockets sized to fit a phone, music player, or wallet
ergonomic abs backing plate with high density silicone pads
15 watt rms tactile transducer
class D chip amp with filter (30hz-100hz)
on/off gain control with blue led power indicator
3.5mm audio input
3.5mm audio through (for headphones)
compatible with headphone remote controls
3.5mm male to male audio cable
2600 mAh li-ion battery pack with level indicator
estimated 12-20 hours of use for each full charge
li-ion battery charger, USA socket type, UL listed
Use the Holster anytime you're wearing headphones - with any audio source: your phone, your music player, your tablet, or your laptop. It is super portable - you can take it with you anywhere - it’s small, lightweight, and battery powered. Everywhere you go - you'll feel that visceral punch like you're in the club or in front of a giant stack of speakers.
“The device uses a tactile transducer placed on your upper back - this is a special type of audio driver creating vibration rather than sound.  These sensations travel through your body to the inner ear where your nervous system translates these felt vibrations into "heard sounds.”  The result is an immersive bass experience that no one but you can hear or feel."  
"In other words, the speaker in your back is not a sound woofer; it is a vibration transducer. A high quality transducer, not like the toys you connect to windows to make them into speakers. It produces a faithful body experience in the mid-back of the bass energy in the music.  Since the device uses a crossover to feed only the bass energy into the transducer, there is muddiness imparted to the experience as long as don’t turn up the volume of the bass amp too high.  Most people turn subs up too high in order to "hear them"  Ideally a sub shouldn’t be heard, just felt, and impart a 3D effect to the music giving the mids and uppers more thickness and the music a floor and subfloor.  You can do this precisely with the BassAware, but it takes some careful adjustment."
The device feedS your headphone source into the class D amp and crossover and outputs the non bass frequencies to your headphones, which sound as usual.(until you turn on the bass vibration transducer!)  The volume of your headphones clearly interacts with the volume of the BassAware vibration transducer driver, i.e. the louder your source into the bass amp the louder the bass is too.  Line level output does not work, you have to have your headphone source pumped up also.  Best is about 60 percent gain depending on the source. Too much will blow your ears off on your phones and distort the bass, too little and the bass is weak.  The bass driver has its own volume control also, so you have to carefully adjust the interaction of your headphone source amp, your phones sensitivity and the bass amp volume.  WHEN you get it RIGHT  a sweet spot occurs in which the bass pulse almost disappears and you get a 3D listening experience that is both visceral and auditory!  BAM  YOU WANT TO DANCE AND MOVE. It’s like going from a flat screen to a 3D MOVIE done right. This requires considerable experimentation.!
In my tests, I used the following:  UE600VI iem  JVC 850 woodies, PSB M2U, SoundMagic HP100, along with Ipod classic, iBassoDX50,  and DX90  .  I threw in a MontBlanc Filo E12 to see if additional amplication would help the input stage. I also compared mp3 input with FlAC inputs.
Results:  The most noticeable BAM effect was with the relatively cheap UE600s (60$) which came alive and got a bass presence previously unheard.  It was a spectacular improvement. Like Michael predicted,, "cheap" items can be super improved with the addition of the BassAware.  How about mid-tier items with more effective bass FR?
The 850s had less of an improvement, but they are bass monsters on their own and they still got more visceral and danceable, but they didn’t need the BassAware to be excellent anyway for psy-trance.  
Better the source, better the improvement.  Fuzzy bass in the source, fuzzy bass out. FLAC files sounded just glorious through the BassAware.  AJJA and Cosmosis ALIEN JAMS in FLAC through the SOUNDMAGIC phones was Sound Magic.  This is a spectacular recording, available for download through PEAKREC.COM and bandcamp and shows you just how good FLAC files can sound.  The space alien embroidery around the mercurial liquid guitars had heft and body through BassAware that just wasn’t there on phones alone, and made me feel like I was in the middle of a live concert.  Adding the MontBlank E12 amp to the output of the source stage was overkill and didn’t help, in fact hindered.  Sound quality improved also from DX50 to DX90 which shows thatBassAware is responsive to DAC quality, and both iBASSO units blew away the iPod. The DX90 was supreme!

   The full size headphones, although they had pretty good bass to begin with, became noticeably better. A gestalt was formed in which I literally forgot I was wearing  the BassAware unit,and headphones,  and just was immersed in a field of music. The SoundMagic headphones seemed to benefit more than PSB phones in a "whole is more than the parts" way.  I shared the listening experience on these with my partner Barbara and she didn’t want to give the set up back to me!! I had to pry it away from her so she could go back to work....
I didn’t try to maximize all the connections.  I used the stock interconnect supplied with the unit instead of upgrading it to silver wire. That probably would have improved the sound also through the DX90.  The main issue with the sound was tuning the gain from the various headphones to the source amp to the bass amp with the right balance.  It varied considerably with different combos, but when I got it right, it came together like unified gestalt and soon I was dancing around my house.
EDM had the best improvement with the Bass Aware, but the device improved the sound of psychedelic chill out, rock and blues also.  Even ambient music with angelic synthesizers benefited greatly.
In short, this is a breakthrough device and sound system for those who love bass and the sound of live concerts, whether EDM or rock or blues. Michael told me he wears his around NYC on trains and public transportation.  I could see that being a great way to travel, but probably under a raincoat. The device was originally designed for "silent raves" where people could party without waking up the neighbors.  Seriously folks, this strange looking device, which is like a BASS holster,  does what it promises to do. It’s no joke, in fact, it’s definitely a superb upgrade to inexpensive IEMS, a major tweak for good ones, and a shamanic tool for full size headphones to come ALIVE and dance you like you were at a live concert, rave or soundgastic experience.  The price is reasonable given the design, engineering and effectiveness of this well made product. You don’t need to go to a silent rave to enjoy one.
Hell, I’m wearing mine around the house more than ever and being a dancin' fool instead of just listening. For $299 you can upgrade your bass experience to include your body, add visceral sensations, and give your headphones full range somatic involvement!
It’s a different experience listening with your body to the music. It’s definitely a fun and useful upgrade that you can use with both inexpensive and expensive phones.   And you won’t disturb the neighbors.  Dare you wear it out into public?  Only you can decide...

Jul 8, 2014 at 7:20 AM Post #3 of 5
Great review, Blue...makes me want to try one out (though I showed the picture to my wife, BOY did she roll her eyes)!
Jul 8, 2014 at 6:52 PM Post #4 of 5
I tried this as a prototype and immediately wanted one. Production models couldn't come soon enough but once they did, I snatched one up as soon as I could (which turned out to be right around my birthday). Happy birthday to me!

Anyway, I'll honestly attest to the fact that this thing is DOOOOOPE! It provides a true bass experience, almost like you were standing in front of a 5' sub but without hurting your ears. Truly immersive and quite an elegant solution to getting the most out of personal mobile sound.

If you are a bass head like me, I -highly- recommend giving this thing a shot. Also, if you're in the Philly area, find me and I'll let you try it on (but only for just a little ;~P).

Very interested in where this concept will go in the future as well. It's almost a completely new way to experience sound (through your body) and has much potential with other evolving wearable technologies. I wish the best of luck to the BassAware production crew.

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