Everyone is a content creator these days. But while we can capture HD video on our smart devices, says Anthony Mattana, “When it comes to audio on our phones, we throw a Hail Mary and say, ‘the mic’s open.’ People don’t even know you can adjust mic gain.”
In 2014, Mattana, a former Broadway theater sound designer, founded Hooke Audio, assembled a team of designers and developers, and launched a Kickstarter campaign for Verse, a pair of Bluetooth headphones with integrated binaural microphones. Natively, smart phones are not able to receive audio over Bluetooth, only transmit. So he and his collaborators developed a proprietary lossless, multichannel recording codec, installed via a free iOS or Android app, that enables streaming of 24-bit, 48k WAV files over Bluetooth. “It’s taken three years and a lot of money to figure it out,” he says.
Operation is simple. Download and install the app and follow the prompts to link Verse to your phone’s video capabilities. Some Android phones require an extra step or two. Mine, a Samsung Galaxy S7 running Android 7.0 (Nougat), works best in airplane mode, the Hooke Audio website advises. Verse is quite processor-intensive, so it should be the only app running, whatever the device.
Launch the app and the video screen opens, overlaid with a level meter on either side. Input gains are changed by sliding your finger up (to reduce the level) or down. Tap the button labeled “3D,” which indicates that the Bluetooth earphones are paired (if it says 2D, it will record through your phone’s built-in mic), and you’re filming.
You are monitoring as soon as the app opens. A nice feature is that the monitor level is independently controlled from your phone.
Additional separate buttons turn the camera on and off, for audio-only recording; open your Hooke Audio video library; and switch between front and rear cameras. An icon, top right, offers a menu of feature and pairing tutorials, and an email link to the company.
It really is that simple. And in practice, Verse does a great job, providing you keep an eye on your mic gains. Mattana is the first to note that the system is not for audiophiles, but the audio quality is quite decent, enabling anyone to start creating videos with spatially-realistic binaural sound relatively inexpensively ($239.99 via hookeaudio.com).
Hooke Audio has done a great job with the package. In addition to the earphones, Verse comes with a dual-connector cable to connect the mini USB on the earpieces to a DSLR (stereo eighth-inch) or GoPro (10-pin mini USB) camera. Again, with either device, Verse just works.
The package also includes a USB charging cable, spare mic windscreens, memory foam and silicone earbud tips, and instructions. The kit also comes with a handy semi-rigid carrying case to slip into your pocket, backpack or purse.
Then there is “Jim Head.” For those wishing to film a static shot, Hooke Audio has cleverly pre-cut the outer box so that it can be folded into a dummy head that holds both the earpiece/microphones and a smartphone.
Mattana says, “There are other Bluetooth earbud products out there that are interested in adaptive noise listening, changing the way you hear the world. We’re about changing the way you record the world.”