Review: JoeSoft Hear

If the sound you hear is not perfect - Hear will raise the bar! (November 17th, 2008)

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Product Manufacturer: JoeSoft, Inc. – A div. of PROSOFT Engineering Ind.

Price: $49.99 US

The Good

  • Easy to use. Simple to integrate into everyday audio enjoyment. Feature rich for the price. Gives you control of audio that modern operating systems lack. You can set different sound for different programs. Works in the background.

The Bad

  • Cannot choose an equalizing preset per audio file. Cannot apply control to individual songs in iTunes. Manual could use a sound glossary. Must remember to turn off program to remove its effects.

Hear from JoeSoft will change the way you listen to your computer and work with its sound. Whether you watch DVDs or YouTube clips, Hear gives you unprecedented control over the quality of the audio experience. Hear enhances your computer's sound and gives you the ability to change audio settings to your heart's content.

An Audio Tinker-toy

This innovative and easy to use software delivers its sound altering tools in a one-window interface. Hear requires you restart your computer to install, so that it can add system files to your computer. It installs the Hear Daemon into a Hear folder inside the Application support folder, a Hear.plugin file into the Audio folder; both in the main Library folder. It also installs a plist file into your Home library Preferences folder. You cannot remove Hear by tossing it in the Trash; you must use the Uninstall command inside the application.

The main Hear program contains 13 panes in which you customize your listening experience in hundreds of ways. A Manual pop-up menu provides a seemingly endless variety of preset choices, if you don't want to customize the sound yourself. With one click, you choose the Hear preset to process your audio through software mixing and equalizing. It includes different settings for speakers and headphones and it is easy to save the settings if you wish to tweak presets to dial up your audio enjoyment to perfection. Most of the tabbed panes include an Enable button to turn on the features. After you make your changes, Hear processes the audio transparently, even when the application is not running. You have to launch Hear and turn it off to go back to your original sound.

Hear General screen

Hear Main Window

In comparison to the equalizer in iTunes, Hear is more user friendly and accessible, plus provides simple control for all applications, whereas iTunes equalizes only one application. Hear enables you to simulate different speakers, rooms, or even make a studio recording session sound more like a live performance.

Features in Short

If you have a discerning ear and are not an MP3 fan, prepare to lose a few nights while you customize music genres in iTunes, audio files stored on your computer, or what you listen to on the Internet. Hear is an audiophile's fantasy come to fruition. The feature set is downright amazing and the only frustration may be that you can't apply the changes to individual files.

First, there are six categories of presets covering Defaults, Effects, Games, Movies and TV, Music, and Speech ¬- all with subcategories.

Hear General Defaults screen

Hear Main Window - Defaults Open

Second, the General tab includes sliders and adjustments for Super Bass, DeWoofer, Ambience and Fidelity, a volume button, plus the ability to enable any one of the 10 panes. Handy On and Mute buttons appear on every pane. An FX Chain popup menu lets you choose the order in which sound enhancements are applied.

Third, you can choose which applications you want your changes to affect and even apply different settings to different applications.

Hear Mixer screen

Mixer Pane

For example, in the Mixer window, you choose which application audio Hear processes through its mixer by simply clicking a checkbox in a list of running applications. You want to deselect the Finder, because its audio is optimized for the flat equalization the Mac OS X provides.

Fourth, you can adjust every nuance of the sound you experience through your Macintosh with speakers or headphones by combining settings on the options within each tab.

Hear Speaker screen

Speaker Pane

In the interest of space, I'll just list the pane options. They include an Equalizer (EQ), Mixer, 3D, Ambience (reverb effect), FX, Maximizer, Brainwave Synthesizer (BW), Limiter, Space, Fidelity, Speaker, and Subwoofer (Sub). You can even view the Equalizer with a curve or slider controls. You can save any of your customized settings as a preset also.

Treat your ears

Hear unlocks how you listen to music on your computer. You will be surprised at the range of different sound you can push from the same audio file with and without Hear managing the sound. You can drop annoying tones in poorly recorded or mastered videos on sites such as YouTube, eliminate audio anomalies, and protect your ears from harsh sounds. Listening to audio on other computers falls flat now that I am accustomed to the control I have with Hear.

Hearing Hear

During my tests, I used a wide range of music genres with headphones and a 2.1 basic sound system. The standard presets were quite flexible. I played thumping electronic music and simplified a frequency response curve so that listening to old dirty recordings of early blues was enjoyable. In most cases, Hear increases the audio in parts of music that you might have not noticed previously. Hear accentuated the crash of a cymbal, which increased the complexity of the sound and enriched the performance without compromising the sound from other instruments. After using Hear, I am more adept at isolating and recognizing instruments, plus I've learned what kind of equalization I prefer.

Hear Speaker screen

Equalizer Pane - Wave View

I enjoy using my $40 headphones much more and no longer want to purchase a more expensive pair. Even after tinkering with Hear for a month, I have merely scratched the surface of the sound quality that this software delivers.

Almost Perfect

The one drawback in Hear is that you can't save settings into individual songs in iTunes. So, it's best to apply settings to whole genres of music and set up playlists in genres, instead of a wide variety of music. For those of you who want to be able to assign presets to genres of music, Ilene spoke to JoeSoft General Manager, Gordon Bell, who said, We are working on "Hear being able to auto select presets based on the genre playing in iTunes." So, be patient while they work on an update to Hear.

Hear contains an electronic user's guide that explains its tools and features well, but if you're new to sound concepts, there may not be enough detail. The Hear manual could use a glossary to explain concepts in more depth.

Hear is a very attractive offer for audiophiles and general consumers alike, at an affordable price. If you seek a reasonably priced gift for a music fan in your family, look no further than Hear.

by James Trousdale, Ilene Hoffman, Victor Marks


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