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These Earbuds Let You Control Your World’s Volume

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a volume knob that let you turn down the world’s annoying sounds? We’re talking about everything from blaring car horns to the sound of your obnoxiously loud co-worker talking on the phone.

Well, that’s exactly what Doppler Labs claims to have created with its new product, Here. Consisting of a pair of earbuds and a smartphone app, Here apparently lets you control the volume of the world around you.

Doppler Labs is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter for Here, which features a series of equalizers and volume controls that let you filter out specific sounds.

Here’s how the creators say it works: The outside of the earbud includes a microphone that detects the sound you want to eliminate. A digital signal processor then uses a specific frequency to cancel out that sound. A speaker in the earbud sends both the original thing you don’t want to hear and the new frequency into your ear, causing them to cancel each other out.

Here comes with a preset list of modes for specific sounds you might want to drown out, including jet engines, crying babies, and chatter.

I tried out Here at Doppler’s New York offices, and though I had my reservations, was surprised to find that they worked as advertised.

In their current incarnation, the Here earbuds are a bit thick. They fit in my ears nicely, but I can tell wearing them for a long period of time would become annoying. The final version, Doppler CEO and co-founder Noah Kraft explained, will be smaller.

When I popped the Here earbuds in, I immediately noticed a low humming sound. Kraft then kicked up the volume using Here’s companion app and instantly I felt like Daredevil. My hearing was genuinely heightened to superhuman levels.

Not only was Kraft’s voice significantly louder, the rumble of a motorcycle speeding by Doppler’s fifth-floor office sounded like it was right behind me.  He then lowered the volume and the entire world sounded muted.

It’s not just about eliminating annoying noise, though. Here can also be used to modify the sound of the world around you by letting you adjust the bass and treble of what you hear. You can even add filters to what you hear to change the way everything sounds.

The flange filter, for example, gave everything a warbled sound, while echo made everything repeat over and over.

Doppler Labs is seeking to raise $250,000 on Kickstarter. Backers who pledge $199 will get their own Here earbuds when they ship in December 2015. If you pledge soon, you’ll be able to get the headphones for $179.

So who would buy something like Here? According to Kraft, the ideal customer is an audiophile that wants to improve how they hear music, whether that’s in their bedroom or at a concert.

“It’s supposed to be magical for the people that hear it,” he said. “It’s for the discerning consumer.”

Of course, it’s always good to keep in mind that Kickstarter projects aren’t guaranteed successes. Plenty of smart gadgets and devices have appeared on the crowdfunding site, but they either never fully materialized or couldn’t deliver on their promises.

That’s not to say that Here will fall into the same category, but it’s certainly worth considering before donating.

This article has been updated to reflect our hands, er, ears-on experience.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+.