Personal audio is a balancing act. Fancy headphones make our music sound great, but our smartphones, with built-in amps, can’t deliver superior sound. When it comes to the music itself, streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Deezer — and the latest kid on the block, Tidal — vie for our attention but also incur costs for streaming data. To solve this aural dilemma, one company has created smart headphones.
The Aivvy Q keeps your music within your headphones. How? Onboard Wi-Fi automatically connects to Aivvy servers, then fills up the headphones’ 32GB of memory with songs and organizes them into channels. This process happens only when you charge the headphones, which have a 40-hour battery life. Isaac Mao created the Aivvy Q because people “spend a lot of time preparing music instead of just enjoying it” — not just selecting tracks and creating playlists but also dealing with hardware like smartphones, iPods and corded headphones or earbuds. The Aivvy Q is everything in one, packaged in a set of leather-and-aluminum noise-canceling headphones that even Dr. Dre might love.
To get new users started, the headphones (available for preorder for $299) come preloaded with music. The Aivvy Q then learns your likes and dislikes as you interact with the music, tapping on the right ear cup to “favorite” a song, swiping to skip to the next or previous track. You can fine-tune the experience via the free mobile app — which lets you add or remove channels and see song and album info. Mao claims the company’s personalization software is powerful enough to take into consideration even things like time of day and your location — be that at work, at home or elsewhere.
As clever as the learning feature is, it could also be the Aivvy Q’s Achilles’ heel. Andy Walker, president and senior digital strategist at Cyberwalker Digital, says that “most smart systems still can’t do predictive-taste-based selection well,” citing Apple’s iTunes Genius as an example. Storage is another potential issue. Aivvy is committed to high-bit-rate audio files, but its memory is not expandable — so you might have room for only 1,000 tracks max.
But song choice shouldn’t be a problem. Aivvy has partnered with a music-licensing service that has a catalog of more than 40 million tracks, with 7,000 new songs added every week. And if you’d prefer to listen to your personal faves, you can plug the headphones into any music player or allocate some of the 32GB storage for your own tunes, transferable via USB.
A price hasn’t been set for the music subscription service yet, but we do know this: The first year is free, and the annual cost thereafter will be about a third of what the other major players are charging, Mao says. Also, as he so delightfully puts it, since there’s no need for a data connection while you’re on the go, “there’s no radiation panic when it’s on your head.”