Disclaimer: I bought the PSAPs that I am reviewing. They each have at least a 30 day trial period, so I did end up sending back all but my favorites.
So, I’ve lost a bit of my hearing in the upper register. It’s not very bad, but it is a bit of a bummer because I have spent years of my life learning to ID birds by song and now I don’t hear them as well as I used to. The CS50+ does a pretty good job of amplifying bird songs. I found it amazing to hear a bird, then take off the CS50+s and have the bird song disappear! Let me tell you more about them.
They are big and black with a large battery that goes behind your ear. This was a bit uncomfortable with my glasses, but not a big deal. They say the batteries last long enough for 18 hours of use. And, two batteries come with the PSAP, so you can recharge one while wearing the other. The in-ear portion is black and looks like a Bluetooth phone device. Kinda ugly and weird for a birder. Are you birding or talking on the phone? I had a hard time putting them on. I had to take off my glasses and free both hands to don the device, which would squeal loudly in my ear as it was being inserted.
They come with an app that I put on my iPhone. The app runs you through a hearing test. You put on the CS50+s and the app plays sounds at differing pitches and amplitudes and you tell it when you hear something. Once completed the devices amplify sounds based on your personal hearing loss. This seemed to work well enough. You can also control the amount of amplification and what pitches are amplified (treble, bass, or mid) using the app. I liked this a lot and tended to jack up the treble and overall amplification to better hear birds.
You can also listen to podcasts or music with them using Bluetooth and your phone. I was only able to get one of them at a time to do this, so I didn’t use the feature. Plus, I was birdwatching…
And, they really do help you hear birds. I did a decent amount of birding in these things and was really impressed with what I could hear. I felt like I could hear really well. Super human in fact. And, the tests I did proved that I was hearing much better when wearing these (more on the testing in a later post). At one point on a birdwalk I put these on and immediately was able to hear a Yellow Warbler that I couldn’t hear at all without them. This is a fun feeling! However, birds sounded a bit weird to me, so I tended to question myself. Perhaps that’s something that would just take getting used to. The other flaw (that ended up being a fatal flaw for me) was that, while I could hear that yellow warbler for example, I couldn’t for the life of me find it. Over and over I would hear a bird, but not be able to find it. The CS50+s have a directionality setting (Restaurant) which makes sounds from the front louder than from the back. This helps. At least you can tell if the bird is in front or behind, but I still couldn’t find the birds. I spent a lot of time trying to get used to this and didn’t.
I found it frustrating to be able to hear birds, but (1) feel a bit questionable regarding my identification and (2) not be able to verify my ID because I couldn’t find the bird. So, you may be better at finding birds without the aural clue or perhaps are happy to just hear the birds better. If so, the $350 per ear CS50+ might work well for you. I decided in the end, that although they are pretty cool and definitely help me to hear birds they weren’t the best for me.
In the next post I'll review Nuheara's IQbuds Boost
Top of page photo by Randy Patrick
David Benson Ph.D.
White-tailed Ptarmigan researcher and National Park Service Ranger Naturalist in GNP since 1995. "The Bird Ranger"