Noveto N1 Personal Headphones: A Soundbar Just For You

Apparently, CES 2022 was the year everyone tried to make science fiction movies and TV shows real. First, we have displays trying to be the holodeck. And now we have the speakers from Minority Report. Noveto’s N1 Personal Headphones (as opposed to the impersonal ones?) are not headphones at all. It is a small speaker (in the form factor of a soundbar) that sits directly in front of you. The idea is that they put out sound that only you can hear. So, how do the Noveto N1 work and are they for you?

Noveto N1 Peronal Headphones

Again, not headphones, no matter what they call it. It would be most accurate to compare the Noveto N1 to the Yamaha sound projectors. They have an array of transducers that they use to steer the sound toward you. How does it know where you are? Facial recognition.

The Noveto has dual cameras and a microphone array built-in. This allows it to be compatible with Alexa. You can also connect to it via Bluetooth, Airplay, 3.5mm and USB-C connectors. But that’s not the real selling point.

No, the interesting part is the “personal” aspect of the Noveto N1. The promise is that only you will be able to hear the sound that the N1 produces. This is done through the creation of “sound pockets” just outside your ears. Using facial recognition and proprietary smart audio beaming technology, the driver array creates a spatial sound (binaural) experience for one listener. Everyone else? They hear only a fraction of what you do. At least in theory.

Noveto N1 Features

As with all new products announced at CES 2022, details are space. We know that the max volume you’ll experience is no more than 85dB (which is reference level and plenty loud for most people). Those a meter away will only hear as low as 10% of that (20dB) which is very soft in comparison. We imagine that this is highly dependant on the locations of the other people. Those behind you will probably hear more while those off to the side will hear less.

There is an embedded LED circle on the front that Noveto is calling HAL (for Heuristic Activity LED) because apparently no one over there has seen a movie made before 1990. This light provides feedback to the user. There is also an app for control available for both Android and iOS.

The dual cameras are so that the Noveto N1 can track your ears’ location and distance. The included AI will recognize your face and interact with you without you having to use voice prompts (no more starting every command with “Alexa”). It can even offer you suggestions and services based on your preferences.

Obviously, music can sound much more realistic when presented using HRTF. Unfortunately, that isn’t what is promised here. Instead, the Noveto N1 is really just headphones you don’t have to wear. For anyone that has worn headphones all day (isn’t that all of us by now?), we know how painful that can be. We also know how distracting and annoying it is to have someone playing music in the office. The N1 offers solutions to both problems.

Our Take

The Noveto N1 started out as a Kickstarter. Based on that pricing, you can expect the N1 to cost around $600 retail. That’s a pretty penny for a personal speaker or a set or real headphones. No word yet on where you can order one from.

The exciting part is the sound-beaming technology. Being able to target sound at a specific person can cut down on the sound pollution we experience in our lives. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we see this in the movie Minority Report. Tom Cruise runs through a mall (or something, I haven’t seen it in a while) and as he passes in front of posters, he hears accompanying audio. That is very cool and much better than sound blasting over speakers for all to hear. We look forward to seeing how this technology is adopted in the future. Look for the N1 to start shipping in Q1 2022.

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