Living in a world where nostalgia is practically weaponized against young adults with functioning wallets, I'm used to skipping over the latest quick attempt to make a buck. I'm a collector of nerdy things, but I try really hard to avoid the cheap stuff that hops on the latest bandwagon. The release of a new Blade Runner movie guarantees a resurgence of poorly-made glowing umbrellas and t-shirts with Replicant stamped across the chest, but something from that noise caught my attention in a weird way. It's a fairly ordinary-looking hat with the Japanese Atari logo stitched across the crown, but when you put it on you are able to fully immerse yourself in sound from your phone.
This unassuming hat comes with a fairly obvious name, Speakerhat, but what you get out of this experience is fairly unique.
Wearing your sound
The Blade Runner 2049 Speakerhat is one of several variations made with tech from a company called AudioWear in collaboration with Atari. If you dig the Atari logo but aren't a fan of the Blade Runner logo on the back, there are other designs to buy. If you'd prefer something a little more focused, there's a slick Pong version as well. The design of these hats all include the same basic tech underneath, a pair of speakers on the underside of the visor and a single button on the back near the adjustable strap.
Essentially, this hat is a Bluetooth speaker you wear on your head. The pair of speakers point at your face, and due to their angles, it feels like surround sound. A single microphone sits next to the speakers so you can use your hat for calls. The battery is tucked under the sweatband on the back of the hat, opposite the control button. You charge your hat via Micro-USB, and there's a 2.5mm jack just in case you feel like using a cable instead of Bluetooth.
Considering all of the tech stuffed in this hat, I was surprised to find it didn't really feel heavier than any of my other hats when sitting on my head. I could tell it was heavier when I picked it up, but the way everything is balanced around the hat it distributes that weight very well when you're actually wearing it. The weight isn't enough to cause the hat to be any more prone to falling off your head in a heavy wind, either. It really does just feel like a solid ball cap.
This hat is not waterproof at all, which makes sense since it's just an ordinary baseball cap on the outside but presents a unique challenge given all of the tech on the inside. It's OK for the hat to get a little bit of spray on it or a mild drizzle, but getting caught in a rainstorm probably means it's not going to function as a Bluetooth speaker anymore.
Let's get this out of the way real quick — these are not headphones. These are speakers. You are not using this hat to play music just for yourself. When you press play, everyone around you will hear whatever it is you are playing. This is great if you're outside and you want to hear the world around you while you are listening to music or catching a podcast, but on a bus or a train you're going to be blasting your sound to everyone and it is unlikely to be widely appreciated.
I've been pleasantly surprised by the reactions from those around me when using the Speakerhat.
That having been said, the audio quality of these speakers is decent for the price point. These speakers are on par with your average thin $60-80 Bluetooth speaker. There's essentially no bass, but the mids and highs come through without being overly tinny. It's great for spoken word podcasts or streaming a TV show or movie, but playing your favorite song will probably make you want to tweak the EQ on your phone a bit to get a sound you are happy with.
I've been pleasantly surprised by the reactions from those around me when using the Speakerhat. Even though the speakers are pointed at me, the audio is loud and clear enough for others in the room or nearby to enjoy. The audio doesn't sound muffled or distorted, like you'd get from a cheaper Bluetooth speaker pointed away from you. The same is true of phone calls; everyone I spoke to said I came through clearly and they were unable to hear themselves despite the speakers being so close to the microphone.
The Speakerhat itself has no volume controller, since there's only the one button on the hat. You have to jump in and control volume from the buttons on your phone, which is a little on the inconvenient side. That button does three things, but it does them all exactly the way you'd expect. You can turn the Speakerhat on and off with a long press, pause and play a media file with a button press, and answer or hang up a call with a button press. It's super simple, just like the audio cues for letting you know when you're paired to a device. Other than these things, you're using your phone for control.
Should you buy it? Sure
Overall, I'm thrilled with my Speakerhat. It's a stupidly nerdy hat that fills the world around me with sound when I'm folding laundry or out by the grill, but the design is subtle enough that I can wear it anywhere and no one but me will know it's a gadget. I wouldn't go so far as to call it practical, but it is fun and I dig the look.
That having been said, it's also a $100 hat that I have to stuff under my shirt if I'm caught out in the rain, something I would never need to do with my favorite headphones. It's clearly something that appeals more to my desire to show off some nerd culture more than my desire to own "the best" gadget, and I'm ok with that. If you are also ok with that, you should grab one of these for yourself.
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