Every once and so often a new idea comes along that is so simple that it seems surprising that no one has ever thought of it before. That is exactly the feeling I had when I first heard about the Soundbrenner Pulse, and it is exactly the feeling the designers of Soundbrenner Pulse had when they first thought of their product.
Let me introduce the Soundbrenner Pulse, a wearable, electronic metronome.
The co-founders of Soundbrenner are both musicians. They found it annoying to practice to an audible metronome click. The idea is simple: Why do we need to hear a metronome? We don’t. All we really need to do is feel it.
Think about that for a moment. Practice with a metronome remains straight forward. There is no more need for playing along with an audible click track in a recording studio, or drummers playing along with a click track in a live environment.
It then occurred to them that the problem could be solved using modern electronics, to let you feel the rhythm. As mentioned, once mentioned it seems an obvious invention. Then again, the best of inventions often do. The design then iterated through a range of improvements based on practical experiments before arriving at the final design.
The Soundbrenner Pulse is a wearable physical, vibrating pulse generator. The package also includes two different sized rubber straps for attaching the Soundbrenner Pulse, a magnetic charger unit and a usb connector. It is well made and it satisfies my gear junkie craving for gadgets that flash in vibrant techie lights.
At it’s simplest the Pulse can be used as a stand alone metronome, but important extra features are available when it is connected to a mobile or desktop app via bluetooth. The app is currently not available in the iPad AppStore, but it can be installed by changing the AppStore settings on your iPad.
Set up is straightforward, including your user registration with the Soundbrenner website. This is vital to keep your device up to date with the latest firmware.
As a stand alone device the Soundbrenner Pulse can be controlled by tapping your finger on the top surface of the Soundbrenner Pulse. The printed documentation included within the package covers the essential taps needed to activate the device. I found it a little awkward to use like this, but it did work. The outside edge of the device can be rotated to adjust the tempo of the metronome, or the tempo can be set using taps on the surface of the device. Unfortunately, in stand alone mode, there is no current way to set a precise tempo.
Undoubtedly, the Soundbrenner Pulse becomes really useful when connected to a controlling app. It connects via the controller app (mobile or desktop) via bluetooth. The app allows you to easily select an exact tempo and time signature. Indeed it is very flexible for setting the time signature.
The app can connect to multiple devices allowing you to synchronise control and timing.
Soundbrenner DAW Tools
Currently Soundbrenner provide DAW tools to advanced users for Mac OS X. Using the Soundbrenner DAW Tools app as a MIDI Clock destination, the Pulse time will be controlled by the timing and tempo changes of your chosen DAW.
Currently a similar tool for Windows, iPad or Android is not available.
Scenario 1: Practice
Practice is the obvious application, but to think that this is solely a practice device is to hugely underestimate how it can benefit musicians. It is both flexible and accurate and when synchronised with the app it is very easy to control.
Scenario 2: Live Performance
On stage monitoring isn’t always fantastic, and it is the one time when you really could do with keeping in time. Even as a solo musician, with your blood pumping, it is very common that songs are performed with a faster than usual tempo.
Scenario 3: Studio
Click track. Even with closed back ear phones a click track can spill onto the actual recording. While not completely silent the potential application of this technology is obvious.
Now imagine all of those scenarios for an entire group of musicians.
As mentioned the Soundbrenner Pulse can also synchronise with multiple other Soundbrenner Pulse devices via the mobile or desktop app. It uses a custom Bluetooth synchronisation algorithm from the boffins at Soundbrenner to keep the synchronisation tight. This makes it perfect for stage environments where monitoring is far from perfect, or for an alternative to a click track for group recordings.
- It isn’t completely silent, though it is very quiet.
- The charge performance was very similar to my mobile phone in regards charge time and duration of the charge.
- The charger is magnetic. From a plug in perspective a magnetic connection makes it very easy to connect. Magnets in close proximity to other things can be potentially problematic, so be careful!
Updates and Future Development
When an update to either the app or the device becomes available, registered customers are notified of any available downloads.
The guys at Soundbrenner are also working on a number of improvements and accessories that ensure that promises much for the future of the Pulse. It looks like the first accessory will be a third, larger strap to allow the Pulse to be worn in more body locations than the two straps included within the current package will cater for.
I like expressions of creativity and innovation. Even when they are based on such a simple idea. The truth is no one else turned this idea into such a useful, practical product.
Overall I am very impressed. It does what it says, I found it reliable and flexible. The Pulse device can be a little awkward to control when using the tap interface alone, but once synchronised with the metronome app it is easy to use. I like it!
The Pulse and app are certainly a valuable addition to my music toolbox, for use in a number of usage scenarios and circumstances. I would be more than happy to recommend it to fellow musicians looking to improve their instrument or band practice.
Soundbrenner Pulse $99
Metronome App Free