One of the best innovations in wireless earbuds in recent years has been multipoint connectivity allowing the headphones to wirelessly connect to multiple devices and effortlessly switch between them. The new Genki Waveform earbuds take that idea one step further and actually let users listen to audio from two devices at the same time.
If the name Genki sounds familiar, it’s because the company behind it, Human Things, has been slowly building up a portfolio of genuinely useful accessories for devices like consoles and wireless headphones. Examples of their ingenuity include a Bluetooth audio adaptor for the Switch that was released long before Nintendo added that feature to the console’s firmware and a portable alternative to the Switch’s charging dock. The company’s latest creation is its first set of wireless earbuds and in true Genki fashion, they bring some new functionality we haven’t seen before.
As wireless earbuds go, the Waveform sound like they deliver all the features we’ve come to expect from these devices, including a 10-millimetre neodymium driver that should provide excellent sound both in the highs and lows, adaptive active noise cancellation using a three microphone array in each bud, ambient sound boosting for those times when users want to be hyper-aware of their environment, and support for the Qualcomm aptX Adaptive codec.
The most interesting feature of the Waveform wireless earbuds is something Human Things is calling DualStream and for the first time on wireless earbuds, it allows the audio from two connected devices to be heard at the same time. So users could be listening to an important Zoom meeting on a laptop, while also enjoying music streamed from a smartphone. It also sounds like a great feature for Nintendo’s awkward voice chat capabilities on the Switch, which requires the use of a separate app running on a smartphone. With the Waveform, users could enjoy in-game audio and voice chat at the same time.
Like Bowers & Wilkins’ PI7 truly wireless earbuds released last year, the Waveform’s charging case can be used to wirelessly stream audio from any device with a headphone connection, even older devices lacking Bluetooth altogether. You just need to connect the charging case to a device using the appropriate audio cable: be it USB-C to a 3.5-millimetre analogue jack, USB-C to Lightning for an iPhone, or even USB-C to USB-C for laptops or Android devices. And that’s where the downside of these buds comes in.
The Waveform’s charging case has a dedicated aptX Bluetooth transmitter inside which can stream audio from a cable-connected audio source to the earbuds, but the case can also connect to another audio source over Bluetooth at the same time, and is capable of mixing the audio from both sources and sending them to the wireless earbuds. Long story short: as interesting as the DualStream functionality is, it can’t be used to mix audio from two source devices that are both connected wirelessly over Bluetooth — one of them needs to be physically connected with a cable.
As with Human Things’ previous creations, the company has opted to bring the Waveform wireless earbuds to consumers through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. The earliest backers can pre-order the earbuds with a $US199 ($276) contribution, which also includes the USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to 3.5-millimetre adaptor cables users will need to take advantage of the DualStream feature.
Delivery is expected sometime in August and Human Things assures backers that it has already secured the chips it needs to put the Waveforms into production. Given this isn’t the first product the company has Kickstarted, and that the campaign has already raised almost $US300,000 ($416,460) with a goal of just $US50,000 ($69,410), there may be less risk here than with other crowdfunded electronics, but that doesn’t mean there’s no risk at all. Users deciding to back this product should certainly be ready to deal with unforeseen delays that may push back that estimated August delivery.