Hear: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Expand the Richness of Your Mac’s Sound

Hear: Tom's Mac Software Pick
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Hear from Prosoft Engineering is an amazing bit of sound wizardry that allows you to tailor the sound of your Mac’s audio system. Hear is a sound processor that can improve, correct, enhance, and extend the sound stage created by your headphones or speaker system. With Hear, you can change your listening environment from stuffy office space into just about any musical venue you would like to experience.

Pro

  • Tons of presets in six categories.
  • Pleasing and easy-to-use interface.
  • Controls volume of individual apps running on your Mac.
  • Large collection of special effects.
  • Helpful help file.
  • Includes an uninstaller.

Con

  • Installation requires restart
  • No menu bar item; must run the app to make changes.
  • Too many presets.

Hear is a sound processor with an amazing number of capabilities. With Hear, you can easily adjust the frequency response using its built-in equalizer, much as you can do within iTunes. But unlike the iTunes equalizer, Hear affects all of the audio being played on your Mac, no matter the source. In addition, Hear’s equalizer can cover up to 96 frequency bands, as opposed to the simple 10-band EQ offered in iTunes.

Installing Hear

Hear’s installation is nothing special; simply drag the app to your Applications folder and you're ready to go. But once you launch Hear, you'll be stopped dead in the water by the requirement that you restart your Mac before Hear will work properly.

I understand the need to do this. Hear must install components that need to be initialized when the Mac starts up. But I would like to see a cancel button on the restart warning. Instead, the only option is to restart, which forces you to either accept the restart, or continue working on your Mac with an open dialog box always in the way.

Once past the restart problem, Hear is a much better behaved app, opening as a single-window application.

Using Hear

Hear presents a tabbed interface, with 13 tabs available. Each tab provides the interface for a specific set of audio enhancements, such as General, EQ, Mixer, 3D, Ambience, and FX. You can use each tab to make adjustments to the sound you're hearing.

That may sound great, but you'll likely soon realize that 13 tabs, each with multiple selections and adjustments, may be a bit much to go through to fine-tune your sound preferences. That’s why Hear comes with a great many presets that you can use as a starting point. In fact, I highly recommend starting your exploration of Hear by trying out the various presets. You'll likely find one that is just right for you, or that will make a great starting point for you to make your own custom adjustments.

By the way, once you come up with your own personalized settings, you can save them as your own preset.

Effects

Hear includes a library of effects that can alter sound quality as well as the sound stage. You'll find effects from 3D surround, which creates the illusion of a surround system, to FAT, which simulates an old-style vacuum tube amplifier.

One of the available effects that caught my eye, and ear, is the extended space. Years ago, my main stereo system was built around a Carver amplifier and preamp. The preamp included a feature that Carver called Sonic Holography. This feature expanded the sound stage; in essence, presenting a sound stage that seemed to be much larger than the space between the speakers. I was interested to see if Hear could replicate this older technology.

By using a very mild 3D and Extend Space, it's possible to create an expanded sound stage. Not as effective as the old Carver technology, but still a nice sounding stage that I intend to use as my listening default.

Adjustments

As mentioned earlier, there are 13 tabs, each corresponding to effects settings or general audio filter settings. It may seem like a lot, but actually since some of the tabs are tied to specific effects, there's a good chance you won’t need to make any adjustments, unless you intend to use those effects. For instance, I’m not using the Speaker effects, which alter resonance characteristics of a virtual speaker in an effort to change how the speakers sound.

Nor have I found a use for the BW (Brainwave) effect, which is supposed to alter the sound to assist in relaxation, meditation, or concentration. I think in real use, only a few of the tabs and settings will be altered beyond their default settings. The settings I'm interested in aren't likely to be the ones you're interested in, and vice versa. Having such a large number of settings ensures that Hear will be useful for a large number of people, even if it does mean you'll likely spend an enjoyable amount of time just trying out the various features.

Final Thoughts

Hear met my expectations and then some, with its ability to let me choose the effects needed to enhance the small sound stage that is my computer space, and make it seem much larger than it is. Beyond providing me with a richer and deeper sound, Hear was also, for the most part, unobtrusive once I set it up. My only suggestion for the developer is to make a few basic tools available from a menu bar item, so we don’t need to launch the app just to use the mixer to turn down the volume on an app running in the background.

Hear is one of the best audio processors I've come across for the Mac. With its ability to mold the sound to meet your needs, its simple-to-use interface that covers up a very powerful audio processor, and its attractive price, I think Hear belongs on every audio enthusiast's must-have list.

Hear is $19.99. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

Published: 12/12/2015