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Pocketalker PKT D1 review

October 2nd, 2015

I have been using Pocketalker Ultra ( the model number is PKTD1) hearing assistant for a while. It has been really useful in meetings where I keep the Pocketalker on the conference table, and with its decent headphone, I miss very few, if any, meeting conversations. In day to day use, it helps when I visit friends, especially new ones and the conversation is much more pleasant, than it would have been without it.

I have used some of the cheap hearing aids earlier, available on ebay, but these come with a number of issues. The sound amplification is never great. These tiny hearing aids irritate the ear lobe skins when they rub against it. The battery life is awful. It is not useful in meetings where the distance between the farther speaker and the hearing aid makes the amplification never good enough for decent hearing. That is where Pocketalker with its headphones, bigger capacity dual AAA batteries and large amplification comes in to fill the space. Technically they are called hearing assistant and FDA approval is not required unlike in case of hearing aids. They are bulky and need to be carried with its clips hooked to your pocket or belt.

Volume and Tone adjustment buttons

Pocketalker has two rotating knobs, and one of them is to turn it on and control the volume. As you turn it on, it makes a click sound and a red LED turn on for indication. On the other side is a tone control, that should be kept at center normally. If you turn it too much towards the higher frequency side, chances are, it will start making high pitch noise. It can be a useful feature to adjust the tone, towards high frequency or the low frequency based upon individual choice.

There are chances that the volume knob or the tone knob gets inadvertently moved while keeping it in pocket or taking it out. You will hanker around to adjust the tone in the middle of conversation, if that happens. I would have liked the tone know to move in tick tick fashion rather than a smooth one. But it is an analog based design where it has a potentiometer. It resistance gets changed as the knob is moved.

Headphone

The headphone connector is a Mono type. You get the exactly same level of output on left and right headphones. If you have more hearing loss in one ear than in the other, there is no way you can adjust the level separately for left and right. There is an advantage of amplifying the sound more for the ear that is affected more - it starts to recognize the sound and both ears act with equal effort to recognize sound. The headphone quality is acceptable

Microphone
olympus-me52w

The quality of the microphone itself looks decent. However, when you keep it in your shirt and if you are walking, the microphone rubs against the shirt and picks up noise that is really irritating. What is needed is another set of microphone whit an alligator clip that you can hook to your shirt when you are walking. This is where, as someone on amazon has suggested - use a Olympus ME52W Noise cancelling microphone. It also comes with an alligator clip and an extension cord.

Olympus ME15 is another choice suggested by reviewer at amazon. It comes with a cable attached to the microhone, so you do not have the fear of loosing it.  I have personally not tried the two microphones, but I am certainly going to try these in coming days and will update on it. These certainly look promising.

RF Noise

One issue that you will notice when you start using is the RF interference. Not that it is always present, but any time, you are using a cell phone and surfing net, the pocketalker picks up the radio noise. Apparently it looks like the microphone picks us the radio noise and there is little you can do other than to increase the separation between the microphone and the source of radio noise.One possible way to cut the noise would have been to add a high pass filter between the microphone and the amplifier - some thing I will cover in the tear down.

Battery and Battery life

Pocketalker uses two AAA alkaline non rechargeable batteries. It has a typical battery life of 100 hours and with 10 hours a day use it will typically last like 2 weeks. I use it only as and when required and the battery seems to go on for couple of months without recharging. At one point, it started making some noise and I though that it was due to the weak battery. I did replace the battery only to find that the issue was due to radio or the tone knob.

The red LED power indicator starts flashing when the battery is low. So do not replace the battery until it starts flashing. It will be better to keep a pair of spare batteries, just in case.

I would have liked pocketalker to have used rechargeable batteries with the ubiquitous USB charger connector. Anytime the battery goes low, just use your Android phone charger to charge it.

With those issues and concerns noted, this is a really helpful gadget for someone who has hard of hearing and do not wish to miss conversation in meetings. Available at $119 at Amazon it is something that you may like to try out.

In the next section I will cover the teardown of the hearing assistant and let you know what is inside and how it could have improved.

Vikas

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