BY JAKE WOOD | FROM THE SPRING 2019 ISSUE OF DRUM!
Pulse, the wearable metronome by Soundbrenner, is a revolutionary tool for timekeeping. Instead of the typical clicks and clacks of a metronome, the Pulse conveys tempo via vibrations emitted by a haptic driver, as well as light, allowing you to both see and feel the beat.
We received two Pulse metronomes for review, each with their own USB charging stations and two wearable bands (one short, one long). The watch-sized disc pops easily into the bands and can be worn on the wrist, arm, leg, waist, torso, or wherever else the bands will fit. The short band is designed for the wrist, which fit fine, and the long band for the leg, which fit best below my knee. We also received a stretchy body strap designed for wearing the Pulse around the waist and chest.
Much of the metronome functionality can be controlled on the physical units themselves, but Soundbrenner also has a free companion app to control the Pulse. It’s fairly thorough, offering various time signatures, playlists, and the ability to tailor the length of vibration, note by note. While the Pulse’s main feature may be the ability to keep time without that incessant click in your ears, in some situations such a heavenly mute is more pipe dream than reality. With this in mind, the app also includes a variety of metronome sounds that can cut through a mix.
The company claims the Pulse’s vibrations are seven times stronger than the average smartwatch. Still, it was initially a little difficult to follow the vibrations when I wore it on my wrist while playing on a practice pad. I strapped it on just below the knee and had a similar result. For me, it became a bit easier to lock into the tempo when worn around the stomach—which, visually, also gives a cool “Power Rangers” aesthetic—and around the bicep. Although stronger vibrations would be appreciated, there will be variance from drummer to drummer—some of us might just need a metronome that delivers an actual slap in the face on each quarter-note.
Drummers also tend to move around more than usual in live performance, thereby masking some of the vibrations. This is something to keep in mind when taking the Pulse from the practice room to the stage or studio.
Another cool feature is the ability to link up to five units together with the app. Soundbrenner made this ridiculously easy, and linking our second Pulse took approximately two seconds. This allows you and four other mates to wirelessly stay in sync, or you could strap all five to your own body and program thirty-second-notes for a nice massage—how you use it is really up to you.
The real question we should be asking is, “Can we use tactile sensations as accurately as auditory cues for precise timing?” There is no doubt a humbling learning curve to keeping time with the Pulse, but this feels like something drummers could learn to love—especially if it means saving our ears from the merciless, piercing tones of a click.
Out Of The Box is a “first look” review based on initial setup and testing, without putting products through the longer, more rigorous testing procedure applied for our Soundlab reviews.