The Soundbrenner Pulse is a smart, wearable metronome that keeps the beat by using vibration rather than sound. It’s the flagship device from the relatively new Hong Kong-based company. At $95 USD (£85.30, €98), it’s an enticing prospect for amateur and pro musicians alike.
Update 10/10/18: SoundBrenner smashed their latest KickStarter goal five times over for the SoundBrenner Core, which builds on the Pulse design. The company set out to raise $50,000 and are currently sitting on $272, 722 with 35 days until the Kickstarter closes. The Core is a 4-in-1 smartwatch, which provides a metronome, tuner, decibel meter and timepiece. This is like Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver, but for musicians and we’re keen to try one out! Don’t forget, we have more gadgets compiled in our best guitar tech reviews.
Vibration-based metronome the way of the future
I was very excited to get my hands on the Soundbrenner Pulse, as my band calls for hard-hitting playing in the studio. Even with noise-cancelling headphones, I have to resort to pumping up a metronome to ear-bleeding levels to hear it clearly over the drums. Using a vibration-based metronome is definitely the way of the future in my book.
A musician’s timepiece
The Soundbrenner Pulse looks like a watch and can be fitted into one of the included bands, which offer two different sizes. If you want to strap the Pulse it across your chest you’ll need to get the optional $29 body strap. Also included with the standard Pulse bundle is a magnetic charging dock and the accompanying 60cm cable.
Easy to groove to the pulse
How does it perform? The vibration is strong, clear and easy to groove to. The vibrations can be set to various levels of intensity. The Pulse’s motor produces vibrations seven times stronger than the average smart-watch, so there’s no shortage of grunt. There’s several additional options available for musicians who want visual feedback. The free Soundbrenner app can be used to show flashing lights on the Pulse itself, your phone screen or your phone camera light.
The app and the operation of the Pulse is hugely customisable, with time signatures, note divisions, accents, song durations and much more up for tweaking. You can also create and store click tracks for songs and even setlists in the app, so that’s a big help for rehearsals and shows. The ability to sync up to five Pulses to the same click is also a handy feature.
The build quality is pretty solid overall. The straps are made out of tough flexible material, while the Pulse and charging unit are made of hardened plastic. I wouldn’t want to drop a Marshall on the Pulse, but aside from that it should stand up to a bit of mistreatment.
Areas to improve
There’s three areas that I think Soundbrenner need to improve with the Pulse: Sync connection, metronome display and battery drain.
When I first started using the Pulse, sometimes it lagged behind the count on the app screen and then rushed a beat as it re-synced with the app. I did two things to help remedy this: Upgrade the firmware and turn on the “Preserve rhythm on disconnect” function. This can be found in the Soundbrenner app under the Pulse>Settings menu screen. After these measures the performance of the Pulse was a lot better and it kept an even beat. The “Preserve rhythm on disconnect” function should probably be enabled as the standard setting for all users straight from the factory.
Metronome display and battery
There’s no metronome display on the Pulse unit. You can change the speed with the wheel on the face of the Pulse, but the only way to set a specific metronome speed is via the app.
The Pulse offers six hours of battery during active use. This is adequate, but the issue occurs as the batter drains during downtime. If you charge it fully on Monday, then when you use it the following week, you may find it’s dropped 20% or so. If it was already half drained, you can find it completely out of battery. These two concerns probably wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for home users, but they could be a real issue if you’re a pro who wanted to use the Pulse for live shows or a tour.
The Soundbrenner Pulse verdict
The Soundbrenner Pulse is an inspired design that fills a gap in the market. As a drummer, it’s a lot easier to groove to a vibration-based metronome than trying to hear a click track over the drums. I’d like to see Soundbrenner iron out the metronome display, app sync and battery issues in future updates/releases though.
Body: 1.75″ or 4.5 cm, black casing
Bands: Water-resistant silicon straps in two lengths
Battery Life: 6 hours of continuous active metronome use
Charging station: Universal Micro USB socket to recharge the lithium polymer battery; 2.5 – 3 hours to charge; magnetic clip
RGB LED lights: Illuminate the logo and wheel in user-definable colors and flash to the beat
User Input: Capacitive touch sensor for tapping interaction; outer wheel to precisely adjust the BPM; companion apps for mobile and desktop
Compatibility: Soundbrenner Pulse is compatible with devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 and above. Our apps are compatible with devices that run iOS 8.1 and newer; Android 4.3 and newer; Mac OS X 10.10 and newer.