Soundbrenner Pulse Test: What To Know Before You Buy
I first saw the Soundbrenner Pulse when my friend Luke Holland (of YouTube fame and x-The Word Alive drummer) was using it. Immediately, I wanted to do a Soundbrenner Pulse test and see if this thing works. Before I buy music equipment, I always do my research. The Soundbrenner Pulse is a wearable metronome that connects to a smartphone app. When you strap it to your body, it keeps you in time with a combination of strong vibration, sound, and lighted visuals. Being a drummer myself, I had to get one and do a Soundbrenner Pulse test.
Soundbrenner is a German company that developed this product in 2015 and raised over $200,000 on an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The Pulse has already gone through several updates and made tons of improvements based on user feedback. They came up with a really cool product idea and a slick rollout. Also I notice this thing popping up everywhere. So, we know it’s a cool company and concept. But does the Soundbrenner Pulse work? In this Soundbrenner Pulse test, I ask the hard questions and share my results.
The Unboxing Test
Contents of box
- Soundbrenner Pulse
- short band
- long band
- charging station
- USB charging cable (2’ feet / 60 cm)
- user manual, 2 stickers
- Nice packaging. Looks and feels like a good value. I got both the Soundbrenner Pulse and the add-on BodyStrap (For Chest + Shoulder + Leg)
- A high quality look and the unboxing experience has a very Apple feel to it. Soundbrenner has tasteful material choices, both modern and functional.
- It has a nice feel and weight to it. I thought the face of the unit would be a glassy smooth surface like a watch or smartphone, but it’s actually a sleek textured plastic. Once placed in either the short watch-like band or the arm/leg band, I noticed the unit is light and makes it more convenient for usage while on your arm or leg. If they were to have used heavier materials, it may have inhibited playing an instrument.
- Charging is very easy. The cord/cable is about 2 feet long (60 centimeters). The unit doesn’t come charged. It takes 2.5 hours to get a full charge, and they recommend you charge it at least 30 minutes the first time out of the box. The charging dock attaches to the main unit with snug magnetics. The cord/cable is a durable nylon cord material rather than plastic or rubber – another nice choice of materials.
Test results – Overall, the Soundbrenner Pulse left a great first impression on me. This is A-level stuff; no buyer’s remorse. Most of all you can tell they have put a lot of effort into the unboxing experience.
Testing The Soundbrenner Pulse App
- It’s easy to download from app stores. I downloaded on the iOS app store. It’s about 43 MB, and took me less than a minute to download on my iPhone. It’s fast and runs smoothly. You can literally put the smartphone app to use in 2 minutes from the time you search for it.
- Once you have the app downloaded, you need to pair the Soundbrenner Pulse unit to your device. I did it with an iPhone. First you register with an account, then you pair it. The pairing is super easy, and it only takes a few seconds. The app has a guided tutorial that takes less than 4 minutes to complete.
- There are a ton of options unlocked when you pair the Soundbrenner Pulse with the app that you don’t get with the basic app.
- I don’t recommend skipping the tutorial. Before watching it I was pausing it wrong. I learned you need to quickly tap twice to pause it.
- The basic questions about settings are answered right away in the tutorial. Yes, you can turn the sound of the click on and off, as well as the light. It also has a cool feature that locks the functionality so it doesn’t accidentally go off while you’re in the middle of a song.
- At the end of the tutorial, it may ask you to update the firmware. This is not for the app, but for the Pulse unit itself. When I think of firmware updates, I think trouble. But this one was easy – it was just like updating a smartphone app. All is done wirelessly (bluetooth) right from the app to your Pulse unit.
If you really want a good feel beyond my photos, James Chia’s YouTube video shows how the app interacts with the Soundbrenner Pulse.
The Soundbrenner metronome app does more than most metronomes I’ve ever used, and it has endless customizations. So now I’ve got a very nice and customizable metronome, but with the wearable aspect on top of that.
Helpful Tip: Don’t confuse the app settings with the Pulse unit settings. They are both controlled from the app, but in two separate places. The home screen of the app is labeled “Player”. There is a green button in the top right corner that takes you to SB Pulse (which is the settings for your unit). If you click Settings in the lower right corner, it takes you to “Settings” (these are the app settings and won’t help you customize the vibrations on the unit).
Pulse Unit Settings
- The main Player Screen of the app has a bunch of customizable functions ready to go. I would call these functions metronome controls. BPMs are controlled with a touch screen dial. Things like time signature, subdivision, and song duration are controlled with touch screen slide menus.
- If you press the green button in the top right corner and open up SP Pulse settings, you can customize the feel and visuals of the unit.
- I’ll give you a couple of helpful examples. I wanted stronger vibrations on the 1st beat, so I set the vibration for more intense on “the one” and the wavelength duration to “long”, so now I really feel the beginning of the measure. I also wanted a blue light on the “one” and the lights on 2, 3, and 4 to be white. For me, those two quick adjustments made a big difference over the factory settings.
- Sounds – I like the Woodblock (default) sound the best. They give you 3 different versions of it, and I prefer the medium pitched one. They also have shaker and tambourine combo, cowbell, digital, and digital voice counting.
- You can also fully customize the lighting, flashes, and even set a count in for one, two, or three bars. If you want the screen always on, or always off, you can do that too.
- You can link the app to foot pedals and other link-enabled apps. You can also link up to five Soundbrenner Pulse units to one app. This is a nice feature. Your entire band could wear these and all be in sync for a full set of songs.
- Setlist & Library – This functionality is awesome. I’ve never owned a metronome with this, and every electronic drum product I’ve ever owned made this extremely difficult. The ability to add songs and then create setlists with ease adds has a ton of value.
Wearable Wrist Metronome Test
As a drummer who enjoys playing to a click track I was very curious about this wearable metronome concept. Consequently I tested this unit with the short wristband, the arm/leg band, and the add-on body strap ($29.00 USD add on).
How you learned to keep time will determine your preference
However you learned to keep time will determine your preference. Each musician will interact differently with the Soundbrenner pulse as a wearable metronome. As music students we learned to keep time by tapping our foot or by playing to a metronome. Tapping your foot is a physical habit. Listening to a metronome is a matter of training your ears and body to synch up.
For drummers I recommend the body strap and having the unit in the center of your chest or on your middle back. Ideally right on the spine. I want to feel the pulsation in every limb and in my core. When it was on my hi-hat ankle the pulsations got a little lost with my foot stomping on the pedal, and I couldn’t feel it in my core. The same goes for the wrist. I preferred feeling it in all limbs rather than one. My second choice for drummers would be the wrist. I found myself unintentionally following the accents because of a strong accent on “the one”.
For other instruments I would recommend the wrist. The ankle of your tapping foot would be my second choice because I like the foot tapping simulation. Furthermore, there is something about wearing it on your wrist that feels more convenient. But most of the controls end up happening from the app.
I had heard a few complaints in older Soundbrenner reviews, so I was expecting more negatives. But the company is working constantly to take feedback from users and improve the units. Since it’s software, it makes it easy to update without having to buy a new unit. So most of the things I read about have already been fixed on my brand new unit (I received mine on November 7th, 2017).
- High quality for a low price.
- It performed much better than outdated reviews said it would.
- Soundbrenner’s dedication to customer satisfaction and updates.
- Easy to use song library and setlist function. They nailed this.
- My wearable preference required the add on BodyStrap. But overall, still worth it.
- One size fits all bands. I’m a medium build and had to use the smaller settings. The bands favor large people, and may not work well for smaller or younger players.
- The settings navigation was confusing at first. Needs a little more instruction on the vibrations and lighting settings.
Before buying, I like to read Amazon reviews just as social proof that a large audience has weighed in on the product. You can look here on Amazon at the current price ($99.00), and read more of the reviews.
(prices in US Dollars)
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions I found customers asking online, and I was curious about some of the same things.
Y/N: Can you turn the light off on a dark stage? (The bright light can be distracting in a live setting.) YES – they have added this in the app settings.
Q: I’m used to an audio metronome, is it hard to get used to feeling the metronome? It’s no harder to get used to than the first time you tried to learn to keep tempo with a normal metronome. Personally I found it easy to feel the tempo, and now it seems like my ears are more free to listen to other elements of the music than the tempo.
Y/N: Does it have the BPM number visible somewhere? YES, it’s on the app display right in the middle.
Y/N: Does it have memory to store the BPMs for certain songs? Can you program the tempos for a setlist? YES, you have a playlist tab in the app. You can program a different BMP for each song, with a title. Another nice feature.
Y/N: Can you activate the setlist from the unit itself, of do you have to do that from the phone app? YES and NO – You cannot activate the setlist from the device. You can only do load it via the app at the moment. However, once loaded, you can switch from song to song via the device. Quickly twist the wheel right-left-right to switch the next song OR left-right-left to switch to the previous song.
Y/N: Can you download a tempo map from a DAW into the device and then take it to a gig and have it remember the tempo map? YES, it has DAW support via Midi.
Q: Why would you want to feel a metronome? “Why wouldn’t you?” is a better question. Drumming and playing music is primal. It uses your senses and brain just as much as your ears.
Q: How is the battery life? Can you use it as a live click track and last an entire 2 hour show? YES, and YES! It utilizes a magnetic disc charger, plug in and go. Any USB source. It turns yellow when charging, and green when done. Charging takes about 2.5 hours to reach a full charge. It holds an 8 hour charge. If you practice an hour a day, it gets you through a week.
Conclusion: Did Soundbrenner Pulse pass the Test?
After doing this Soundbrenner Pulse test, I conclude that it passed with flying colors. I give it my full recommendation. After many days of testing and getting a feel for a wearable metronome it did not disappoint. Furthermore I recommend this as a gift for a musician. I hope you’ve enjoyed my Soundbrenner Pulse review. Let me know if any of you are using this already.