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AudioStream - 1 week using it, big thumbs up!


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Top line review: this is the accessory I've been waiting for! Super easy streaming that I always have with me. Sounds perfect! I'm streaming with it for several hours a day, whereas I rarely hook up my cable and gave up on the Roger Pen long ago. I still have some things on my wishlist, but this knocks out most of them. Not sure the price, but if it's inline with some of their other accessories and I had to pay for it, I'd definitely spend the money.

Pros:

  • Streaming that you always have with you, no other accessories needed.
  • No. Wires.
  • Streams from all apps on the iPhone/iPad.
  • Connection is generally rock solid, range is good - still works 30 feet/10 meters away from my phone with a wall in between
  • Audio quality is very good, on par with Direct Audio Cord, much better than AudioLink or Roger!
  • Audio level goes as high as DAC streaming.
  • Not that big, same size or slightly smaller than DAC cover or Roger cover. Will keep it on all the time.
  • Battery life seems about the same (my routine is off working from home "these days", so I can't say for sure)
  • Can actually stream at the same time as the AudioLink! (Yes two simultaneous streams!) So I use the AudioLink to stream from my computer (audio cable from computer to AudioLink, not Bluetooth)

Cons/could be better:

  • Doesn't stream from my Mac.
  • Doesn't use Sonnet (1 or 2) mics for phone calls, uses the phone's mics.
  • Sometimes needs to be power cycled to reconnect to phone if they've been "apart" for a bit. Quickly reconnects though.
  • My Sonnet mics are still on while streaming, audiologist couldn't find option to turn them off while streaming, and I don't see a software option.
  • Would be nice if iPhone's quick access Hearing Device controls in Control Center could change Sonnet settings and presets. Still need to use AudioKey 2 app or remote. 

Narrative:

I was lucky enough to time a processor upgrade to pretty much the exact day AudioStream became available. I think MedEl actually slowed things down so that the timing would be right! It arrived Tuesday last week along with all my other new gear - the whole box was the size of a microwave! The AudioStream itself was in one of the small accessory boxes, like a battery cover or mic cover. It included the AudioStream itself and a new battery frame for disposables. The battery frame is marked with a tiny "fan"/wifi icon and it is imperceptibly shorter than the old frame. I tried sliding the AudioStream over my old battery on my (old) Sonnet, and it almost fit, but there's still a >1mm gap. I use rechargeables, so I had to open the new set of rechargables that came with my upgrade and grab the new RCB frame (also marked with a fan/wifi symbol) - I swear, it's impossible to tell the difference to the old one. So note: if you use rechargables and get the AudioStream, beg and plead for a new rechargable battery frame, or suck it up and buy one.

Once I got the batteries sorted out, I got started setting up on my old Sonnet. So... my situation with my iPhone is... unique... let's leave it at that. I'm 99% sure you won't run into the issues I had. (Oh! I have no idea how any of this works on Android! )Once I retried on my iPad (and later back on my iPhone with things cleaned up), I got the proper experience. I installed the AudioKey 2 app, launched it, signed in with my MedEl account (account registration requires a processor serial # to verify you are a recipient). Allow Bluetooth (obviously) and Location Services (for "Find My Processor") when prompted. Once you're in, you can then bypass everything else and click the 🍔"hamburger"/menu button in the upper left, and choose "Connectivity Options". Click "AudioStream" > "Configuration" > Pick Left or Right, then Next. Slide the AudioStream onto the processor to power up, hold close to the iPhone/iPad, and click Next. Patiently wait, you may have to retry the power up, scan step (I did). You'll be prompted for a name – in iPhone settings this becomes "<name>'s hearing device", so just give it a short simple name (I think it's max 8 characters). Now wait again... this part also timed out on me on some of my reconfiguration attempts. You'll be prompted for a "pairing request", click Accept! It'll say "success". At this point, you *should* be ready to go. Back on the "Configure/Update/Reset" page, don't bother with "Update" at this time, I assume the v1.0 firmware is up-to-date.

OK, time to stream... I had some music queued up, so I swiped down to get Control Center, and noticed my volume control had an Ear icon in it. When I pressed play, there was a delay, and the Ear icon went back to a Speaker icon, and the playback was paused. On my iPad, I pressed play again, and it hesitated, the Ear icon came back, I heard a faint "thunk" from my processor, and the streaming began! So from first setup, it may take a few seconds for the system to get everything setup to stream. Be patient. On my finicky iPhone, it wouldn't work straight away. Maybe I wasn't patient enough. I had to go to "Settings" > "Accessibility" > "Hearing Devices" and wait while it briefly scanned for devices. "Justin's Hearing Dev." appeared, cycled through a few different statuses and finally was "Connected". Tapping on "Justin's Hearing Dev." gives me a page with an option to "Stream to right hearing device" which should be on by default. At this point, streaming/listening to audio worked!

In regular use it mostly "just works". If I haven't been streaming for a while, it usually starts streaming again without issue. But sometimes the audio won't start - seems this happens when the AudioStream and phone lose connection for a bit due to turning off Bluetooth or physical separation. It'll think it's connected, but it's not. Powercycling the AudioStream solves the problem, but a handful of times I need to powercycle twice. Reconnection can be immediate, or sometimes it takes a few seconds.

What do I use it for? I'm streaming podcasts and web radio stations to it while I work and do chores. I used to want to do this, but hated setting up and tangling with the DAC cord, now it's just a few taps on my phone. I use it to watch YouTube videos (usually don't need captions) without bothering my wife and searching for headphones. I'll probably listen to more spoken content this way than any other moving forward - it's so convenient and I get rehab at the same time! I listen to music (mostly for the rehab benefit). I've tried some Zoom/WebEx calls, works great but my good ear is much better suited for that.

I'm SSD, and phone calls are infinitely easier and less annoying to the other person if I use my good ear. But I have tried a few calls and it seems to work well. Just have to remember to keep the phone close because it's using the phone's mics. On one call, I tried to switch audio to NOT use the AudioStream, but it kept toggling back to the AudioStream. I think this is an iPhone bug not AudioStream.

Another cool iPhone feature is "Live Listen" (I'll explain in another post how to set it up). This feature streams the iPhone's microphones to the AudioStream, and can be quickly accessed from Control Center. The audio pickup streamed this way is amazing! It can really amplify sounds, and background noise is greatly suppressed. It's like having a zoom lens for sound. It blows away the quality of audio from the AudioLink remote mic... by a lot! There is a slight delay however, and since the Sonnet mics are still active, it's a bit like an echo. Perhaps it'd be best to turn the mic sensitivity all the way down if you want to use this feature. Or hopefully MedEl can give us a way to control the audio/mic mix from the AudioKey 2 app. I won't use this feature a lot, since I have one good ear, but maybe I will find a use for it - it's fun and impressive to play with though!

Anything else?! Physically, it's a little big, but I don't notice at all. I have a large head with proportional ears, so it's still hiding behind my ear lobe. I don't have to look at it! For the benefit it gives, I'll trade-off anyone else's opinion of how it looks. It doesn't add perceptibly to the weight of my processor.  I'll be wearing it 99% of the time vs regular battery cover.

Alright, I've said a lot (way too much). Let's conclude: It's awesome, I love it, you should totally get one! I don't know what it costs since I got it as the connectivity option on my upgrade. But if I were to pay out of pocket, say it was in the ballpark of $500 - I would absolutely spend that to have this. That might be a good chunk of money, but I've been waiting and dreaming of having something like this since before I got my implant!

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Top line review: this is the accessory I've been waiting for! Super easy streaming that I always have with me. Sounds perfect! I'm streaming with it for several hours a day, whereas I rarely hook up m

Thanks for that very informative write up Justin... very helpful indeed!

Some updates on my AudioStream: - battery life hit is more than I originally thought, and less predictable. Sometimes I need 3 batteries in one day, but I may be re-using last night's battery in

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@Justin

THANK YOU for sharing all of that.  I love the detail in your post.  VERY helpful.

There is no way to get streamed audio only with AudioStream.  The best we can do is lower our processor sensitivity and volume and increase the iPhone volume.  If you try that, I would love to read how much environmental noise is still picked up.

 

You upgraded from Sonnet 1 to Sonnet 2 kind of soon, right?  Have you only been implanted for 3 years?

 

I am due to upgrade to Sonnet 2 soon.  Did your upgrade kit include AudioStream plus another connectivity option?

 

I am not a fan of the AudioLink but I’m glad you found a use for it with your computer.

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38 minutes ago, Mary Beth said:

 

There is no way to get streamed audio only with AudioStream.  The best we can do is lower our processor sensitivity and volume and increase the iPhone volume.  If you try that, I would love to read how much environmental noise is still picked up.

Still picks up a little environment, but it's so much better than Roger Pen where streamed audio was easily drowned out. I was able to listen fine while on my noisy exercise bike - weather isn't good enough to use while riding outside, and I generally never do that anyways unless its a really boring part of my ride on a dedicated bike path. I suspect wind noise will drown it out - need ASM 3.0!

39 minutes ago, Mary Beth said:

You upgraded from Sonnet 1 to Sonnet 2 kind of soon, right?  Have you only been implanted for 3 years?

I work for The. Best. Company. In. The. World. Our health insurance is amazing. It's administered by UnitedHealthCare, but we think they just front my company's pile of money. I figured it was worth a shot to try for an early upgrade and they approved. I don't take this for granted, and I wish everyone was so lucky. Hopefully I can pay back Karma by sharing some info and possibly helping to make some of these products that hearing impared folks use work better for them.

43 minutes ago, Mary Beth said:

 

I am due to upgrade to Sonnet 2 soon.  Did your upgrade kit include AudioStream plus another connectivity option?

I don't know how I got a gold star by my name on MedEl's customer service list, but my upgrade kit included AudioStream and AudioLink. I was only expecting one option and was waiting on AudioStream. I was totally surprised when they said I'd get AudioLink with the kit, and that AudioStream would be shipped as soon as it was in stock. Then a day later I found out AudioStream was stocked in time to ship out with the upgrade kit. I'm not sure if it was timing, good luck, or if everyone will get both.

Re: Sonnet 1 vs. Sonnet 2, IMO at this time there is no compelling reason to upgrade, but ASM 3.0 (when FDA approved and released) will change that. I believe that the background noise suppression in ASM 3.0 will be quite beneficial.

54 minutes ago, Mary Beth said:

 

I am not a fan of the AudioLink but I’m glad you found a use for it with your computer.

It's decent. My perception is that the audio is slightly garbled vs. AudioStream, and is affected greatly by proximity and obstruction between it and processor. Light years better than Roger Pen, and I like how it enables settings control on my Sonnet 1.

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@Justin

Med-El US posted on their official FB page that AudioStream is automatically included in Sonnet 2 kits and we still get a connectivity option so that is great.

I’m glad your health insurance is terrific with CIs.

 

What do you mean about the AudioLink when you say you “like how it enables settings control on my Sonnet 1.”

 

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You pair Sonnet 1 to AudioLink (power on while coil is over volume button). Then use the AudioKey2 app to find/pair to the Sonnet 1. Now you can use AudioKey 2 app to change the volume, sensitivity, presets, etc on your Sonnet 1 (as long as AudioLink is paired to the phone).

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1 hour ago, Mary Beth said:

@Justin

Med-El US posted on their official FB page...

I'm in the #DeleteFacebook camp, but there is an organization I lead that needs it for outreach, so I haven't actually deleted my account. And some of the CI/SSD forums are decent and I think I'd miss them (but I'm never on FB, so...). MedEl should direct and frequently reminde everyone on their FB group to preferentially use this forum. My 2 cents. (Hope this doesn't toe the line of talking politics!)

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Thank you @Justin!!! Awesome description, and great UX details! Exactly what I was looking for. I have and am in love with my Artone 3 neckloop and remote mic. The next step up for me would be for the neckloop to simply be like the AudioStream -- which is why my brass ring is the AudioStream being able to pair with the artone remote mic, or one like it. I think you can pair Audio Stream with the Audiolink and use that as a remote mic?

I really want a handsfree remote mic option for athletic activity, to keep it social. @Mary Beth you mentioned that one could get a microphone cover to help with wind....obviously this is a trial and error process but where might there be fabricated skin fit type covers for Artone mic and/or Audiolink?

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The AudioLink works on phone calls and works while streaming audio at the same time as AudioStream and is a remote microphone. It's just that AudioLink doesn't stream music and other media "on it's own" unless you use the Audio2Ear app, which is a few extra clicks. But to me, it seems AudioLink and AudioStream would complement each other to do what you're looking for. I'd say for what you're looking for, the AudioLink might cover more of your needs on it's own, but the nice thing about the AudioStream is you always have it with you and ready to use.

AudioStream and AudioLink don't pair to each other, but they both pair to the phone and the Sonnet... effectively achieving the same thing!

Re: wind, there are stick on wind covers for cameras:  https://www.amazon.com/s?k=stick+on+wind+muff&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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@ats169

I do not think the Artone remote mic will work with the AudioStream.

I have a small BT mic called SmartMic+ and it has a wind covering.  So I think you can purchase them online.  

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@Justin

I have a friend with 2 Sonnet 1 processors for the same side.  One is a back up.  No CI on the other side.  My friend can get the AudioStream working for one Sonnet but not the other one.

When you switched from using AudioStream with your Sonnet 1 to using it with your Sonnet 2, did you have to do anything special??    

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14 hours ago, Justin said:

The AudioLink works on phone calls and works while streaming audio at the same time as AudioStream and is a remote microphone. It's just that AudioLink doesn't stream music and other media "on it's own" unless you use the Audio2Ear app, which is a few extra clicks. But to me, it seems AudioLink and AudioStream would complement each other to do what you're looking for. I'd say for what you're looking for, the AudioLink might cover more of your needs on it's own, but the nice thing about the AudioStream is you always have it with you and ready to use.

AudioStream and AudioLink don't pair to each other, but they both pair to the phone and the Sonnet... effectively achieving the same thing!

Re: wind, there are stick on wind covers for cameras:  https://www.amazon.com/s?k=stick+on+wind+muff&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Love the fluffy mic covers -- reminds me of those little plastic elves with the green hair....

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@ats169

AudioStream works only with Sonnet 1 and Sonnet 2 processors.  It is a special slide on battery cover with the BTLE receiver built into the bottom of the battery cover.

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1 hour ago, Mary Beth said:

@Justin

When you switched from using AudioStream with your Sonnet 1 to using it with your Sonnet 2, did you have to do anything special??    

Did they also install the new battery frame on the backup?  My guess would be it’s not making electrical contact. As far as I know, to the Sonnet the AudioStream may as well be a DAC cover except it draws some power. Once it has power it should connect fine to the phone regardless of what processor it’s on. Test with a DAC, clean all contacts, make sure it’s using the new battery frame. 
 

I didn’t have to do anything special in regards to configuration, it worked out of the box on my Sonnet 1— as opposed to the AudioLink which required my audiologist to change settings on the Sonnet.

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Thanks @Justin.  I will check on that.

What is the purpose of entering a serial number in AudioKey2 in order to be able to use the AudioStream?  Why can’t we just attach it and stream?  Is it so the phone recognizes it as a made for iPhone hearing device?

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You need a Serial# to make an MedEl account so MedEl/the app knows you’re a MedEl recipient. It’s partly a “squirrel catcher”. Keeps people from trying to use the app that have no need for it. Also, one of the app functions is to list the processors that you own. When you login on a different device (like your iPad) all the devices you’ve “registered” will be listed. And it will also keep track of the last known location for “find my processor” I think it sends this “up to the cloud“.

 

In regards to AudioStream, the login has no purpose. They just didn’t seem to want to create a new app for AudioStream, so they lumped it in here .

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Thanks for that very informative write up Justin... very helpful indeed!

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@JustinThank you Justin - I enjoyed reading your review.  I will be activated next week (Sonnet 2) and was told they would be sending the AudioStream to me later.  I already use the AudioLink with my original Sonnet.  Forgive my questions, but I am technology challenged and trying hard to make sense out of all these devices and apps. 

  • Is the Audio2Ear meant solely to enable streaming with the AudioLink? (so no need for Audio2Ear if you have AudioStream?)
  • The AudioStream requires the AudioKey2?
  • AudioKey2 can be used instead of Fine Tuner Echo, but also has additional features (Find my processor, etc.)?
  • Can go back to using Fine Tuner Echo by logging out of AudioKey2 app? (will Fine Tuner Echo work with AudioStream?)

Would really appreciate hearing from anyone who uses these.  Thank you.

 

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@Lynda

Wishing you the best on your second activation next week!

Since you will have one AudioStream for your new side, when you stream from your phone you will hear it only on that side.  Bilateral Sonnet/Sonnet 2 users can stream to both sides with an AudioStream attached to each side.  So we need 2 AudioStreams.  
 

The remotes do not impact AudioStream itself.  We alter the volume of the streamed audio by using the phone volume controls.  We alter the volume of the Sonnet/Sonnet 2 mics by using volume/sensitivity controls through the remote or remote app.

 

Audio2Ear is designed solely to be able to stream audio from our phones which is not an actual phone call to the AudioLink.  It is not needed for AudioStream.

 

I am excited that you are going bilateral.  Wishing you the best.

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@Mary BethThank you Mary Beth.  I think I understand.  Basically, I'm trying to figure out if everything that I could possibly need is compatible with a Samsung S9 Plus, before I invest in one.

Thank you also for your good wishes for activation (trying so hard to keep my fingers out of it until then - it is so itchy🤪)

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@Lynda

We are iPhone users here so I’m not much help with android.  Sorry.

I hope the itching goes away very soon.

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@LyndaYou're right about pretty much all of this!

1 hour ago, Lynda said:
  • Is the Audio2Ear meant solely to enable streaming with the AudioLink? (so no need for Audio2Ear if you have AudioStream?)

Correct!

1 hour ago, Lynda said:
  • The AudioStream requires the AudioKey2?

Yes, to do initial pairing, but not after that.

1 hour ago, Lynda said:
  • AudioKey2 can be used instead of Fine Tuner Echo, but also has additional features (Find my processor, etc.)?

Yes. I've put my FTE away in a drawer, AK2 is more handy - assuming your phone is always with you.

1 hour ago, Lynda said:

 

  • Can go back to using Fine Tuner Echo by logging out of AudioKey2 app? (will Fine Tuner Echo work with AudioStream?)

Yes, but you don't even need to "log out" Can use both simultaneously, the displays get out of sync but figure it out on the next remote command. FineTuner has nothing to do with AudioStream, so yes FTE works with AS.

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@Justin"You're right about pretty much all of this!"  Thank you for making an old lady feel a little less challenged LOL.

Thank you for explaining everything so well.  Last question (well maybe 😁), do you need wi-fi/data plan to use AK2?  I don't have access during summer months.

Thank you again - you've been a great help.

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1 hour ago, Lynda said:

compatible with a Samsung S9 Plus, before I invest in one.

You just need to make sure you have android version 10 for the audiostream to work on your phone.

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