Invented by a Kickstarter partnership of ex-Ableton and Native Instruments employees, the Basslet is a wrist-mounted “subwoofer” that uses a state-of-the-art haptic engine to turn sub bass frequencies into vibrations, allegedly enhancing Joe Public’s music listening experience, and, more importantly, enabling producers and musicians to feel the low frequencies that their monitoring setups can’t necessarily recreate.
Nicely packaged in a neat cardboard box, it comes in two parts: the Basslet itself, which looks like a faceless square plastic watch, and a tiny box of tricks called the Sender. The Sender connects to the minijack of your audio device (computer, phone, etc) at one end and your wired headphones at the other, passing audio from input to output and converting low frequencies to a control signal that’s beamed to the Basslet over Bluetooth. The motor in the Basslet vibrates in response, feeding the sub bass information to you through your wrist.
The batteries last about six hours and charge over micro USB, with the Sender receiving the cable and forwarding power to the Basslet through two magnetic connectors that double as Intensity buttons for setting the ‘volume’ of the haptic engine. Very clever.
The strap, on the other hand, sucks, being maddeningly difficult to fasten. Fortunately, it can be swapped for a third-party alternative.
The haptic motor reacts to frequencies between 10Hz and 250Hz, and the dynamic range and sensitivity are impressive, the vibrations matching up to the music with remarkable accuracy and precision.
The implication of sub bass localised to such a small area is simply never going to bear any resemblance to the real thing, though - while the short pulse of a kick drum connects to the peripheral nervous system well enough, extended notes are far less successful, coming across as a sort of flappy buzz. Given the size of the thing, how could it be otherwise?
Ultimately, for the producer working on headphones or low-end speakers, the Basslet makes for a fair physical analogy to a spectrum analyser, giving genuine insight into what’s going on unheard at the very bottom end of the mix, albeit in a purely analytical rather than musically or ‘emotionally’ meaningful way.