Signia Active X First Impressions
Hearing Aids for People Who Don't Want Hearing Aids
I recently received a pair of Active X hearing aids from Signia, and while I wasn’t expecting much (just another hearing aid, right?), I was really blown away by their size (they are tiny), battery life, and performance. I had the hearing aids fitted remotely by an audiologist. Then, I tinkered with the app, took a walk, and went for a bike ride. Here are my first impressions.
I took the Signia Active X out for a walk on a windy day, and was pleasantly surprised.
They are tiny!
OK, if we’re talking about first impressions. Here it is: These hearing aids are absolutely tiny. I’ve reviewed a ton of wireless earbuds over the years, and when I heard Signia was releasing earbud-like hearing aids, I assumed they would be the same size as all the other earbuds that come across my desk. When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was that the charging case was only slightly larger than the charging case for my AirPods Pro earbuds.
Unboxing the Signia Active X. Mug for size comparison.
I was impressed with the modern packaging, as this is something hearing aid companies often get wrong. Signia is going for a sleek 2021 consumer experience, and they got it right with the Active Pros. Anyway, I opened the charging case to reveal the Active X earbuds, and the first thing I did was set them side-by-side with a typical hearable earbud. To my surprise, the Active X was half as thick, and the long ear-canal design looked like it might be the answer to a persistent issue I have with other earbuds, where the canal portion never totally seals my ear, allowing for bass leakage.
Typical hearable earbud vs Active X
For those looking at comparing the Active X design with an Apple product, here’s the side by side of the AirPods Pro vs Signia Active X. As you can see the AirPods Pro case is slightly smaller, while the earbuds themselves are considerably larger. This really shocked me, because I’ve long considered the AirPods Pro do be a relatively compact design. More shocking is the fact that the Active X can get up to 26 hours of operation time on a single charge where AirPods Pro only deliver up to 4.5 hours of listening time.
Signia Active X vs AirPods Pro
Using the Active X
The Signia Active X hearing aids have worked pretty seamlessly for me. After unboxing the product, I had a virtual session with Signia audiologist, and Clinical Educational Specialist, Lisa Perhacs, AuD. She walked me through the new Signia App, and showed me how to control the volume, change the sound settings, even even get adjustments from a virtual assistant (Signia Assistant) that provides automated support for sound quality issues and questions handling the product.
In the two screenshots below, the left shot shows the screen which allows you to switch programs and adjust the listening direction. Selecting a specific direction, and going back to automatic mode is fairly intuitive, and changing listening programs is easy. The right shot shows the Signia Assistant, which provides immediate hearing aid adjustments based on common sound quality issues (including issues you may have with your own voice) using an automated chat interface.
The Signia App provides remote control functionality and help from a virtual assistant.
The windy day test
One of the biggest issues I have with earbuds and hearing aids is wind. Every year there are incremental improvements in wind noise reduction technology, but for many devices, problems persist—especially when the device design places microphones in more exposed positions.
While typical hearing aids sit behind the ear, mostly shielded from heavy wind turbulence, Signia’s Active X hearing aids are designed more like earbuds, and sit in the ear, with two directional microphone ports on the exterior of each device.
My expectations were that wind noise would be atrocious, but it really wasn’t that bad. When it’s windy out, or when I go for a bike ride, I typically have to mute the microphones on my AirPods Pros, because I just can’t handle all the noise. The Active X’s seemed to handle the wind a lot better. There was some sound distortion due to the digital wind noise reduction, but it was tolerable, and I was still able to hear the world around me.
When I went for a bike ride, even with the wind, I could hear the sound of my tires on the pavement, birds chirping around me, and approaching walkers and vehicles. The audio seemed loud and clear to me.
The Active X’s are designed to work with iOS and Android, but in order to stream audio from an Android phone, you do need to purchase an additional accessory, which acts as an intermediary between an Android Phone and the Active X’s.
Signia StreamLine Mic
The StreamLine Mic is also used as a remote microphone and to complete hands-free phone calls, and enables audio streaming for most any Bluetooth-enabled audio device.
Bluetooth audio streaming
I was able to listen to music and podcasts from my Android phone on the Active X’s through the Streamline Mic. The audio quality was just OK. I found that there was a bit of compression in the audio, and the occasional audible artifact. The fullness of sound was also lacking, and this is due to the more open-fitting nature of the hearing aids. While the canal fit was much better than other earbuds I’ve worn, the tips include substantial venting allowing bass to leak. It’s possible that bass is also limited to conserve battery power. Limited sound fullness is an issue with every open-fit hearing aid I’ve ever tested.
Sound quality for voices was good. When listening to podcasts or calling friends, I found that the audio quality was completely adequate. I was able to hear my friends clearly, and they reported hearing me clearly. One person said they could hear some warbling sounds in the background, but I’m not sure if that was on my line or theirs.
How do they feel?
The Active X’s felt good in my ears. They were comfortable, and due to the longer canal portion, I was confident they weren’t going anywhere. My biggest challenge was actually removing them after my tests. Since they sit so recessed in the ear, I found the easiest way to get them out was to pull my earlobe down and get my thumb under the device, then place my index finger on top. With this grip, it was easy to remove them.
Another thing worth mentioning is the convenience of wearing this style of hearing aids during a pandemic. Since there is no behind-the-ear portion, removing my mask was easy, and this also helped with wearing a bike helmet and sunglasses. There’s enough going on behind my ears at the moment, so this was a nice form factor for me in 2021.