It would be wrong to assume the Basslet is entirely unique in its aims. The Soundbrenner Pulse is a wearable metronome designed to keep musicians in time via powerful, triggered vibrations. And then there's SubPac, which utilises a vibrating membrane based on the concept of a speaker cone to deliver its low-end vibration. But these products use systems that are either too inaccurate or too cumbersome to work at the Basslet's proposed scale. Lofelt's patented LoSound engine technology is based on a voice-coil design with a frequency response that covers the full bass spectrum, from 10 to 250Hz. The compact design enables all the required components to fit inside the low-key, matte-black plastic body designed by renowned product design studio WertelOberfell. The whole thing ends up being a little larger than an iWatch. The other main component—the "sender"—is a slightly smaller box with cable connections at either end that fits between the headphone socket and your headphones, transmitting the information to the Basslet using a modified version of the Bluetooth protocol.
The Basslet is charged by connecting to the sender using an innovative (and, again, patented) method. The metal buttons on the side of the Basslet that control the amplitude of the bass feedback are magnetic and recharge its battery when connected to the corresponding metal indentations on the sender. Putting on the Basslet is perhaps a little harder than it ought to be. Utilising a rubber strap with a slightly serrated texture and a baseball cap-style pin and hole arrangement makes it difficult to get a snug grip around your wrist. Luckily there's an option to replace the strap with one of your own choosing. A more traditional watch strap would no doubt allow for a tighter and more secure fit, and produce a more pleasing and consistent bass response. A loose-fitting Basslet seems to accentuate the vibration on the skin, as opposed to through the skin, therefore reducing the physical impact of the device.
Once the Basslet is fastened to your wrist and the sender is slotted between your headphones and your chosen audio device, the next step is to set the level of the bass response. The idea is to combine the Basslet's physical feedback with the music, so that the auditory and haptic signals merge into one cohesive, unifying experience. The initial feeling however is much less of a revelation. The sensation is fizzy. It lacks the definition and solidness you expect from a physical low-end assault on the body. Although it's possible to differentiate between the thump of a kick drum and the rumble of a bassline, prolonged notes and low-end drones become grating, if not slightly uncomfortable after a while. The main hurdle here is that it is impossible to shake the knowledge that your wrist is vibrating while the rest of your body is not. Lofelt say that with prolonged use this feeling will subside. But in my few weeks with the device, this proved not to be the case (when I lent it to my flatmate to try out, she likened the feeling to that of a blood-pressure monitor). However, it is perhaps a little unfair to expect Killasan-levels of bass coursing through your body from the Basslet, and when expectations are lowered, things tend to make more sense.
That's not to say that the Basslet doesn't have its moments. I was working in a coffee shop listening to Ability II's "Pressure"—a soon to be reissued Sheffield bleep classic that apparently broke the cutting needle during post-production—and I suddenly had the feeling that listening to this track would be a lot less enjoyable without Basslet. While the cartridge-snapping bass obviously didn't come across fully, being able to actually feel a track so comprehensively designed to be felt really made a difference to my experience of the music. Despite not getting the full-body bass experience that others users have reported, it provided a complementary physical sensation I was able to relate to through my own dance floor experiences.
While marketed as a solo device, I could also see this working in a more social context. Sitting around, watching a film with your friends, everyone wearing Basslets and enjoying the 4D sensations together is something I could imagine being an enjoyable experience. And though the practicalities of routing the audio and Basslet-specific information to multiple people may be out of the reach of this first iteration, it certainly seems to be a future possibility. The Basslet is a useful, if flawed device, and one that, given time (and possibly some suspension of disbelief), will add a familiar physical dimension to your headphone-based music listening experiences. Lofelt clearly has plans for their LoSound engine technology that extend well beyond what the Basslet is capable of, and while I can see what they're trying to do with it here, I'm just not sure I can feel it.
Ease of use: 4.2
Build Quality: 4.5