Amplitude – Review

On April 25, 2009

From The Developer:

Amplitude enhances aural experiences by allowing you to hear distant and/or quiet sounds as if you were standing nearby.  Amplitude uses the high quality hardware of the iPhone and iPod Touch* to detect and amplify the faintest of sounds.  You’ll hear things you never would have been able to hear otherwise.

Using Amplitude is easy: simply launch the app, point your device in the direction of the sound you want to amplify, and starting hearing the world in a new way through your headphones.

Use Amplitude to explore your world.  Experience all the sounds of your environment that you would otherwise have missed.

Send us feedback and feature requests. We want to hear how you are using Amplitude.  Send us your stories or YouTube videos to [email protected].

O U R   T A K E . . .

Amplitude does what it says and it does it fairly well. With both the iPhone and iPod Touch you must use a headset for the app to work. With the Touch you must also have an external microphone. Once those hardware requirements are in place the app is simple to use: turn it on, point the mic toward the area you want to hear and… listen.

With the app you can..

•Turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a sound amplifier
•Hear sounds through thin walls or doors
•Adjustable microphone sensitivity / boost
•Adjustable volume and mute controls
•Independently control the iPhone volume and the microphone sensitivity
•View sound waves on the oscilloscope

The app does indeed use the iPhone’s mic and a headset to boost sound. It starts with the "Mute" button on to ensure that the user does not blow an eardrum if the dsound is too great. (The developer recommends keeping the volume between 50-75%.) In addition, they suggest that "You can maximize your reception by using your hands or a plastic cup to focus the incoming sound.  This is the best method to use when listening through solid objects like doors or walls."

This last tip does help since the app is using the iPhone’s mic in a way it was not intentionally intended. And that is my only real criticism of this app. It does what it is intended and atually boosts the sound coming into the microphone quite well. BUT, since the mic is not discriminating in the sound it picks up it also picks up a huge amount of background noise thereby offering a tremendous amount of "white noise". This "white noise" quickly becmes somewhat annoying if not completely obnoxious. That caveat aside, however, and the app is impressive in its ability to use the iPhone in a unique manner for which it was never intended.

This is all best understood visually. Here’s a quick video from the developer of the app in action.


Quick Take

Value: At $.99 it is worth the "wow, that is pretty cool" even if you don’t end up using the app
Would I Buy Again: Undecided
Learning Curve: Low. The app is simple and intuative to use
Who Is It For: People who like using their iPhone in unusual ways and… snoops.
What I Like: Does what it says
What I Don’t: Lots of white noise mixed in that gave me a headache after a bit. Limited "real world" usage 

Final Statement: I love the creativity that goes into thinking up an app like this!