Everyone involved with music knows the sound of that infamous tick that serves as a rhythm guide, the all-powerful metronome. But nowadays people are opting for a different solution – a vibrating metronome.
Soundbrenner has brought us a new piece of technology, smartwatch for musicians that delivers tempo through vibrations. A wearable metronome and so much more.
Soundbrenner Company introduced us to a new way of staying on the beat by combining a classic metronome with a smartwatch.
Whichever your instrument of choice is, a vibrating wearable metronome, conveniently packed into a smartwatch will come in, well, handy.
Opinions on these vibrating metronomes are split because a lot of users had issues with some of the features such as application connectivity, or the device itself.
Besides all that, I personally found the Soundbrenner Pulse to be a bit too large and bulky but Core did the job perfectly while looking awesome.
After using the Core version for a while I thought that there’s no need for an upgrade, however switching to Core Steel was the best option for me, out of the three models.
Even though the interface and features are pretty much the same as on Core, the elegance of it, difference in weight and the feeling of a stainless steel smartwatch, made a big impact on me.
Before I get into reviewing and rating the models I’d like to cover what each one of them offers in my opinion, in case there is a reader who’s a newbie on this topic or just getting into music and wonders whether to invest in something like this or not.
Why would you need a vibrating metronome smartwatch?
No matter what genre of music you are into or the instrument you play, all musicians need to be in rhythm and have a steady tempo. All that needs to be done is set the beat you want to play and forget about the annoying tic-toc.
So why wouldn’t you need it?It looks like a regular smartwatch, with sleek and modern design but inside it holds a little first aid kit for every musician.
Vibrating metronome is just the first feature, and with newer models come extra features and options such as decibel meter, tuner for your perfect pitch and it does what all smartwatches do, connects to your phone and delivers notifications.
All in all, the answer to the question why you would need this piece of tech is simple – to better yourself as a musician, for gigs, tours or for a simple practice session in the comfort of your own home.
Soundbrenner phone app
Before the smartwatch came, Soundbrenner was keeping us on point with a phone metronome application –“The Metronome”, that was, and still is available for free for both android and apple users.
The app allows you to tap your own tempo and accents, create setlists, sync with other people and it is absolutely user friendly.
With a customizable interface, different themes and click sounds, I found it very nice and useful, especially the part where I could save and create a playlist out of my custom rhythms.
It was surely the foundation stone for the development of smartwatch tech that can now be found in any musician’s gear pack.
Polycarbonate, Silicone band
Polycarbonate & Aluminum, Silicone band
Stainless Steel, Italian leather band
6 hours of continuous use, 7+ days/30 min per day
Watch mode 4+ days, Metronome 3+ hours
Watch mode 5+ days, Metronome 3+days/30 min per day
Pulse was a pioneer in its field, first released in January of 2016, it is the first wearable metronome that uses vibrations to provide tempo.
As I’ve mentioned before, I personally found it a little too large for a watch even though it is very light weight and neat looking.
It can be used by itself or in a connection with the phone app via Bluetooth, which then allows you to set a time signature and accents in the app and get a response in the form of a vibration on the Pulse.
When it arrived the battery was almost drained, but next to the device itself in the package, there was a charging station that connects to the device via magnetized pins and charges with a plain usb cord.
Charging time was around two hours and the battery held for approximately seven hours of use.
Other things that arrived along the Pulse were large and small straps for the device, and of course the instruction manual that nobody is really interested in.
Body strap that is used to place the Pulse on your chest or shoulder is charged additionally and isn’t included in the Pulse starter pack.
Regarding the device in use, it is relatively simple. After it’s fully charged you can pop it in the silicone wristband and it turns on by twisting the wheel and placing two fingers on the screen until it blinks.
BPM can be set by tapping the rhythm on the Pulse or twisting the wheel clockwise for more bpm or counterclockwise for less bpm. Double tap shuts down this vibrating metronome.
About connectivity with digital audio workstations, it is required to download DAW Tools software, the downside is that the software is only compatible with Mac OS but there are others such as Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools etc. that can be used on different OS.
To sum it up, it is a good product but as a drummer, I see it as being somewhat more used for practicing than for actual gigs.
Soundbrenner Core is where things get interesting. It’s a similar polycarbonate device but with upgraded looks and a whole new concept. For starters the Core model is a functioning digital watch, meaning it shows the actual time which Pulse does not.
When linked with a phone, it pushes notifications letting you know what’s going on. It has built-in motion sensors so the screen lights up when you flip your wrist which I found quite pleasing.
Visually it was more appealing, slightly smaller with an aluminum wheel and two function buttons on the side. Metronome mode has more options than Pulse had, and they could be set up on the device, without involving a phone in the process.
Core packaging had more equipment, in comparison to the Pulse. The watch came with a body strap included that was additionally charged for the Pulse model.
In the packaging there was also the standard wristband but with a magnetic base, charging cable, earplugs and a magnetic mount for the tuner.
What makes Soundbrenner Core a 4 in 1 product is that it can be used as:
The device body can be removed off the base and be attached to a tuning peg on a guitar for example. For a more stable and secure connection, Soundbrenner included the magnetic mounter for this exact purpose.
Core has an internal microphone that picks up the sound and shows the specific tone you’re creating on screen allowing you to tune the instrument.
Decibel meter is another novelty, it runs on the same integrated microphone, monitors volume level and alerts the user when the loudness can impair your hearing, hence the stylish earplugs in the package.
Vibrations are noticeably stronger than your usual smartwatch, and that is thanks to the eccentric rotating mass motor, or ERM. ERM powers the watch and with a haptic driver delivers a shake that is 7 times stronger than in a regular smartphone or smartwatch, so not noticing a notification is not a possibility.
Downside of such strong vibrations is shorter battery life, but there are settings options that can be tweaked in order to prolong battery life, like vibration strength, and active screen time.
Soundbrenner Core Steel
Cores younger brother – Steel, has the same functions but the overall quality is improved.
It is basically the same product although, with high end finishes, the biggest difference is shown in the top notch stainless steel casing and wheel, so no aluminum. The black Italian leather wrist strap adds a note of elegance.
In the package you get a carrying pouch, which can pack all of the straps and the watch to protect it while in travel.
They are more or less the same, but be that as it may, whoever had the opportunity to use both of them would probably opt for the Core Steel model.
Pricing of the smartwatch and additional accessories
When it comes to pricing, the starter pack for Pulsemodel is currently selling for $118 on Soundbrenner website. Pulse was their entrance product, simple and straightforward.
There is an option to divide the sum and pay it in 4 installments. Good thing is that everything bought directly from their website can be returned within thirty days, and the full sum is paid back.
Core model was the second one, with multiple purposes, not just a vibrating metronome. You can get it for $229, with all the equipment included. And Core Steelis available for 100 bucks more, at $329.
There are some additional items that can be ordered such as woven nylon strap in three different colors at $40, leather strap in black or brown for $49, and a lot of other items like t-shirts, baseball caps, body straps, sticky tuner mounts, extra cables for charging etc.
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As I’ve mentioned before, user feedback is diverse. People have split opinions on Soundbrenner products, which is understandable since it is the first of its kind.
The target audience is musicians, and when Pulse came out, those were the only people interested in it.
After came Core and Core Steel, with plenty of options, cool design and overall functionality. Core was a successful attempt to expand the audience beyond only the musician niche, but it is still not for everyone.
Comments varied from user to user, some were more than satisfied and others decided that this is not what they actually wanted, needed or expected.
Highlighting the positives and negatives of the device, here are some of the most mentioned pros and cons.
Inventive concept and new approach to a metronome design.
Very customizable, able to turn off light and only rely on the vibrations or vice versa.
Extremely lightweight and durable peace wearable of tech.
Ability to sync multiple devices in one beat helps a band stay on point.
Excellent for recording single instruments because it is silent and effective.
Easy to use and set up even for those who aren’t into technology and smart devices
Useful even outside the musician niche (teachers, dancers, swimmers, orchestra conductors, even runners or cyclists who need to stay in a certain tempo and speed while doing their thing)
Convenience of having a watch, metronome and a tuner, all on your wrist.
Loving the “tap the tempo” option on the watch.
Outstanding quality of leather straps for Core Steel.
Issues with maintaining a constant connection with the charger.
Difficulties with “tap tempo” function on the device itself, inaccurate speed and bpm.
No visible bpm on screen on Pulse model, having to check it on the phone.
Low build quality in polycarbonate versions.
Battery drains much quicker on Android devices.
Software bugs that get resolved when there is a next upgrade released by the manufacturer.
Digital audio workstation (DAW) support available only on Mac OS.
Smartwatch functions beside musical ones are somewhat basic (timer, stopwatch)
Device is delivered with an empty battery, after charging some users reported that they weren’t able to turn it on, or the screen was frozen.
Decibel meter tends to show faulty results from time to time
Soundbrenner has a 30 day return policy so in the case this product is just not your sort of thing, or it just doesn’t perform as you expected it to, just ship it back and get a full refund but the shipping cost is on your dime.
They also give a 12 month guarantee, which is pretty cool and fair, for all other problems that you cannot work out yourself there is a tech support team for all and any questions.
As I said in the beginning, Soundbrenner is the pioneer in this field. By that I don’t mean that there are no other vibrating metronomes, just that there is nothing similar to Soundbrenner wearables on the market.
Yet if the decision is to opt for another device there are more vibrating options out there, just not in a form of a neat watch, such as:
Also manufactured by Peterson, this product is an add on to any metronome, transforming it basic functionality. Also, as with the Seiko BU10, the downside is that the product needs to be connected to a functioning digital metronome or app. After that it can be placed somewhere where you can feel the vibrations.
Vibro metronome is not a metronome but an application that was developed especially for Xiaomi Mi Bands 1, 2 and 3, turning this fit band into a wearable metronome.
There are options similar to what we’ve seen on Soundbrenner models like tap tempo – on the app or device, setlist saving and a possibility to link multiple devices. The difference is that the vibration strength is significantly weaker than the one Soundbrenner wearables produce..
Overall I find Soundbrenner wearables useful to a point. Of course, Core and Core Steel models are in the lead just due to multiple functions in comparison to the Pulse that only has basically one. And out of the two smartwatches my vote goes to the Steel model.
Placement on the body
Regarding the placement of the device, from a drummers perspective, I couldn’t stick with the wrist band, which was obvious to me in the first 10 minutes of playing.
Reason for that is simply because drummers use practically their whole body when playing, everything is in motion and the vibrations drumming causes can get in the way of the vibrating metronome.
Ankle positioning was also a “hit and miss” for me since stomping my feet on the pedals makes it hard for me to clearly recognize the source of the vibration. That’s why I used a body strap and wore it on my chest, where it was easier to detect.
You could wear it under the shirt to keep it from being very noticeable, but I would recommend a layer of clothing between the device and body, just to keep it stable and dry.
For drummers I would definitely suggest a placement that is not on the limbs, but maybe chest, back or shoulders and perhaps a bicep or wrist placement when practicing at a lower volume and pace.
For bigger gigs or bigger stages that tend to have a dose of vibrations themselves I set the device feedback to rhythmic light as opposed to vibrations and placed it next to me. In that way I could rely on the rhythmic flashing when and if I needed guidance.
When it comes to look, all three have a modern and minimalist design. Polycarbonate models have a dose of cleanliness and simplicity to them. Core Steel smartwatch is undeniably good looking and in my opinion, a clear winner in this category.
With the leather wrist strap it can be worn even with nice evening outfits. If paired with a suit jacket it doesn’t give out the feeling of being too sporty, too geeky, bulky, and misplaced or anything else.
The option I quite liked was adjusting different vibration intensity and accenting, for example the “punch” was stronger on the 4th or 8th beat and slightly weaker on the rest. I could create multiple patterns and save it into a playlist.
As a drummer I couldn’t use the tuner but for guys who play string instruments this is one of the main features.
Also, all models dust and water splash resistant, so do not go swimming while the device is on you.
Rain, hand washing and such is okay and won’t disrupt the device in any way. All three models can be linked to the one app, and tweaked from there.
I won’t lie, it takes some getting used to but give it a few days. You might end up disliking it if you have been using the standard audio clicking metronome for a longer period of time and don’t want any other distraction.
But maybe you’re new to music, or an experienced musician that just enjoys having that vibrating pulse as a rhythm guide on your hand, leg or wherever you see fit.
All in all, thanks to Soundbrenner we have vibrating metronomes smartwatches. Kudos to them for all their effort, for making this possible and for widening the options for musicians everywhere.
Dennis is a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and a blogger. He wants to expand the drumming community and to educate new drummers about technique, equipment and sound. Exploring the drumming world and discovering new drummers is a way of life he says.