The Soundbrenner Pulse is the world’s first metronome that can be easily worn anywhere on your body. It offers a number of tempo-related features to help improve your timing and seriously get your groove on.
There are many critical elements to ensuring a good musical performance, and timing is one of the most important. Feel, groove and tempo are often what defines a piece of music, and getting it right is something we all continually strive for, regardless of which instrument we play.
There are currently a lot of tempo apps available for smartphones, from the usual audible click tracks to flashing lights and bpm displays. Although useful, are they enough to solve all our timing problems and make us ‘a better player’?
Or could the Soundbrenner Pulse be the answer?
It’s a Metronome, But also so much more…
The Soundbrenner Pulse prides itself on being the world’s first wearable metronome for musicians. It’s basically a metronome that can be worn like a watch, or strapped to your arm or leg. It could even strap it around your whole body.
As you may be obvious from the name, the Pulse uses actual vibrations, as well as the usual audible and visual cues, to provide tempo information to the wearer.
The packaging is very classy. Making you feel like you’ve got a high-end product before you’ve even got your hands on the actual device. The Pulse itself is a neat, circular unit, with a diameter of around 5cm and is about 1.5cm thick. The casing is made from hard plastic, and although it’s very light, it still feels substantial.
There is an edge wheel which runs around the upper face and, when rotated, this controls the tempo and a few other features.
This wheel feels solid and clicks positively as you rotate it, each click represents a single-digit increase or decrease in the beats per minute count. The edge wheel and the central logo flash in various user-definable colors, along with the beat of the metronome.
Even more features…
The Soundbrenner Pulse comes supplied with a circular magnetic charging station, which is powered by the included micro USB cable. Also included are the user-friendly manual and two rubber straps, a short one and a long one, both of which can accommodate the Pulse unit.
The straps provide different options for wearing the Pulse. The longer strap is ideal for the upper arm or ankle, while the shorter strap is suitable for the wrist.
There is also the option of buying an additional Body Strap if you prefer to wear the Pulse, for example on your shoulder, near your neck, or on your thighs.
To charge The Pulse you simply attach it to the charging station, this is done magnetically. To show that it’s charging, it pulses in orange. When it’s fully charged, it starts pulsing in green. A typical charge should last around eight hours.
And there’s An App…
Without using any of the App’s, the Pulse is an excellent stand-alone metronome – simply touch the front face of the device for a few seconds with your fingers to activate it. For a basic 4/4 rhythm, you double-tap of the front face, with the outer wheel enabling you to increase or decrease the tempo.
If you tap the front face three times or more, the unit will adjust to your tap tempo.
This is superb for a number of applications, but if you want more features, you will need to use the Pulse’s companion app, which is called ‘The Metronome’, which is available for iOS and Android.
Bluetooth is used to communicate between the app and the Pulse, so first, you’ll need to pair the two devices. The ‘Add Device’ option is then used for this task. This adds any currently active Soundbrenner Pulse to the app.
An exciting feature of The Metronome App is that it allows control of up to five different Pulse units. So, if need be, every member of a band could be wearing their own Pulse and playing along to the same metronome click.
This opens up many interesting opportunities for bands who don’t want to use in-ear monitors and a click track.
Once connected, you can use the App to start to customizing your Pulse.
It allows for up to three different physical vibrations to be set, these normally represent a downbeat, an offbeat and a further subdivision. And, each of these vibrations can have its own color, you can choose from white, green, azure, blue or pink or no color. As well as that, each vibration can have nine different intensities and lengths.
Time for a Trip to The Library
The app also features a Library. This is where you store any rhythms you’ve programmed for later recall. This can be very handy for storing any odd time signatures or grooves to practice with.
The Library area also lets you save complete Set Lists. As the name suggests, these are long lists of rhythms from your Library that can be used to represent actual set lists. These can be set up to match the song set list that your band is using for a particular concert.
You can create as many rhythms and/or Set Lists as you want, and they can all be named and easily edited into any order. This makes the Soundbrenner Pulse a very useable tool for any live player.
And there’s more… the DAW Tools App
All the features we’ve covered are great, but what if you want to record to a click while playing along to a backing track?
You would obviously have to use your DAW and a click track to do that, wouldn’t you?
Soundbrenner is already way ahead of you, with their neat little DAW Tools app.
Just download it onto any compatible Mac and the DAW Tools app will search for an available Pulse unit. It can be used with most current versions of the most popular DAW’s. But make sure to check the Soundbrenner website for the latest updates on compatibility.
To enable communication between your DAW and the Pulse, you simply open whichever option in Preferences that allows you to transmit a Sync signal. These are labeled as such, with names like ‘Transmit Sync’ etc. You then select the Pulse as the device to receive the Sync.
Let’s get the DAW Tool moving…
You then press play on your DAW, and the Soundbrenner starts to vibrate in perfect sync with your DAW’s MIDI Clock pulse. It’s as simple as that. The pulse will then also follow any tempo changes in the song.
The DAW Tools app allows you to read the bars and beats. It also shows a bpm display and a latency figure. MIDI Clock doesn’t contain any Time Signature information, but you can still set a downbeat accent pulse in the DAW Tools app on any beat you like.
Usually, in 4/4 time you’d choose the last beat, but you also have the option to select for example beat three for a waltz, or beat seven if you’re in a progressive rock band.
Currently, the DAW Tools app is for Mac only. However, Ableton Live users on Mac or PC can still use the Pulse via support for Ableton Link, in the Metronome app.
And because it’s working via the iOS Metronome app, this allows even more control. For example, the tempo-control aspects of the Pulse, such as tap tempo via the front face, and tempo control via the bevel wheel can be used to control the playback tempo of Ableton Live in real time. Now that’s impressive integration, we have to say.
What’s it like to actually use?
The Soundbrenner Pulse is most definitely, a very unique piece of equipment, and therefore, takes a little getting used to.
The first decision is where to wear it, and that’s going to take experimentation to find out what works best for you. You’re then going to need to set the intensity, which is quite easily done, so this shouldn’t cause any problems.
But feeling a click isn’t something that most musicians are used to, so you will probably find that you have to initially concentrate on the vibration more than expected to keep in time. But with time, as with everything, it will become second nature.
If your more used to playing with a traditional click, you could try a combination of the click from the Metronome app in your ears, along with the Pulse. This works really well to get you ‘feeling’ the beat. You can then stop using the click as soon as you don’t need it anymore.
The Soundbrenner Pulse offers three different types of tempo feedback – vibration, visual and audible click. So you shouldn’t have any problem finding a good balance between them, that works perfectly for you.
Listening to a click track is very tiring on the ears. So, the idea of playing to a pulse is very appealing. But it would also be incredibly useful when recording quieter passages. Those where a loud click track in your headphones could bleed into the microphones and be on the track forever. The Pulse eliminates this problem.
The App’s ability to link multiple units is also a big plus if you’re a band. Either for playing live or in the studio.
Pros Of Soundbrenner Pulse
- Immensely Customizable, giving you the Pulse you want.
- Allows for multi-sensory timing, not just using your ears.
- Excellent Apps.
- Stylish, with great looks.
- Durable and made for active drummers.
Cons Of Soundbrenner Pulse
- Learning to play to a pulse takes time.
- Daw Tools App is only currently available for Mac or Ableton Live users.
Should you buy one?
The Soundbrenner Pulse is undoubtedly something that is here to stay. And I’m sure its popularity will grow as more musicians start using it. It’s a massively nicer way of staying in time than listening to ear-damaging click tracks any day.
It has been well thought out and is a very innovative product.
In fact, apart from the fact that it takes a while to get used to playing with a pulse (much as it took a while to learn to play to a metronome initially), it’s only positives that we have for the Soundbrenner Pulse.
So we’ll end by saying that if you want to improve your timing but hate traditional click-tracks. You now have another option, which is far kinder on your ears.
It’s highly recommended, as a very useful device for drummers, as well as other musicians.