This week we reviewed the BassMe subwoofer, a one-of-a-kind model designed to be placed on the user’s chest to reproduce every impact in movie action scenes and video games, as well as music without disturbing others. The BassMe portable subwoofer connects to all smartphones, tablets, computers or game consoles via mini-jack or Bluetooth. Sold for 129 euros, is it just a gadget or can it replace a true subwoofer?
BassMe: the brand
BassMe is a young French start-up launched in October 2017. Founder Alban Duroy assembled a team to work with and develop a prototype of what would later become the world’s first personal subwoofer. Finishing first at Perpignan’s Startup Weekend, the brand decided to put its eponymous product on the market to give everyone the possibility to physically feel sound. Thanks to an appearance on the French TV program Mon invention vaut de l’or (My invention is worth millions in English, Ed.), BassMe quickly made a name for itself and gained recognition among the general public. In 2019, BassMe began a partnership with the Mega Castillet movie theater in Perpignan in which each visitor received a BassMe subwoofer at the entrance to bring an immersive experience to the big screen. More recently at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, BassMe was named 3rd “French startup to watch” by renowned magazine Forbes. It received an Innovation Award in the “Headphones & Personal Audio” category, joining the exclusive group of French startups awarded at the world’s largest technologic innovation show. Today, BassMe is internationally renowned for its portable subwoofer, which is entirely made in France.
BassMe: packaging and accessories
The BassMe personal subwoofer comes in an elegant box inside of which the low frequency module is wedged inside a thick piece of packing foam. It comes with two plastic shoulder straps to ensure a perfect fit with all body types. There is also a mini-jack to mini-jack cable, a mini-jack adapter with a volume control, a USB-A to micro USB cable for charging, and a quick start guide.
A true oddity in the subwoofer market, the BassMe is an autonomous subwoofer that is placed directly against the user’s chest. This bass module is supported by a plastic strap that goes over the shoulder. Two sizes are included: one S to M and one XL. These two straps feature 5 notches so that they can be adjusted to ensure a perfect fit for the user. It is easy to find which size and adjustment is best. When wearing the BassMe, its 310 grams are evenly distributed across the top of the shoulder and you quickly forget that you’re wearing the device. The support is very good and the BassMe module remains properly pressed against the body when walking or making sudden movements.
The BassMe module is placed at the end of the shoulder strap. Its polymer chassis has a streamlined design to fit the user’s chest. On the outside of the module is a circle decorated with the brand logo. Behind the circle is a driver that is powered by a 26-watt digital amplifier. This system is pressed directly against the user’s torso using a rubber pad to provide better coupling and optimize the distribution of vibrations through the body.
BassMe: Bluetooth or mini-jack
The BassMe bass module is universal and can adapt to any source. The wired connection uses a 3.5mm mini-jack cable. A 1.2m long model is included with the BassMe, but it is possible to use an extension cable when the source isn’t placed nearby. The BassMe subwoofer features a switchable low-pass filter that only amplifies and transmits low frequencies, just like a true subwoofer. Therefore, it shouldn’t be connected to the amplifier’s subwoofer output but directly to a headphone output. Consequently, it can be paired with any device that has a 3.5mm headphone output, be it a smartphone, a tablet, a computer or a game console. The BassMe module is also equipped with a 3.5mm mini-jack headphone output that transfers the sound of the source without modifying the signal. This is very useful for connecting wired headphones without having multiple cables at the source.
In addition to its wired connection, the BassMe subwoofer can also be connected to a smartphone, tablet, computer or game console via Bluetooth. The connection can be set-up in aptX Low Latency Bluetooth to avoid any delay between the bass and the image. The BassMe subwoofer has a reception range of around 9 meters, allowing the user to move between rooms without disrupting the bass. However, it is important to note that the BassMe module’s headphone output cannot be used when the subwoofer is connected via Bluetooth. It is therefore necessary to use a source that supports multiple connections to pair your headphones or IEMs.
BassMe: 6-hour battery life
The BassMe subwoofer is powered by a rechargeable battery that offers six hours of autonomy, which is enough to watch several movies or enjoy a long gaming session. This battery is used for both the Bluetooth connection and the wired connection. The subwoofer cannot be used passively. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery via a USB port. If you’re in a hurry, it is possible to use the BassMe while it is charging.
For our review of the BassMe portable subwoofer, we first connected it to the headphone output of a Marantz A/V receiver. We were able to enjoy the subwoofer while watching movies and series, but also to listen to music via Spotify Connect. For this, we connected a pair of Final Audio Sonorous VI headphones to the BassMe’s mini-jack output.
Afterwards, we tested the BassMe module’s performance during gaming. We connected it to a PS4 Pro, an Xbox One and a Nintendo Switch.
BassMe: our impressions
Home theater test
We connected the BassMe subwoofer to the headphone output of an A/V receiver and activated the low-pass filter so that it only reproduced the low frequencies. Without this filter, the BassMe reproduces the entire sound signal, including dialogue, like a regular driver. It is therefore essential to activate it using the switch on the side of the module. This is the only setting that needs to be done for the subwoofer to be operational.
To test the performance of the BassMe subwoofer, we choose to watch the various battle scenes between the humans and Na’vi in James Cameron’s movie Avatar. The low frequencies, which are omnipresent during the battles, were excellently reproduced and pretty realistic. The roar of the bulldozers landing on Pandora to clear the forests resonated in our chest. We could feel the vibrations throughout our whole body, as if we were actually in the movie in front of these immense machines. During the final fight, the steps of the MK-6 Mitsubishi mobility platforms were phenomenally intense and dynamic. The experience was very enjoyable and we were immediately plunged into the heart of the battle scene.
When listening to music, the BassMe subwoofer’s performance depends a lot on the musical genre. For music where bass is important, such as pop or electronic music, the BassMe subwoofer provided a new auditory experience by adding a physical dimension to the sound. However, the lows need to be succinct and each instrument has to cover a different frequency range. When several chords are simultaneously in the lows or low-mids, the BassMe’s playback can quickly become overpowering and dominate the listener’s attention. The impression is similar to that of a subwoofer that is much too loud and poorly calibrated, associated with a pair of small compact speakers.
The BassMe subwoofer revealed its full potential with video games. The experience was particularly interesting with FPS like Call of Duty. With these games, the BassMe provided a new experience by making us feel as if we were really holding the weapon. It was all the more disturbing when our character received enemy fire. The bullets almost seemed to pierce the screen. The BassMe subwoofer was also very interesting with racing games. On the latest Gran Turismo, the purring engines were well reproduced. Off-roading and collisions were explosive and very vivid. We really felt as if we were sitting in the vehicle and we felt every bump in the road.
Before beginning this review, we were relatively skeptical about the utility of the BassMe. So it was a pleasant surprise when we were immediately impressed by the subwoofer. It provided a completely new way of experiencing sound. It can be a great addition to a pair of headphones to reproduce the lower end of the spectrum and bring a physical dimension to the sound. The experience is enjoyable when listening to music, but the BassMe really comes into its own with movie soundtracks and video games in particular where it completely immerses us in the action. Play a rally game and you’ll feel as if you are really sitting in the car and you’ll notice every bump in the road. With a shooter game, you will feel like you’re holding the gun in your hands. In conclusion, the BassMe is a great solution if you want to enjoy greater immersion without using a large subwoofer and disturbing those around you and your neighbours. This small, personal subwoofer is ideal for young gamers who want to be able to physically feel the bass and dive into the heart of the action in their room, without disturbing their parents.
What we liked
- The immersive experience
- The power of the bass
- The design
- The ease of use
What we would have liked
- To have had a mini-jack output that worked in Bluetooth mode
- The ability to adjust the bass independently of the source’s volume
- A longer battery life